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One Book Project


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One Book Project

One Book Project

Presented by The Frederick Douglass Institute (FDI)

An Introduction to an Exciting Opportunity for Student Research and Engagement: In Your Course; Across the Curriculum; Beyond the Curriculum.

FDI's One Book WCU Choice

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks Book Cover

Rebecca Skloot's The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Spring 2017 through Spring 2018

FDI's mission of exploring intersections of race, society, justice, and education intersects with CAPC's purpose in supporting the University Strategic Plan and the General Education goals. Skloot's The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks focuses on issues of diversity, equity and integrity in ways that prepare students for analytic thinking applicable to lifelong learning and the practice of citizenship. Ethics, science, and society are all key matters.

The book is a reflective first-person research work in which Skloot traces the fate of the cancer cells taken and multiply reproduced, without authorization or compensation, from Henrietta Lacks in the 1950s, with the result that the African American woman's cells are now the basis for much of the most important cancer research in the world. The book also engages with the family of Lacks-past and present-and links African American history and the legacy of racial injustice to the case of the cells. This interesting and important book communicates a narrative connecting issues of quantitative and qualitative research, ethics, history, social justice, and race in revealing ways. It's also an engaging read, with a combination of personal voice and serious analysis, with something to offer students of many majors. An inexpensive paperback edition (2011) is by Broadway Press, ISBN 978-1-4000-5218-9 (e-book: eISBN 978-0-307-58938-5).

Read More about how you can adopt this One Book into the classroom

One Book WCU: Vision and Purpose

A One Book Project can become a common intellectual experience for WCU if that book unites the campus across colleges and disciplines, generating discussion of issues important to WCU values as articulated in the Strategic Planand the General Education Outcomes. A well-chosen book can have a place in the WCU curriculum, but also in the larger community we serve, becoming a textbook coursework but also for multidisplinary discussions, as an impetus for events and special speakers, and as a link to issues that matter to the communities we serve.

The FDI One Book WCU Project will begin with a formal ceremony inaugurating the project near the start of Spring Semester 2017, and will extend through the 2017-2018 academic year. The Frederick Douglass Institute will establish a broad-based committee of WCU faculty, WCU students, and community representatives to advise the project, and to serve as a model for future FDI One Book WCU choices.

One Book WCU: New General Education Curriculum

The new General Education curriculum reform currently in process aims to serve the following specific CAPC-approved goals:

  1. Communicate effectively
  2. Think critically and analytically
  3. Employ quantitative concepts and mathematical methods
  4. Demonstrate the ability to think across and about disciplinary boundaries
  5. Respond thoughtfully to diversity
  6. Make informed decisions and ethical choices

These goals exactly match the themes in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. FDI's One Book WCU choice, therefore, is highly appropriate as a common reading for students in the new First Year Experience course, introducing to students the integrated, multidisciplinary qualities of a distinctive WCU education. The book also supports the recommended "Pathway Certificate" themes: Creative & Artistic Inquiry; Science and Health; Sustainability and Society; Human Difference in Local & Global Contexts; and Science, Technology, and Society.

One Book WCU: Initial Steps Achieved

  • Book adopted for Spring 2017 as curriculum pilot for several courses in Department of English
  • 500 books for distribution acquired by Office of Social Equity, courtesy of Dr. Lynn Klingensmith
  • Website designed by Kristin Williams (University Office of Information Services & Technology) and content provided by Omosehin Moyebi (Frederick Douglass Institute)
  • Support of principle established with:
    • President Dr. Chris Fiorentino, and Executive Vice President & Provost Dr. Laurie Bernotsky
    • Minorities in Medicine student organization
  • Project endorsed by Curriculum and Academic Policies Council (CAPC)

One Book WCU: Next Steps

  • Engagement with all student organizations and discipline-oriented clubs interested in matters of race, justice, ethics, economics, science, history, and society
  • Engagement with local libraries, historical societies, and area schools interested in justice, ethics, economics, science, history, and society
  • Encouragement of textbook adoption in all appropriate courses and disciplines
  • Scheduling and planning of events and special speakers appropriate to topic
  • Featuring of book and related themes in F. H. Green Library display cases (subject to library approval)
  • Application of book to projects on Research Day
  • Publicity about FDI One Book WCU in West Chester area and greater Philadelphia for community involvement (reading groups, participation of appropriate experts in panel discussions on the book's themes, invitation to One Book WCU campus events)
  • Continued fundraising and publicity
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