After attending The Common Reading Program, a conference session at the 2008 San Francisco, California, First Year Experience national conference, Dr. Dixie Dennis, an Austin Peay State University (APSU) administrator, decided to create a similar reading initiative for APSU students. Following this conference, Dr. Dennis invited faculty from the academic colleges and the library, personnel from new student programs, public relations, the book store, student life and leadership, and an APSU student to form a committee. This committee established The Peay Read to provide a sense of community and to contribute to the academic experiences for APSU 1000 students. Unlike traditional first-year-experience common reading programs, The Peay Read opportunity includes sophomore, junior, and senior students.
The Peay Read was designed with the university vision in mind to “create a collaborative, integrative learning community, instilling in students habits of critical inquiry as they gain knowledge, skills, and values for life and work in a global society.” After reviewing several books, the committee chose Outcasts United: An American Town, a Refugee Team, and One Woman's Quest to Make a Difference as the 2014 common reading. Written by Warren St. John, the book explores a collision of worlds when a suburb of Atlanta is chosen to be a refugee resettlement location and the effects of the collision on both the current residents and the new residents, the refugees. The book follows a group of refugee boys from several different countries “adopted” by a Jordanian young woman, Luma Mefleh, who spots them playing a pickup game of soccer and joins them. Luma quickly becomes their coach, but it’s a bumpy road as team and coach run into pockets of resistance in the community and rough playing conditions on and off the field. Through monthly meetings, committee members worked diligently to plan related activities to enhance students’ knowledge, skills, and values as they participate in The Peay Read experience. These activities will culminate in Luma Mefleh’s address to the APSU student body and the Clarksville community on October 9, 2014.
Each year, all first-year students will submit creative responses centered on themes in the selected book. Finalists will be invited to a dinner with Luma Mefleh. For a complete schedule of Peay Read activities, please see Events. Furthermore, all first-year students will receive book marks with quotations from Outcasts United to encourage discussion and inquiry.
This year, The Peay Read Committee hopes that after reading Outcasts United, our students reflect on how they might apply this message, ‘No one person can do everything,’ ... ‘But we can all do something’ (pg. 299).