The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Merits of book debated

The book of choice for Marquette's mandatory freshman reading project was deemed by some students to be a bad choice.

For the second year in a row, Marquette freshmen were required to read an assigned book and then discuss it during orientation. This year's selection was Anne Lamott's "Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life."

Heather Burkhardt, a freshman in the College of Nursing, said she read half the book and stopped because she considered it "too dry" and "common sense."

Armintas Sinkevicius, a freshman in the College of Business, said Lamott "complained too much."

The book was not without its defenders, though. Amy Mikus, a freshman in the College of Engineering, said the book was funny.

"It made me respect writers a lot," she said.

Students' reactions to the book ranged between not liking or understanding the book to enjoying it, said Stephanie Quade, an associate dean in the Office of Student Development and member of the committee that chose this year's book.

Still, Quade stands behind the decision to choose "Bird by Bird."

"We thought 'Bird by Bird' gave opportunities to discuss vocation and writing within their vocation," Quade said.

However, not all students agree with Quade's assessment.

"It's not very applicable to my degree," said Grant Beardsley, a freshman in the College of Business.

Although Mikus said she liked the book, she also said it "didn't apply to me — I don't write fiction."

"Bird by Bird" will be incorporated into the freshman English classes whether students liked the book or not, said Mary Ferwerda, assistant director for student programs in the Manresa Project.

The Manresa Project, the university's vocational discernment organization, organizes and sponsors the freshman reading program. The program was optional two years ago but mandatory for last year's freshman class.

The freshman reading project is funded through a $2 million grant from the Lilly Endowment. The grant will run out after the 2006-'07 school year, Ferweda said, but it is too early to tell what will happen to the program.

Even if the future of Marquette's freshmen reading program is questionable, other universities will continue similar programs.

James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va., assigned Tim O'Brien's "The Things They Carried," a book about the Vietnam War and its soldiers, said Steve Grande, the associate director of Educational Support Programs. The book is used in freshman classes, as those that focus on writing, critical thinking, communication and public speaking. Freshmen are required to take at least one of these classes.

The program, now in its sixth year and funded by student orientation fees, is popular on campus, Grande said.

Philadelphia's Temple University assigned "Caucasia" by Danzy Senna. Freshmen discussed the book in small groups during the first weeks of classes, said Jodi Levine Laufgraben, the associate vice provost at Temple University in Philadelphia. The program, funded by the university as well as Barnes and Noble, is in its fourth year.

Laufgraben said the book is then incorporated in freshmen classes, and Temple also holds an essay contest and a film series relating to the book.

Lamott will be on campus at 4 p.m. today in the Varsity Theatre to discuss her "Bird by Bird." Prior to her speech, Lamott will sign her book at 2:15 p.m. in the Ott Memorial Writing Center in the John P. Raynor, S.J. Library.

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