Go Jump in the Lake!
College’s Common Ground Theme Focuses on “Lake”
Westminster College’s annual theme, "Common Ground," offers members of the campus community an opportunity to engage in a year long discussion about compelling issues, ideas, and texts. Because of the college’s unique setting in the middle of a thriving urban center that is surrounded by the Wasatch mountain range, the Great Salt Lake, and miles of uninhabited desert, Westminster employs a place-based theme that rotates each year among desert, mountain, lake, and city. This year’s theme is LAKE.
While the annual theme will be explored through a range of programming, including classroom based readings and discussions, visiting speakers, films, field study opportunities, and other special events, the centerpiece of the initiative is the “common read” experience, in which all incoming first-year students read the same book and then discuss that text during first-year orientation in conversations led by college faculty, staff, and upper-class students. Reading a common book ensures that all members of the incoming class will begin their Westminster College journey with a shared experience, no matter what the student’s background, academic ability, or major.
The common read this year is Terry Tempest William’s book, Refuge. According to a book review about Refuge on amazon.com, “the only constants in nature are change and death. Terry Tempest Williams, a naturalist and writer from northern Utah, has seen her share of both. The pages of Refuge resound with the deaths of her mother and grandmother and other women from cancer, the result of the American government's ongoing nuclear-weapons tests in the nearby Nevada desert. You won't find the episode in the standard history textbooks; the Feds wouldn't admit to conducting the tests until women and men in Utah, Nevada, and northwestern Arizona took the matter to court in the mid-1980s, and by then thousands of Americans had fallen victim to official technology. Parallel to her account of this devastation, Williams describes changes in bird life at the sanctuaries dotting the shores of the Great Salt Lake as water levels rose during the unusually wet early 1980s and threatened the nesting grounds of dozens of species. In this world of shattered eggs and drowned shorebirds, Williams reckons with the meaning of life, alternating despair and joy.”
Williams will be a featured speaker on campus on February 17, 2009.