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Innovation is the focus for next year’s Go Big Read program

January 25, 2012 By Jenny Price

What is innovation? What inspires it? And how do people become innovators?

After tackling issues surrounding where our food comes from, medical ethics and immigration policy, the university’s common reading program is seeking nominations for works of fiction and nonfiction that connect to or inspire innovation.

In past years, Go Big Read’s selection committee solicited book titles of every genre and subject, not connected to any particular theme. But Interim Chancellor David Ward suggested a focus on “innovation” when he recently met with organizers to discuss the program for the 2012-13 academic year.

Spend a few minutes talking with Ward and innovation comes up quickly. It’s a top priority for him as he leads campus-wide discussions about how the university can meet its mission in the years to come as it absorbs deep budget cuts.

“I don’t think the outside, while it’s very critical of where we are, can define our future better than we can,” Ward says. “How can we take our inherent critical and open-minded approach to look at ourselves and change ourselves? And I think that self-reflective approach is what’s going to be needed.”

This year, Go Big Read is engaging students, faculty, staff and the community in a shared academic experience as they read and discuss “Enrique’s Journey” by Sonia Nazario. Ward said that Nazario’s October talk and the discussion that followed were among the most uplifting events he has participated in since returning to campus last summer.

“(It) shows how a book can, in fact, connect students across a broad swath, and connect students with the community,” Ward says. “I think it’s a very wonderful kind of an encounter that enhances learning enormously.”

The deadline to submit a title for consideration is Friday, Feb. 3. The selection committee is also seeking input from innovation-focused individuals and groups on campus and in the community. The committee will spend several months reading and discussing books before making a recommendation to the chancellor, who will make the final selection.

Nominated books should do one or more of the following: promote enjoyment of reading by being readable, relevant and engaging; incorporate sufficient depth and scope to promote sustained discussion of different points of view; appeal to individuals from a variety of backgrounds; have cross-disciplinary flexibility that can tie into a variety of campus activities and programming.

The innovation theme is expected to generate a host of creative suggestions for the committee to choose from. “The other issue is whether it’s time to have some fiction,” Ward says. “I wouldn’t take fiction off the table.”

To suggest a book click here.

Tags: Go Big Read