Stepping into your first college class can be nerve-racking and intimidating. Now imagine the first time you ever set foot in any classroom was your freshman year of college.
California State University, Northridge’s incoming freshmen will explore one woman’s educational journey under challenging circumstances with the 2020-2021 common reading book, “Educated: A Memoir,” by Tara Westover.
In the book, Westover recounts her childhood in the rural mountains of Idaho. Born to survivalists’ parents, Westover and her siblings grew up isolated from mainstream society, with no one to ensure they received an education or proper medical care. From a young age, Westover had an innate desire to learn, and she taught herself enough mathematics and grammar to be admitted to Brigham Young University at the age of 17.
“When the committee selected this book, we thought what a wonderful experience for students who are coming to college for the first time to read about,” said Susanna Eng-Ziskin, director of CSUN’s Freshman Common Reading Program. “We thought students might be able to relate themselves to her story as they begin learning how to navigate college and utilize the resources they have at their disposal as Westover did.”
Freshman common reading books are selected by a volunteer committee that consists of CSUN faculty, staff and students. Eng-Ziskin said that in order to be selected, a book must meet five criteria: range of interdisciplinary context; diverse cultural and social perspectives; promotion of intellectual growth; encouragement of discussion in a variety of courses; and how it addresses significant issues.
“I believe it’s important for students to have shared experiences,” Eng-Ziskin said. “I believe our common reading program accomplishes this by bringing a large number of students together collectively through a common text.”
The Freshman Common Reading Program is one of the many ways that CSUN supports first year and transfer students via Academic First Year Experiences. Programs such as the Common Reading Program and The Freshman Connection offer a variety of opportunities for first-year students, so they begin university life smoothly.