By Sherrie Williams, Sept. 6, 2022
The 2022-2023 Cal Poly Pomona Common Read selection, “Braiding Sweetgrass” by Robin Wall Kimmerer, was nominated by Dorothy Farias, lecturer in the Department of Agribusiness and Food Industry Management/Agricultural Science.
There were a lot of College of Agriculture nominations this year and First Year Experience committees were aware of the needed representation for those majors who might have felt that they have not been represented or able to connect with books prior.
Common Read encourages Cal Poly Pomona students, faculty and staff to participate in reading a book campus wide but is specifically integrated into FYE cours. The First Year Experience courses newly implemented outcomes and mission is “to support the university’s efforts to increase undergraduate retention and academic success by providing programs that facilitate students’ transition to the university,” stated from the Student Success/FYE website.
This semester, Common Read and CPP’s learn by doing method will come together to become known as PolyX. Students will work in interdisciplinary groups by presenting a problem and solutions. On November 17, after students have read assigned stories of “Braiding Sweetgrass,” FYE students will present a poster based on the group’s community problem they choose to address with themes from the book.
Dr. Dora Lee, director of Academic Support and Learning Services, calls Common Read “the largest book club on campus.” “Braiding Sweetgrass” brings awareness to environmental and human relationships and concerns that could ari. Kimmerer brings attention to the fact that nature is sensitive, needs to be celebrated and teaches us how to treat it, with generosity, and when we can understand the concept, we then can learn “to give our own gifts in return.”
Through reading about human relationships collectively in a classroom and campus setting, new students instantly become a part of one with Common Read and others throughout their college years.
“I believe, from what I read online, is that it’s about different short stories about different cultures. I’m hoping to learn about what it is meant for and maybe apply it to my own life,” said Kaitlyn White, a first-year business administration student.
Lee shares how the author portrays lessons with the stories from the book: one she talked about as gift The author described herself in going to a farmer’s market but being surprised when sellers were gifting what was in surplus.
“It was a powerful story,” said Lee.
She deciphers the gift giving lesson as: I am only going to take what I need and remove the need of greed and need to hoard. It was really thinking beyond the needs of oneself.
Won Choi, an academic coordinator for Kellogg Honors College agreed, saying, “themes of the book are making me pay attention to things I would have ignored a year ago as if I was a brand new college student.”
The story “Windigo Footprints” really spoke to Choi. He explained how it was not just about science versus Indigenous knowledge but about the culture, mannerisms and a sharing community versus a capitalistic one.
“It’s great to see that comparison…what that does and what are the effects of that,” Choi said.
He compared his takings from “Braiding Sweetgrass” with the book, “The Scout Mindset: Why Some People See Things Clearly” by Julia Galef. There tends to be a warrior mindset within western ideals and a need to conquer everything, but the author’s intention seems to be about slowing down and realization of our actions.
Like Choi, new students and Common Read participants can gain a broader knowledge of respect, thinking in new ways with ideas they already have, and opening their eyes again for a bigger perspective.
Feature image courtesy of Sherrie Williams.
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