Every campus has some kind of connection that bonds the student body and faculty together. For the Millersville community, it’s a book. Not just one specific book, but a different book for each changing school year. This is known as “One Book, One Campus” (OBOC). Each year a committee gets together and agrees on a theme for the book that is relevant to pressing social issues. For example, in the 2011-2012 school year the chosen OBOC read was “Enrique’s Journey.” This book chronicled the travels of a young Honduran boy, Enrique, on his quest to find his mother in North America after she left their home to find work. The book and topic were chosen at the time they were because of issues in the US with illegal immigration.
Once the committee decides on a topic, they go through a list of books, read each one, and discuss what they both did and did not enjoy about the selected text, stated Dr. Marilyn Parish, co-chair on the OBOC committee. When selecting what to read the committee looks for books that are enjoyable, engaging and have a theme or topic that will create an interest in a wide variety of readers. Most importantly they pick the best book that they believe the Millersville community will enjoy.
In the case of this school year’s OBOC the choice was “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.” Henrietta Lacks was a poor black tobacco farmer in the 1950’s who had her cells taken from her without her consent. These cells, known to scientists as “HeLa”, were used to develop polio vaccinations, cloning and gene mapping. While Ms. Lack’s cells were sold by the billions her family struggled to even afford health insurance. The story of Ms. Lacks can start conversations not only in English and biology classrooms, but communications, history and multiple other areas of study as well. This is the ultimate goal of OBOC; regardless of what a person’s major is, these books offer something that are thought provoking and spark a conversation.
Dr. Jennifer Shettel, the other co-chair for OBOC committee, explained that once the theme and book are chosen, they work with the Winter Center and other Millersville departments to plan events that are relevant to the book. Events such as “Pretty for a Black Girl,” a story of growing up as a black girl in Pennsylvania Amish Country, and “Civil Rights Activists as Democratic Vistas,” which featured musical portraits of iconic civil rights activists, are some of the events that were offered this semester in correlation with the story of Ms. Lacks. Each year students and faculty are encouraged to submit their OBOC related works, whether it is choreography, composition, photography or a performance piece.
The theme for this year’s OBOC is sustainability, so the committee decided and accordingly and chose “Memory of Water” as their 2015-2016 book, which will be available for purchase starting April 11. This is a fictional tale that tells the story of Noria Kaitio, a 17-year-old living in a world without water due to the effects of global warming. It is only the tea masters of New Qian who know the secret water spots that are left. However it is a secret that can’t remain hidden and Noria’s town becomes heavily watched over by the local army after her father dies.
If you would like more information on One Book One Campus, visit their website at blogs.millersville.edu/oboc and if you are interested in submitting a piece that is related to sustainability contact Barry Kornhauser at Barry.Kornhauser@millersville.edu.