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Program helps prepare students for rigors of college

Now in its third year, Lehigh University’s Summer Reading Program is an important component to its EvoLUtion orientation program for first-year students.

The reading program was designed to engage students in a shared intellectual experience in preparation for the academic rigors they encounter at the university. This year’s book selection was The Kite Runner , a tale of fathers and sons, of friendship and betrayal, that takes readers from Afghanistan in the final days of the monarchy to the atrocities of the present. The unforgettable, heartbreaking story of the unlikely friendship between a wealthy boy and the son of his father's servant, The Kite Runner is set in a country that is in the process of being destroyed.

To read about Professor Ziad Munson's lecture, see "Roots of terrorism explored in lecture"

Ziad Munson’s lecture was one of four delivered by members of the College of Arts and Sciences faculty. The series began with a lecture by Rob Rozehnal, assistant professor of religion studies, on Sept. 6 titled “Afghanistan’s Agony: Islamic Piety and Global Politics in the Kite Runner.” In his lecture, Rozehnal shed light on the politics of Islam, the ongoing strife in Afghanistan, and the impact of this disruption in the region and around the globe.

Following Rozehnal was Rajan Menon, The Monroe J. Rathbone Professor of International Relations, whose lecture “The Real World: Afghanistan” provided the historical context for the book, focusing on Afghanistan just before and after the war that the Afghan “Mujahedeen” waged against occupying Soviet forces and the Marxist government that the Soviets were trying to prop up. Menon also related each of the major characters in the book to a wider context and spoke about the immigrant experience in America.

Amardeep Singh, professor of world literature, lectured on “Searching for the ‘Authentic’ Afghanistan.” Singh said that a big part of The Kite Runner’s appeal is its in-depth portrayal of a place and culture most Americans are unfamiliar with: the “authentic” Afghanistan. Yet, he noted that the author, Khaled Hosseini, left Afghanistan around the age of 11, and had only visited his home country once. Singh examined the ideas in The Kite Runner that go beyond authenticity.

Along with the lecture series, first-year students also participated in book discussion groups during their orientation program.

The discussion groups, facilitated by Lehigh faculty and staff, helped to blend the academic and student life experiences by connecting students to the institution early on. The program also provides an opportunity for faculty and staff to interact with students.

“I participated in the Summer Reading Program book discussion because I see myself more as an educator than a coach,” says Chris Wakely, head coach for the varsity lacrosse team. “It was a rewarding experience.”

Adds Jean Farrington, major gifts officer: “The students in my group really liked the book and definitely got engaged in the discussion. The novel’s focus on moral choices and the various examples of courage and cowardice were particularly compelling.”

--Sarah Cooke

Posted on Wednesday, September 21, 2005

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