One Book program bridges student, faculty and community engagementby on Jul 14, 2017
A small, dedicated and passionate Gavilan College committee has embraced the concept of One Book to address equity issues and build dialogue among and across faculty, students, staff and the communities in the district.
Adopted by many campuses nationwide and within the California Community College system, the One Book idea adopts a single book and its theme for an academic year. The outcome? Using a single book, the entire campus develops perspectives across multiple areas of study at the college. Implementing the concept, faculty would engage more with each other, and students would hear resonant themes in their curriculum and be empowered to engage in the relevant ideas.
The Gavilan committee established some criteria for selecting a book:
- The book had to be affordable
- The topic needed to address access and equity
- The issues had to be relevant to our community
- People would feel some connection
- The book concepts would spark dialogue and feel purposeful
Faculty from diverse areas of study joined the committee. Scott Sandler in the English department spearheaded the idea and led the committee. Joining him were Sydney LaRose, Title V analyst; Jillian Wilson, librarian; Cherise Mantia, Theater instructor; Monica Herzi, French and English instructor; Claire Boss, Child Development instructor; and Marilyn Oral, English instructor. Through a lengthy review process, the campus selected Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson for the 2017-2018 academic year.
Boss, now a full time instructor, began teaching Child Development classes part time at Gavilan College on Saturdays, which she described as isolating. She also teaches evening students, a time when most staff, many students and faculty have departed the campus.
"Just Mercy is so fitting for us as a campus," she said. "I'm hoping the One Book initiative pushes us, inspires us to come together as a community - students, staff, faculty, administration - to share ideas."
Sandler researched other California colleges to examine how they used the concepts of a single book campus wide. Notable were CSU Chico, Pasadena City College and College of Marin. The program, still in its infancy, is also shaping ways to partner campuses with area high schools, libraries and local bookstores.
"We are still crafting concepts, templates and activities," said Sandler. "Using the One book theme can empower civic identity, and Gavilan can be a resource for the community."
Potential planned activities include panel discussions, watching and reviewing movies expressing the book's themes, and creating graffiti walls commenting on key quotes in departments or the entire campus.
Mantia recognized the beauty of the author's stories about incarceration and inmates. "I look forward to incorporating Just Mercy into my curriculum by assigning acting students to read the text," she said, "and then create monologues or scenes they can present in class." One Book can bring departments together to explore democratic ideas of justice, diversity and equality.
Boss and Herzi attended the Basic Skills Initiative Leadership Institute this summer, a week-long intensive program. Their proposal was based on the One Book concept, where they worked on skills and strategies, planning integration and logic models.
"You can take an idea, pull out pieces, aspects for different departments," said Herzi. Classes don't have to read the entire book, but can pull issues relevant to a specific area of study.
"I'm new to Gavilan, and I have been thinking, what can we do to unify this campus?" Herzi said. Having multiple disciplines and classes offer themes from the selected One Book, Just Mercy, will show students these ideas woven into their courses throughout the campus.
The committee is seeking more faculty willing to pilot a One Book theme in their classes this fall. They plan to present the concept during Professional Development Day and create a road show presenting these ideas to department meetings. Based on feedback from fall activities, they plan to roll out the One Book concept campus wide in Spring 2018.
Wilson sees the chosen book as tailored for many different discussions. "I know Gavilan is a small college," she said, "but my dream is to have the author come to the college, discuss writing the book and engage with the entire campus."