Sweet Promised Land discussions to kick off Thursday

8/22/2007 7:00:00 AM

At his first town hall meeting with University faculty and staff last May, President Milt Glick invited faculty and staff to help launch a project intended to build esprit de corps among incoming freshman. His idea caught fire with faculty, staff, donors and the community, and within weeks, 124 individuals had volunteered to participate in the Class of 2011 Summer Scholars Program.

"We want students to bond as a class and to build relationships with the faculty and staff who will help them develop academically over the next four years," Glick said. "The idea of reading a single book and engaging in discussion appeals to me. It offers students a shared experience and reflects important ideals in the pursuit of knowledge."

The Center for Basque Studies donated $15,000 to provide more than 2,000 commemorative copies of Robert Laxalt's "Sweet Promised Land" to incoming freshmen. Laxalt, considered by many to be Nevada's finest writer, founded the University of Nevada Press; wrote l7 books, four of which were nominated for the Pulitzer Prize; wrote under contract for National Geographic Magazine; and, for 18 years, was a professor at the Reynolds School of Journalism.

First published 50 years ago, "Sweet Promised Land" timelessly explores father/child relationships, acquisition of English as a second language, the dichotomy of immigrant parent/educated offspring, the role of women and the transforming power of education.

The University mailed the books the first week of August. Students are expected to complete the reading assignment prior to New Student Orientation Aug. 23.

At orientation, students will gather in the University Quadrangle at 1:15 p.m., to separate into intimate discussion groups, led by faculty and staff. The discussion groups are scheduled from 1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.

Ann Ronald, Foundation Professor of English, will deliver a special presentation for parents from 1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. in Lawlor Events Center.

"ASUN supports this project and the University's mission to enliven student curiosity, cultivate critical judgment, and encourage informed contribution to the development of American society," said Sarah Ragsdale, ASUN president. "The Class of 2011 Summer Scholar Project is the first step in the fulfillment of this mission. Years from now, students will look back on this book, and their participation in this project, fondly and proudly, knowing that it was the true beginning of a wonderful college career."

The books are personalized with a customized bookplate and bookmark and will become a keepsake of the students' first group activity at the University.

"The journalism school sponsored the bookmarks to honor our friend and colleague, Robert Laxalt and the spirit of literary excellence that distinguished his career and legacy," said Rosemary McCarthy, interim journalism dean.

Additional support for the Class of 2011 Summer Scholars Program was provided by the University of Nevada Press, University Athletics and ASUN.

Robin Gonzalez, Faculty Senate manager, provided essential leadership in recruiting volunteers and coordinating distribution of the books.

"The program has received tremendous support from across the campus and community," said Mary Dugan, chair of the Class of 2011 Summer Scholars Program planning committee and University general counsel. "It has been very rewarding to work with so many individuals who are committed to the educational development of University students. I hope that the students enjoy this program as much as we enjoyed developing it for them."


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