Alumni and Parents Book Discussion

Please join the Washington University Alumni Association and Gephardt Institute for Civic and Community Engagement for a thought-provoking group discussion on Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.

In the fall of 2017, alumni and parents will meet to discuss the book as part of the  Washington University Common Reading Program. Participants in the alumni and parents program will read the book and then gather to delve into complex issues and questions raised in the book. In the spirit of civic engagement, these discussions will foster dialogue, learning, and listening, which are the foundation of strong communities.

About the Alumni and Parent Book Discussions and Common Reading Program

Originally named the First Year Reading Program, this initiative began in the fall of 2003 to provide first-year students a shared intellectual experience to start their academic career at WashU. The program was renamed the Washington University Common Reading Program in 2017 as the program now supports discussions among first-year students, parents, families, and alumni groups around the world.

Since 2009, the WU Club of Miami has read the assigned book for first-year students and gathered annually in a local home for a thought-provoking group discussion over coffee and desserts. In fall of 2016, The Alumni Association and the Gephardt Institute for Civic and Community Engagement expanded the number of Alumni and Parent Book Discussions to 40 discussion groups nationwide, up from four groups the previous year.

About the Book 

This year marks the 200th anniversary of Frankenstein. At age 19, Mary Shelley produced a novel that would shape our cultural narrative for two centuries. Incoming students have no doubt heard expressions such as ‘frankenfoods’ that refer to genetically modified crops or eaten Franken Berry cereal. They have seen film depictions, such as the Colin Clive classics Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein, and Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein.

So much awaits new students in the world of knowledge that they are about to enter. Some will learn about technologies like CRISPR that allow us to manipulate genes. Others will explore ideas of the humanities that inform our perceptions of what it means to be human. Frankenstein crosses all of these boundaries serving as a wonderful introduction to the life of the mind. In their studies at Washington University, students will discuss and analyze the great problems of the world, including underlying our approach to identity. By reading Frankenstein, participating in small group discussions, and attending on-campus programming, we will provide incoming students an introduction to the intellectual college experience that highlights the essence of their education.

Around the country, participants in the alumni and parents program will get a taste of the academic experience by reading Frankenstein and gathering to discuss the same questions raised on campus. In the spirit of civic engagement, these discussions will foster dialogue, learning, and listening which are the foundation of strong communities.