August 8, 2014

Orange is the New Black

Common Read 2014

Orange is the New Black, the true story of author Piper Kerman’s 15 month incarceration in a federal women’s prison for drug trafficking, is this year’s Common Read book for first-year and transfer students at UMass Amherst.

Students received a copy of the book at their Summer New Students Orientation (NSO) to read prior to starting classes in September. The book, a New York Times best seller and an original Netflix series, chronicles Kerman’s life, the choices she made, the consequences that followed – and the redemption she found in places and faces completely different from the solace she thought could only be found in an elite world. The book humanly and critically explores the benefits and advantages held by individuals in our society and the profound capacity we all have for acceptance and change.

When students return in the fall they will hear from Laverne Cox, transgender rights activist and Emmy-nominated actress from the Netflix series Orange is the New Black, who will kick-off the Common Read Program. Additional program opportunities for students to participate in meaningful and academically enriched dialogue on issues raised in the book related to the chancellor’s themes of community, connections, and active engagement, will include faculty first-year seminars, residence hall programs, Common Read book discussions, and online social media engagement.

The Common Read program will conclude in October with a campus visit and discussion by Kerman, a faculty panel hosted in the Commonwealth Honors College Residential Community, and the continuation of a special exhibit in the W.E.B. Du Bois Library.

The Common Read program provides more than 5,000 students with a common, intellectually engaging experience linking them to one another, introducing them to the academic work of a research university, and helping them reflect on themes important in their transition from high school to college. The program also aims for a broader reach by creating and providing opportunities to engage all areas of the campus community including students, staff, faculty, and Amherst residents and town officials.

In its fourth year at UMass Amherst, the Common Read 2014 program has become an important and integrated part of the fabric of welcoming incoming new first-year and transfer students to the university.

Watch the Common Read 2014 Promo Video

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