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Royals Read with Scranton Area Residents

University of Scranton students taking the first-year seminar course “Latest and Greatest. Prize-winning Fiction, Poetry and Theatre” participated in Scranton Reads to engage with area residents through literature. Front row, from left are: University students Karly Johns, a strategic communication major from Hunlock Creek; Devon Dorbich, a psychology major from Atglen; Katheryn Hickey, an early and primary education major from Huntington, New York; Shayla Murray, an occupational therapy major from Warners, New York; Alexa Romberger, a biochemistry major from Valley View; Kathryn Antonawich, a nursing major from West Islip, New York; and Kaitlyn McGarry a psychology major from Garden City, New York; and Rebecca Beal, Ph.D., professor of English and theatre. Back row are: University students Jennifer Sweeney, an occupational therapy major from Dumont, New Jersey; Dennis Sweeney, a computer science major from Milford, Connecticut; Christopher Draina, a biochemistry, cell and molecular biology major from Hanover; Catherine O’Callaghan from Peapack, New Jersey, who has not yet declared a major; Jarod Herman a marketing major from Bethlehem; Anthony Lambroia, an accounting major from East Northport, New Jersey; and Michael Morgan from Clark, New Jersey, who has not yet declared a major. Absent from the photo are students Megan Gallagher, an exercise science major from Thorndale, and Paige McPartland, a criminal justice major of Edgewater, New Jersey.
October 31, 2017
By: Eric Eiden ’19, student correspondent

English and theatre professor Rebecca Beal, Ph.D., was awarded a grant from The University of Scranton’s Strategic Initiative Fund to enable students in her first-year seminar not only to read, discuss and study a Pulitzer Prize-winning book in class, but also to share their insights in a service initiative with residents of the city of Scranton. The fund supports innovative projects that will have a positive impact on the student experience and further the goals of the University’s Strategic Plan to engage, integrate and globalize the student experience.

Through the grant, students in Dr. Beal’s first-year seminar course “Latest and Greatest. Prize-winning Fiction, Poetry and Theatre” participated in the city’s Scranton Reads program by facilitating group discussions about the book Gilead at libraries throughout Lackawanna County during the month of October.

Freshmen Catherine O’Callaghan of Peapack, New Jersey, and Kathryn Antonawich of West Islip, New York, facilitated the book discussion at the Albright Memorial Library on Monday, Oct. 16.

“It’s going to be interesting to see the difference between what we think as freshmen at the University versus what the community thinks,” O’Callaghan said. “I think people will have different perspectives depending on their age, gender and background.”

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson is a novel set in Gilead, Iowa, written as a memoir of Reverend John Ames, who was diagnosed with a terminal illness. Ames remembers the experiences of his father and grandfather so he can share them with his son. The book focuses on the dynamics of Ames’ family, his life in Gilead, Iowa, the struggle of coming to terms with death and missing out on his loved one’s lives. Gilead won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2005.

The students facilitated the discussion around four key themes seen throughout the book: faith, anger, family and death. The students used quotes from the book to prompt community members into a conversation about the book. Even though the students analyzed the book and crafted the discussion together, Antonawich valued the community’s views on the themes of the book.

“It’s easy for us to have the same opinion and it’s better to get other people’s opinions on it too,” Antonawich said. 

When the conversation reached the theme of death, community members and students alike reflected on the idea that people can lose their life at any moment. They found importance on meditating on one’s own life at an old age and how Ames had time to think about his life before death due to the diagnosis of his heart condition. 

Scranton Reads is an annual event that seeks to unite the community through reading and discussing a designated book. The program began in 2001 when the mayor of Scranton at the time, Christopher Doherty, discusses starting the program in Scranton with Jack Finnerty, director of the Albright Memorial Library. The program has run each October since 2001.

“The idea is to get as many people in the community of all walks of life, to read a single title, sit down and talk about whether they loved it, hated it or didn’t understand it at all,” Finnerty said.

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University of Scranton students participated in Scranton Reads and led discussions about the book Gilead at the Albright Memorial Library and other libraries in Lackawanna County.

Eric Eiden ’19, Throop, is a journalism/electronic media major at The University of Scranton.
Eric Eiden ’19, Throop, is a journalism/electronic media major at The University of Scranton.
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