Tag Archives: inspirational

Montana State U. Students Use The Last Town on Earth to Reach Out to Women in Prison

Author Thomas Mullen’s book, The Last Town on Earth, was adopted last year as common reading for all incoming freshmen at Montana State University – Billings. Mullen had hoped that his book, which deals with important topics such as morality, making difficult choices, overcoming fear of the unknown, and hope for a better future, would relate fittingly to the lives of undergraduate students who face similar challenges – what he hadn’t imagined was that his story would find even more common-ground with the women incarcerated at Passages, a correctional institution just one mile from the MSUB campus.

Two instructors from MSUB offered a course in 2010 that included a Service Learning Project – students of the course would examine The Last Town on Earth in a joint book club with Passages residents. The main theme of “community” within both the novel as well as the book club begged the question from each woman, “what is community?”.

The learning and friendship that developed between the students and the residents of Passages, all stemming from discussion of Mullen’s The Last Town on Earth, was largely captured on camera by a small film crew that was making a documentary for an MSUB communications class – and it’s one that’s worth checking out: http://www.spotlightads.com/Demos/msub_passages.html

The project also included a visit to Passages by Mullen himself, where he met and spoke with the women of the correctional institution back in December of last year. To hear Mullen’s own account of his experience discussing The Last Town on Earth with Passages residents, check out his blog post on “My First Prison Book Club.”

So much chance and inspiration sprung out of what first started as a First Year Experience reading choice in snowy Billings, Montana, and grew into an entirely different and unforeseen community experience in a women’s prison. Just goes to show that the message of one book can cross borders in the most unexpected and terrific ways.


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Morrie to Ole Miss: University of Mississippi will read Tuesdays with Morrie

The University of Mississippi has selected First-Year Reading favorite, Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life’s Greatest Lesson, for its common reading program.

The book has been previously selected by Concordia University, SUNY-New Paltz, University of Buffalo,  University of North Dakota, and University of Nevada, Las Vegas, among other colleges. It was also a community read for the “One Book, One Springfield” program in Springfield, Massachussetts.

After learning of his former professor’s terminal illness, author Mitch Albom flew to Brandeis University, reunited with his old friend, and returned every Tuesday thereafter to visit with him. Morrie Schwartz turned these visits into one final “class”: a lesson in how to live. This book chronicles their time together.


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Students find inspiration in The Road of Lost Innocence during humanitarian trip to Cambodia

A couple of months ago we brought you news that West Texas A&M University has selected Somaly Mam’s memoir, The Road of Lost Innocence for use in their common reading program. Mam was sold into sexual slavery at the age of six but harrowingly escaped and now devotes her time and energy to helping others throughout her native Cambodia and other countries.

Last month, parents in the city of Cambridge, Massachussetts (inspired by Mam’s memoir as well as another popular common reading title, Cups of Tea) decided to raise money to help build a school in rural Cambodia in a project they dubbed Camb2Camb. Eight junior high and high school students were selected for a trip to the country through an application process. Prior to departure they researched topics they might encounter while in Cambodia such as  human trafficking, women’s rights, and the Khmer Rouge tribunals. The Road of Lost Innocence became pre-trip required reading.

While in Cambodia, students engaged in a number of activities including a dinner with Mam during which she spoke about her experiences as a sex slave and how she has helped free others.

The high school students kept online blogs during their trips. “I CAN’T STOP SMILING!” wrote Violet Brooks-Doucette. “Everyday I reflect on what we did and I say to myself, ‘today was the greatest day of my life,’ then the next day I say the exact same thing!”

For more information on the Camb2Camb project, read this article from Wicked Local Cambridge.

Want to inspire your students and promote service to others? E-mail rhacademic@randomhouse.com for a list of useful titles that are great for common reading programs.


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Win a FREE copy of Peter Buffett’s Life is What You Make It!

CommonReads is giving away a FREE copy of philanthropist Peter Buffett’s new book, Life is What You Make It: Find Your Own Path To Fulfillment.

The son of billionaire investor Warren Buffett, Peter Buffett maintains that the only real inheritance handed down from his parents was a philosophy: Forge your own path in life. It is a creed that has allowed him to follow his own passions, establish his own identity, and reap his own successes.

Today’s society, Buffett posits, has begun to replace a work ethic, relishing what you do, with a wealth ethic, honoring the payoff instead of the process. The answer, he explains,is to focus more on substance and less on reward in order make the most of opportunity and strive toward a greater sense of fulfillment. In clear and concise terms, Buffett reveals a great truth: Life is random, neither fair nor unfair.

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Bill Strickland speaks at the First-Year Experience Author Luncheon

Wrapping up the afternoon at the Sixth Annual First-Year Experience Author Luncheon last month in Denver, Colorado was the dynamic Bill Strickland, author of Make the Impossible Possible: One Man’s Crusade to Inspire Others to Dream Bigger and Achieve the Extraordinary.

Over the past thirty years, the MacArthur Fellowship “genius” award winner has been transforming the lives of thousands of people through the creation of Manchester Bidwell, a jobs training center and community arts program. Working with corporations, community leaders, and schools, he and his staff strive to give disadvantaged kids and adults the opportunities and tools they need to envision and built a better, brighter future.

During his talk, Mr. Strickland showed the audience images of the Manchester Bidwell Center, its students, and their work. Images, video, and other resources may be found on his website.

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For more information on bringing these speakers to your school or community, rhacademic@randomhouse.com.

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