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Sources: Karin Westman, 785-532-2190, westmank@k-state.edu;
Emily Lehning, 785-532-6237, lehning@k-state.edu;
Greg Eiselein, 785-532-0386, eiselei@k-state.edu;
Stephen Kiefer, 785-532-2642, swkiefer@k-state.edu;
and Tara Coleman, 785-532-7414, tcole2@k-state.edu
Web site: http://www.k-state.edu/ksbn
News release prepared by: Trevor Davis, 785-532-2535, tjdavis@k-state.edu

Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2011

COMMON READING PROGRAM BUILDS CONNECTIONS, PROMOTES ENGAGEMENT AMONG NEW COLLEGE STUDENTS

MANHATTAN -- Getting lost in a book will help new students find their way at Kansas State University.

Students, faculty and staff will read Dave Eggers' "Zeitoun" for the university's reading program. The K-State Book Network allows first-year students and the campus community to participate in thought-provoking discussions and connect with one another.

"Zeitoun" details the true story of a Syrian-American contractor and painter who stays in New Orleans during and after Hurricane Katrina. The New York Times called the book "the stuff of great narrative nonfiction."

"Although many stories have been told about New Orleans during this disaster, 'Zeitoun' presents a very human side of how people were affected by -- and eventually triumphed over -- the devastation, confusion and difficulty wrought by Katrina," said Stephen Kiefer, co-chair of the book network, director of the university honors program and professor of psychology.

The nonfiction narrative offers readers the opportunity to examine complex issues that require thoughtful analysis.

"We look forward to compelling conversations about American identity, community engagement, religious faith and the rebirth of New Orleans," said Karin Westman, head of the department of English and member of the book network committee.

Readers will explore the effects from natural and human-made disasters, which often ripple across geographical, political, economic and psychological boundaries, said Tara Coleman, Web services librarian for K-State Libraries and co-chair of the book network committee.

"Students can begin to understand many of the events that occurred during the hurricane and the subsequent flooding," she said. "They'll also be able to empathize with the personal struggles faced by the people of New Orleans."

Readers can participate in discussions and lectures related to the book's themes. The program will kick off with a Mardi Gras celebration from 11 a.m. to noon Tuesday, March 8, at the K-State Student Union courtyard in a tribute to New Orleans. Fall events include documentaries and films related to the book's themes and panel discussions.

K-State's campuswide reading program was one of the first offered by a Board of Regents institution in Kansas, and similar reading programs are part of the first-year experience at many universities.

"We want to encourage new students to engage with good books and challenging ideas from the very start of their K-State careers," said Greg Eiselein, professor of English and co-director of K-State First, the university's first-year student experience program. "Common reading experiences are also a great way to build campus community and to welcome new students to the university."

"Zeitoun" will serve as a common topic of conversation for incoming students that they can bond over, said Emily Lehning, co-director of K-State First, assistant vice president for student life and director of new student services.

"They can talk about it with each other and other members of the K-State family from the moment they arrive on campus," she said.

The campus community embraced last year's selection of Suzanne Collins' "The Hunger Games" during the program's inaugural year, Westman said.

"First-year students, their families, returning students, faculty, staff and members of the Manhattan community shared their experiences of the book's character-driven, dystopian vision of reality television, civil liberties, technology and political action," she said.

All freshmen will receive a copy of "Zeitoun" at their campus orientation visit in June. Copies for current K-Staters will be available at the K-State Student Union Bookstore and Varney's Book Store in Aggieville. Faculty and staff who would like a copy for use with students can contact Coleman and Kiefer at ksbn@k-state.edu.

Visit http://www.k-state.edu/ksbn to learn more.