On any given day during the 2013 fall semester, you may have noticed a student, faculty or staff member reading Arcadia, a book by The New York Times best-selling author Lauren Groff.
Queens has long offered a summer read for incoming freshmen geared toward creating a shared intellectual experience and inspiring conversation.
This school year, for the first time, Queens created a new program that allowed the entire Queens community the chance to engage in this type of experience. And another first: Arcadia was written by faculty member Lauren Groff, an instructor in Queens' MFA program. Her critically acclaimed book follows the journey of Bit Stone, born in the late 1960s on an upstate New York commune.
"The book has fostered an even greater sense of community on an already closely connected campus. It really struck a chord. I think there’s something powerful for people at Queens to be talking about being in community with one another."
- Sarah Fatherly, Associate Provost and Dean of University Programs
Groff came up with the idea for the book after reading about utopias when she was pregnant with her first son, miserable and new to a community where she knew practically nobody. Being immersed in her own "perfect" place was a way to try to work through to her own happiness.
More than 100 students read the novel as part of their curriculum and 70 other students, faculty and staff discussed it in book clubs. Suzanne Cooper Guasco, associate professor of history, lectured on the history of utopian movements, and English Professor Michael Kobre spoke on the connections between popular music and social change. The Board of Trustees discussed Arcadia during its fall meeting.
But what makes a common reading program truly successful? According to Groff you've succeeded "when people have passionate reactions to the book-good and bad-and are invested in communicating their experiences and opinions as clearly and thoughtfully as they can."
At spring convocation, students, faculty and staff were hanging onto every word as Groff read experts from Arcadia. As everyone listened intently, it was clear success had been achieved.