Participation in summer reading program doubles

The number of essays submitted to Dean of Freshmen Fred Siegel’s summer reading program more than doubled this year, Siegel said last week.

Challenged to read Thomas Friedman’s “Hot, Flat and Crowded,” more than 300 responses from the class of 2013 flooded Siegel’s inbox this summer. About 30 students have been chosen, based on their written reactions, to attend a dinner party at Dean Siegel’s home on the Mount Vernon campus with unreported special guests. Winners were announced at Freshman Convocation on Aug. 30.

Freshman Dena Sholk – one of the 28 winners selected of the 300 students who submitted essays to the contest – said she wrote about ignorance in the world community about going green in her winning submission.

“Americans, in particular, are environmentally illiterate,” Sholk said in an e-mail. “Unless the market – that is the consumer market – uses their dollar votes to demand environmentally sensitive technology, then the green revolution will never occur.”

Samantha Rogers, another one of the 28 winners, said she was thrilled to hear her name called as the first winner of the contest.

“I had been sitting in my chair beforehand trying to calm myself down, so I wouldn’t be to let down if I lost,” Rogers said in an e-mail. “Then they called my name first, I started cheering and clapping only to get weird looks from the two strangers sitting beside me.”

Siegel launched a blog this summer called “2013 Reads and Reacts” to provide students with an outlet to respond to the book and each other immediately, he said. It also allowed Siegel to post reminders and updates about the contest several times throughout the summer as well.

Siegel said he has received responses ranging from “my mind has been opened,” to “it’s all so depressing!”

“From the essays I have received, it is clear that the book resonates in some way with almost all students, regardless of one’s political views,” Siegel said.

Academic activities surrounding the book are expected to extend throughout the school year, with special emphasis on the fall semester.

“I surely see the book as a call to action for the Class of 2013, action that should last not only four years but for a lifetime. Getting involved as a freshman is the best advice anyone can give,” Siegel said.

Asked if Thomas Friedman himself would be on campus this year, Siegel declined to comment.

“Suffice it to say that we believe having Mr. Friedman here would be a signature event for GW,” Siegel said.

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