The freshman reading program that encourages incoming students to get a head start on their academic careers by reading a pre-selected novel over the summer saw a significant drop in its participation numbers for the second year.
The First Chapter freshman reading program received only 58 essay submissions. Last year, 200 students participated, a 100-person dip from the summer before. Freshmen were encouraged to share their reactions to “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot for a chance to be considered for a dinner with a yet-to-be-named special guest.
Coordinator for First Year Initiatives at the Center of Student Engagement Katie Lux attributed the drop to August’s earthquake and hurricane.
The submission deadline was extended by one week due to the unusual weather, although Lux declined to comment on how many students sent in essays during the extra period.
“While we received fewer responses this year, we are encouraged by the quality of the submissions and look forward to reviewing them,” Lux said.
The book tells the true story of Henrietta Lacks, known as HeLa, whose DNA was used to cure polio after she died of cervical cancer in 1951. The New York Times bestseller delves into topics including scientific advancement and medical ethics.
The First Chapter program hosted a HeLapalooza event last week as well as ongoing book discussions with house proctors, Lux added.
Several academic departments coordinated courses and other activities with the book this semester as well.