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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Campus Community Book Project inspires community to go ‘beyond mountains’

The seventh year of the Campus Community Book Project is in full swing with events lined up through December.

The project began in 2001 in response to the Sept. 11 events in an effort tobring the community together and create a dialogue about complex issues,said Mikael Villalobos, administrator of diversity education for the Office of Campus Community Relations.The book project was a way to bring the community together to discuss a lot of the issues that surround us and controversial issues to have a common experience,he said.

The project aims to provide a forum to bring the community together, using a book that illuminates a common experience, and allows people to engage in dialogue, Villalobos said.

This year’s book, Mountains Beyond Mountains by Pulitzer Prize- winning author Tracy Kidder, takes the reader into the work of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Boston physician who concentrates his efforts on the plight of poverty-stricken Haitian people suffering from tuberculosis and a high rate of AIDS/HIV.

On Dec. 1, Kidder will visit for a panel discussion, author’s talk and book signing event. The next book discussion is Oct. 24 from 11 a.m. to noon at the Cross Cultural Center.

Several University Writing Program courses and freshman seminars have integrated the book into the curriculum.

“[The book] is about an extraordinary individual who establishes a system of free health care for the poor in Haiti – 80 percent of Haitians – and becomes a world-renowned leader in public health, arguing for and providing first world quality health care in third world countries as a basic human right,said Gary Sue Goodman, UWP lecturer and assistant director for the Writing Across the Curriculum program, in an e-mail interview.The book is inspiring, showing how powerfully one motivated individual can improve the lives of thousands. It also raises important questions about our responsibility, as wealthy Americans, to our neighbors, in Haiti and around the globe, and how we can best help to improve their lives.

The book was chosen in alignment with UC DavisCentennial celebration because it focuses on multi-disciplinary learning and service to community. Whether an event is taking place in another part of the world or within our environment, it must be applied in terms of the local context, Villalobos said.

“The book is very much about service to community,he said. “[It’s about] going beyond oneself and how we provide care and service.

Junior communication major Theresa Mongelluzzo, who is reading the book for Goodman’s UWP 104C journalism class, said that stylistically the book is a difficult read but is inspirational for students. The issues in Haiti provide community service opportunities for students and shed light on different lifestyles, she said.

“A lot of times we focus on the problems domestically in America,she said.It’s important to realize there’s a lot of work out there. Especially since there is a medical school here, there can be other community service work done instead of just looking towards the money aspect. [Dr. Farmer] moves to Haiti and gives free medical care. It should be inspiring to students who are traveling and interested in community service.

Several professors are using the work in class for writing analysis. Pamela Demory, a continuing lecturer in the UWP, said she was not drawn to Mountains Beyond Mountains at first but it grew on her.

“A huge part of this campus and book speaks to other issues as well like social and cultural impact,Demory said.I don’t know very many books that explore world global problems that actually end up being hopeful, that could actually make a difference and change something. That’s what we’re doing to prepare people to go out into the workforce.

Graduate student research assistant Tiffany Gilmore is teaching a freshman seminar called Exploring Public Health and Haiti through the Campus Community Book Project.

“I think it is an important book because it asks students to consider the ramifications of social entrepreneurship, what it means to serve, and the relationship between and responsibility of the developed world to the developing world,Gilmore said in an e-mail interview.Many students know very little about Haiti even though the troubled island nation is less than 800 miles from the coast of Florida. Haiti is geographically close but imaginatively remote. In my class, I am encouraging my students to consider Dr. Farmer’s claim thathealth care is a human rightand what it means to practicepragmatic solidarityor to offera preferential optionfor the poor as Partners in Health does.

The Campus Council on Community and Diversity, an advisory group to the chancellor, provost and executive vice chancellor, decides on a yearly topic for the book project and then a selection committee reviews book nominations for the community members and university. The Office of Campus Community Relations and this council are currently in the last stages of choosing the upcoming book for 2009-2010, which will be announced in December.

“Faculty, students and staff are involved in the planning program and community members from outside the university are also part of planning and part of the goal of bringing the community together,Villalobos said.Even the process in planning the project there is that community building piece in part of planning and selection of next book.

For a list of events accompanying the project go to occr.ucdavis.edu/ccbp2008/index.html.


POOJA KUMAR can be reached at campus@californiaaggie.com


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