Campus Reading announced for 2024–25 academic year

The Campus Reading for the 2024–25 academic year will be I Never Thought of It That Way: How to Have Fearlessly Curious Conversations in Dangerously Divided Times by Mónica Guzmán. The book was chosen by a committee of faculty and students and launches community-wide dialogue that begins during orientation and continues throughout the year in houses on The Martha Rivers Ingram Commons, in Vanderbilt Visions groups, and across campus.

“Civil discourse is a core value at Vanderbilt because it is essential to the work we do together—in our classrooms, labs and everywhere between,” Chancellor Daniel Diermeier said. “Teaching first-year students how to have constructive conversations about divisive subjects is one of the best ways we can continue to build a campus culture of open, courageous and respectful dialogue and help students honor our Community Creed. I expect Mónica Guzmán’s book to be an excellent catalyst for learning and conversation, and I look forward to reading it myself.”

“We look forward to hosting author Mónica Guzmán on campus,” said C. Cybele Raver, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs. “We benefit immensely from the opportunity to talk with authors about their insights as journalists, poets and novelists, and the power of storytelling in breaking open new ways of understanding one another’s perspectives.”

The book explores practical techniques that employ curiosity to overcome discord, underscoring the 2024–25 Martha Rivers Ingram Commons programming theme of “Embracing the Debate.” This theme, imperative in an election year, centers constructive conversation and mutual respect in the face of disagreement and will help anchor conversations throughout the year.

“The Campus Reading offers an opportunity for us to have a single common experience and develop a common language that creates a point of connection in our very diverse community,” said Melissa Gresalfi, dean of residential colleges and residential education. “This year, we wanted a book that directly addresses the challenges we have in seeing each other’s viewpoints and responding to each other in a way that maintains our personal integrity and our connections. This is not only imperative for our community during an election year, but also connects with the wider campus efforts through Dialogue Vanderbilt and Open Dialogue. Mónica Guzmán’s book is the perfect tool for these initial conversations.”

Selection committee co-chair Ghina Absi, assistant professor of the practice of civil and environmental engineering, noted the benefit of choosing a book that offered a pathway forward through a season of difficult conversations.

The book “taps into the humanity of debaters and encourages curiosity in knowing the person we are talking to before responding to their arguments,” Absi said. “It has this flair of hope in managing discourse and encouraging growth.”

Committee co-chair Brian Kissel, professor of the practice of teaching and learning, emphasized the advantages of focusing on building conversation skills in a year when so many first-year students may be voting for the first time in a presidential election.

“Every four years we collectively ponder essential questions like: Who are we as a society? What are our values? What are our dreams for the future?” Kissel said. “We believe this book offers readers a way forward to contemplate these questions. With this book as a touchstone text, we hope that the Vanderbilt community will be inspired to engage in nourishing and productive conversations about important issues that matter in our lives.”

All first-year students with a domestic mailing address will receive a physical copy of the book in the mail before fall move-in. Students with an international mailing address will be emailed a digital copy of the book. All incoming first-year students are asked to complete a reflective essay on the Campus Reading before the start of classes, and they will have an opportunity to hear author Mónica Guzmán give a special lecture to first-year students in the first half of the fall semester.