Reading Roundup introduces freshmen to professors

Paul Cobler

Reading Roundup has connected award-winning professors with incoming freshmen for the past 13 years.

The annual event assigns incoming freshmen a novel to read over the summer before they meet in small groups with professors to discuss the book.

Lara Harlan, the director of communications and events for the School of Undergraduate Studies, has been working to put on the event since it began in 2003.

“You could kind of think of Reading Roundup as 57 book clubs all happening at the same time,” Harlan said. “We ask award-winning faculty, members of the academy of distinguished teachers and signature course faculty all to pick a book. Students get to connect with a top-notch faculty member who they might not have had a class with until they were upperclassmen. They’re also getting to connect with 20 of their fellow freshmen who share their love
for reading.”

Freshman Larisa Liberty said the opportunity to meet with a professor before classes begin motivated her to participate in Reading Roundup.

“It’s little bit intimidating, having never taken a class that are probably going to be as large as the ones I’m going to take here,” Liberty said. “So getting to get to know professors before I have to do that is kind of going to alleviate my nerves a little bit.”

Students and faculty met on the South Mall on Tuesday for breakfast before breaking into their smaller reading groups.

Elizabeth Cullingford, chair of the English department, has been selecting books for students to read and leading discussions since its inception.

“It is always thrilling to meet new students just as they begin their careers at UT,” Cullingford said. “My own son went to UT and loved every minute of it, and I’ve always felt that I wanted to share that excitement with other students.”

This year, Cullingford chose to lead her discussion about the novel “Room” by Emma Donoghue because it relates to the subject of her own book she is writing: representations of only children in literature.

“I have always loved it,” Cullingford said. “I know that the recent movie drew attention to the book and thought first-year students would like to read it.”

Aerospace engineering freshman Kieran Smith said the program gave him the excuse he was looking for to learn about psychology and read a book over the summer.

“I wanted to learn about a new subject, I was looking into psychology at the time, and it got me motivated to read a book about it,” Smith said. “I’m really glad I decided to, and it’s really exciting to get to know a professor a little better.”