Reading Round-Up ropes in 18 percent of UT Austin freshman class

Nicole Stuessy

Nearly 1,500 freshmen gathered on the South Mall for breakfast tacos and book discussions Tuesday morning in the largest Reading Round-Up to date.

Freshman Reading Round-Up is a summer reading program offered to first-year students. The annual event allows participants to read a book selected by a UT professor and meet in groups with that professor to discuss the book before classes start.

The 16th annual Reading Round-Up was filled to capacity within three days of the initial email inviting incoming freshmen to participate, which has never happened before, academic program coordinator Laura Weingarten said.

“Usually we write to students throughout the summer and fill the classes maybe midway through the summer and sometimes not at all,” Weingarten said. “This is the first class that has ever just immediately expressed a great interest.”

Weingarten said they reach out to a variety of professors every year to fill the 58 group slots.

“We reach out to our Academy of Distinguished Teachers organization, Provost’s Teaching Fellows and to all of our professors who are teaching a signature course,” Weingarten said. “We have had some faculty members participate every year since we began in 2003.”

While some professors chose to share their own books, Reading Roundup founder James Vick said he chooses a different book every year for his group to read.

“A lot of different kinds of books are chosen,” math professor Vick said. “Some of them are classics and some of them are recent books. I try to pick recent books that students haven’t studied in class before. This year we read ‘The Lost City of The Monkey God.’”

Journalism freshman Will LeHardy said he signed up for Reading Round-Up as a way to introduce himself to the University before the start of classes.

“I read ‘My Beautiful City Austin’ by David Heymann,” LeHardy said. “I chose the book because it was about Austin and I’m from out of state, so I figured I’d want to get to know the city before I moved in.”

Weingarten said the interest for Reading Round-Up has grown beyond first-year students.

“Every year I get emails from sophomores, juniors, even seniors asking if they can participate,” Weingarten said. “But this is a special program just for our first year students to get excited about being on the 40 Acres.”