'The Alchemist' selected for Common Reading

August 08, 2008

The international bestseller "The Alchemist" by Paul Coelho is encouraging students, faculty and staff at Penn State Berks to follow their dreams as the entire campus community participates in the fourth annual Common Reading Program.

"The Alchemist" tells the story of a young shepherd named Santiago who seeks a treasure known only to him in his dreams. Under the guidance of several people he encounters along the way, Santiago embarks on a journey with the advice from a mystifying old man, "To realize one's destiny is a person's only obligation," he tells Santiago. "And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." 

At Penn State Berks, faculty and staff are eager to be guides to students in their journeys toward realizing their educational and career goals, and celebrating their successes with them at commencement and beyond. The many lessons Santiago experiences along his expedition remind people of their own personal journeys and the lessons learned inside and outside the classroom.

In 2005, the Common Reading initiative was born. Each year, a work is chosen by faculty and staff for the program, which is part of every first-year seminar curriculum. Since then, the campus community has engaged in dialogue surrounding issues of global conservation, diversity, ethics and integrity, and this year's topic of wellness.  Common reading selections from prior years include: "Gaviotas"  by Alan Weisman, "The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseini and "Fast Food Nation" by Eric Schlossinger.

"We designed the first-year experience to meet the goals of creating diverse learning opportunities and giving incoming students a chance to connect with fellow classmates prior to beginning their new academic life," said Valerie Rowe, coordinator of the Common Reading Program and instructor in kinesiology.

However the program is not limited to the first-year seminar; it ties together all aspects of campus living through its inclusion in the orientation program, residence life activities, lecture series and service opportunities. It also unites the campus community through faculty and staff participation.

On Saturday, Aug. 23, the day after first-year students move into the residence halls, they will break into First Year Seminar groups to discuss "The Alchemist" from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. The discussion will continue when classes begin on Monday, Aug. 25 in the First Year Seminar classes.

The campus will host a free lecture by Patrick Combs titled "'The Alchemist' Applied to Real Life” at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 25. This event is free to the public.

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Lisa Weidman

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Last Updated March 19, 2009