Office of Undergraduate Education WSU Common Reading

Common Reading Program

Common Reading 2014/15: Garbology

The book and WSU

In Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash, Pulitzer Prize-–winning journalist and author Edward Humes takes readers on a surprising tour of America’s biggest export, our most prodigious product, and our greatest legacy: our trash. It’s also a great opportunity. Inspired by the Common Reading’s use of Garbology, WSU students, faculty, and staff are waging campaigns and competitions to raise awareness of what we discard. And experts on topics raised by the book are sharing their knowledge with first-year and other students at the popular Common Reading Tuesdays lecture series.  Check the calendar for more information! A bit about Garbology… Garbology-smWhile the average American produces 102 tons of garbage across a lifetime and $50 billion in squandered riches are rolled to the curb each year. That waste may also represent the greatest untapped opportunity of the century. In Garbology, Edward Humes investigates trash and reveals not just what we throw away, but who we are and where our society is headed. Waste is the one environmental and economic harm that ordinary working Americans have the power to change—and prosper in the process. A bit about the Common Reading Program… WSU is using Garbology as its 2014-15 Common Reading book in several first-year and other classes, guest lectures, and programming outside of class as ways for students from a variety of disciplines to interact academically with each other and faculty members.

Garbology is the eighth Common Reading book in as many years on the Pullman campus.

Impact: Fall semester 2014

A summary from the fall Common Reading program reveals a high level of interest among and impact on first-year and other students:

  • Total Attendance: over 3,500 (more than 1,000 from the author lecture)
  • Demographics: 67% freshmen, 19% sophomores, 9% juniors, 4% seniors
  • Motivation: 97% attended because of course requirement or for extra credit, 5% attended for personal interest. Note: Once a student attended an event or activity, the majority found it to be interesting.
  • Courses sending students: History 105 (60%), English 101, Science 101, Geology 101, SDC 100, FA 101, Anth 101, Soil Science 201, Women’s Studies 101, Humanities 101, History 120, Env Sci 101, and Entomology 101.
  • Amount of book read: At the start of the semester, 50-60% of attendees had read at least part of the book; by the end of semester more than 70% had read at least part of the book.
  • Evaluation Results:
    • “I found this event interesting.” 61% agreed or strongly agreed; 8% disagreed or strongly disagreed
    • “I’m inspired to learn more about this topic.” 36% agreed or strongly agreed; 19% disagreed or strongly disagreed
    • “This event furthered my understanding of some issue in the book.” 54% agreed or strongly agreed; 16% disagreed or strongly disagreed

What’s New?

Spring Events Calendar

Check the calendar often! There will be lectures on ephemera and archives, plastic and human health, environmental racism, and waste in the food industry. Events with other programs will include a music performance, environmental writers’ readings, and an Earth Week speaker.

Seattle Eco-Artist Chris Jordan will present “Encountering Midway: A Barometer for Our Culture and Our World,” at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 26, in the CUB Auditorium. Common Reading Stamp available.

Tri-Cities nuclear waste expert Gary Peterson will discuss the history, challenges, and future of Hanford Site cleanup at 4 p.m. Thursday, March 4 in CUE 203. Peterson (’65 Communications) has more than a half century of experience with the Hanford Site. He and currently is a VP at the TRIDEV economic development organization where he works with PNNL, the U.S. Department of Energy, Hanford contractors, and Congress to firm up federal funding for the cleanup, and to plan for when Hanford land is returned to citizens.

2015-16 Common Reading Book

Thanks to several great nominations, the Selection Committee is busy reading and evaluating. A small set of recommendations will be submitted to the WSU Provost and Executive Vice President who will choose the next Common Reading book. An announcement will be made in spring.

Message from the Provost

Read Daniel J. Bernardo’s views on the applicability of Garbology to WSU students and departments.

Check the Common Reading calendar for upcoming faculty and guest expert presentations at Common Reading Tuesdays events.

Common Reading Assessment Reports

What is Common Reading?

Topics from a single, carefully selected book for freshmen are featured in first-year and other classes in disciplines across the university, and in special events and presentations. Having a shared source for such topics provides a common ground for students and their professors, and stimulates discussions and learning.  The same topics also lend themselves to presentations in a lecture series, and to discussions between students and faculty within and beyond classrooms.