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Common Reading Program Division of Academic Engagement and Student Achievement

“Being Wrong” Author Kathryn Schulz at WSU Feb. 24 for Common Reading Invited Lecture

PULLMAN, Wash. – Kathryn Schulz, author of “Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error,” will present the Common Reading Invited Lecture at Washington State University at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 24, in Beasley Coliseum.  The public is welcome.

“Being Wrong” is the 2013-14 book chosen as the university’s common reading and is being used in dozens of first-year and other classes on campus. Topics from the book inspire academic discussions among students and faculty, and are the subjects of lectures presented throughout the year by faculty on their research and by other guest experts.

“We are excited to welcome Kathryn to Pullman, and look forward to her interactions with students and faculty as well as her evening presentation,” says Susan Poch, co-director of the common reading program, part of the Office of Undergraduate Education. “Her book has been well received by the WSU community and many interesting conversations have been, and are being, inspired by it.”

“Being Wrong” touches on topics ranging from neurology to social bias to the roots of comedy and narrative. Karen Weathermon, also co-director, believes the book has been a good fit in especially two ways.

“Schulz’s basic premise is that while most of us abhor being wrong, it actually presents an opportunity to realize something new about ourselves, our world, our beliefs. At our research university, things often go presumably ‘wrong’ in a researcher’s work. When we look into why they went wrong, it often happens that new paths open to different discoveries. In fact, all research starts with a desire to investigate something that we don’t understand fully, or even that we realize we have ‘wrong.’”

“The book has also been a good fit for students. Being able to see their own challenges and failings as opportunities for growth is a valuable skill for them to develop.”

Schulz is also a journalist, public speaker, and book critic for New York Magazine. Her freelance writing has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, TIME Magazine, the Boston Globe, the “Freakonomics” blog of The New York Times, The Nation, Foreign Policy, and the New York Times Book Review, among other publications. In 2012, she won the National Book Critic Circle’s Nona Balakian Prize for Excellence in Reviewing. She is the former editor of the online environmental magazine Grist, and a former reporter and editor for The Santiago Times, of Santiago, Chile, where she covered environmental, labor, and human rights issues.

She was a 2004 recipient of the Pew Fellowship in International Journalism (now the International Reporting Project), and has reported from throughout Central and South America, Japan, and, most recently, the Middle East.

A graduate of Brown University and a former Ohioan, Oregonian, and Brooklynite, she currently lives in New York’s Hudson Valley. She has been featured in a Ted Talk and on YouTube.

For more information on the common reading program, visit

Jan. 28, 2014

SOURCE: Karen Weathermon, Co-Director, WSU Common Reading Program, 509-335-5488,

Susan Poch, Co-Director, WSU Common Reading Program, 509-335-7767,

LINK: To Daily Evergreen story


WSU Common Reading Welcomes Lacks Family for Jan. 23 Discussion of “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”

PULLMAN, Wash.—Washington State University’s Common Reading Program will host a moderated discussion with David “Sonny” Lacks and Jeri Lacks-Whye Wed. Jan. 23 at 7:30 p.m. in Beasley Coliseum. They are the son and granddaughter of the woman who is the subject of “This Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” this year’s Common Reading book for freshmen. Her cells have been used over the past 60-plus years in countless scientific pursuits worldwide.

The event marks the sixth annual Common Reading Invited Lecture for the popular program. It is free and open to the public. A book signing will follow on the Beasley Concourse.

“We are delighted to welcome the Lacks family to give a more personal insight into the life of Henrietta and her lasting impact,” says Karen Weathermon, co-director of the Common Reading Program. “The book, written and published by Rebecca Skloot in 2010, raises topics that have inspired countless discussions among students and faculty here at WSU, both in first-year classes and in programming beyond them. We are excited to learn more about her from her son and his daughter.”

“The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” describes how cells were taken without permission from the main character, who died at 31 of cervical cancer in Baltimore in 1951.  Those cells became the first immortal cell line when they reproduced successfully and rapidly in a laboratory at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Named “HeLa” cells—derived from the first two letters of her names—they continued to divide and multiply, and went on to be used in the development of vaccines, cloning, gene mapping, and in vitro fertilization, and were sent on space missions to test who cells react to zero gravity.

That HeLa cells came from Henrietta Lacks wasn’t made public until the 1970s. Her family was approached about giving their cells for research, which they did, also without their consent. They went on to discover that vials of Henrietta’s cells had become the first human biological materials ever bought and sold as part of a multi-billion-dollar industry. In her book, Skloot explores the family’s story. Some profits from the book go to a foundation to support families and victims of medical ethics violations. The Lacks family has never benefited from the commercialization of HeLa cells.

David “Sonny” Lacks has visited university campuses and libraries across the country talking to audiences about his mother’s important contributions to science. By sharing what it was like to find out about her immortal cells, he brings a personal touch to big issues such as medical experimentation on African Americans, bioethics, legal battles over informed consent and whether we control what comes from our bodies and control any profits. He provides a first-person perspective on the collision between ethics, race, and the commercialization of human tissue, and how the experience changed the Lacks family forever.

Jeri Lacks-Whye has traveled with her father on dozens of visits, adding her own perspective on the legacy of her grandmother, the family, and HeLa cells. She works for the judiciary system in Baltimore in the domestic violence unit. She is one of the Lacks family members who will be a consultant in the much-anticipated HBO movie produced by Oprah Winfrey and Allan Ball based on “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.”

For additional information about the WSU Common Reading and the Lacks visit on Jan. 23, visit the website at

CONTACT: Karen Weathermon, Co-Director, WSU Common Reading Program, 509-335-5488,

MEDIA: Beverly Makhani, Director of Communications, University College at WSU, 509-335-6679, Makhani@wsu.edu1-10-13



UC-Berkeley Physicist Richard A. Muller Presents WSU Common Reading Invited Lecture Sept. 27 at Beasley Coliseum

PULLMAN, Wash.-Richard A. Muller, author of “Physics for Future Presidents: The Science Behind the Headlines,” will present the 2011-12 Common Reading Invited Lecture at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2011, in Beasley Coliseum on the Washington State University campus.

The University of California-Berkeley physics professor will discuss “Physics for Future Presidents: An Update for 2011.” The event is open to the public at no charge. It is hosted by the University College, of which the Common Reading Program is a part.

Richard Muller
Richard Muller

“Dr. Muller’s presentation is sure to add new dimensions to our understanding of topics raised in his book, and his interactions on campus with students, faculty, and staff will enrich the Common Reading experience overall” says Mary F. Wack, vice provost for undergraduate education and dean of the University College.

“Physics for Future Presidents” is being used by thousands of students in dozens of first-year and higher classes university wide. One of many books evaluated by a selection committee, it was one of a final handful presented to Provost and Executive Vice President Warwick F. Bayly, who made the final selection.

The book is based on Muller’s renowned Berkeley course for non-science students. Intended to explain basic science and how it relates to issues, the text uses little math while covering topics such as terrorism, energy, nuclear power, space, and global warming. Muller looks at history, misinformation, and hype while pointing to a more logical, scientific approach.

“In an era when national organizations and our own faculty call for increased scientific literacy among our students, the timing couldn’t be better for Dr. Muller’s book to be used as the common reading,” Bayly says.

Muller, who is also faculty senior scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory associated with the Institute for Nuclear and Particle Astrophysics, is a frequent guest on broadcast media, writes for popular magazines, and has authored several books. He is currently writing “Energy for Future Presidents.” He says, “What does a future U.S. President need to know about energy? It is at the heart of our national security, both military and economic, and it is central to the decisions made not only by Presidents, but also by every citizen.” And though he or she would have excellent advisors, their advice would conflict because each is a specialist; a leader, Muller says, would have to understand how the advisors came to their opinions and then balance the advice.

Each author of the common reading book for the year has been invited to lecture at WSU.  Muller is the fifth.  Past speakers have included Greg Mortenson, Michael Pollan, Mary Roach, and Gina Kolata, who wrote, respectively, “Stones into Schools,” “Omnivore’s Dilemma,” “Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers,” and “Flu: The Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 and the Search for the Virus that Caused It.”

While thousands have attended each of the lectures, many more thousands of freshmen since 2007 have gone to a total of more than 50 Common Reading Tuesdays events intended to bring topics from the book home in a local and personal way. They have included lectures by faculty and guest experts, art and photo exhibits, panel discussions, food-related events, and film screenings.  Faculty and staff from all colleges, the residence halls, and the Libraries have helped to make the program successful.

A wide variety of information on Muller can be obtained online by entering his name in a search engine, or going to his website at

For more information his upcoming WSU lecture, check back often at .

SOURCE:  Karen Weathermon, Co-Director, University College/Common Reading Program,, 509-335-5488

Susan Poch, Co-Director, University College/Common Reading Program,, 509-335-7767

MEDIA CONTACT: Beverly Makhani, Communications Director, University College,, 509-335-6679