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Division of Academic Engagement and Student Achievement WSU Common Reading

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 http://muller.lbl.gov/.

For more information his upcoming WSU lecture, check back often at http://CommonReading.wsu.edu .


SOURCE:  Karen Weathermon, Co-Director, University College/Common Reading Program, kweathermon@wsu.edu, 509-335-5488

Susan Poch, Co-Director, University College/Common Reading Program, poch@wsu.edu, 509-335-7767

MEDIA CONTACT: Beverly Makhani, Communications Director, University College, Makhani@wsu.edu, 509-335-6679

WSU Opens Nominations for 2011-2012 Common Reading Book for Freshmen

PULLMAN, Wash.-The selection committee of the Common Reading Program at Washington State University is looking ahead the next academic year, and has announced its call for nominations for the 2011-2012 common reading book for freshmen.

Faculty, staff, students, alumni, parents, and friends of the university are invited to use the online nomination form to suggest any book that would stimulate conversation, inquiries, and critical thinking among new students in classes across all disciplines, says Susan Poch, co-director of the program and head of the selection committee.  The Common Reading Program is part of the new University College, where she serves as associate dean.  The closing date will likely be in early December.

“The purpose of the Common Reading Program is to create a common academic ground for all who participate in it, including new students, faculty, staff, and the community,” says Poch.  “Each year since 2007, a single book has been chosen by the university to be read by all freshmen and used in their courses and in special programs outside of classes, as well.

“Students, professors, residence hall staff, librarians, and others lend ideas and actions to bring to life topics raised in that common reading book.  Many WSU faculty members are leading researchers in their fields, and the program provides a great venue for them to share information from their research with students that ties to the book.”

In summer 2010, about 3,200 copies of this year’s book, “Stones into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books, Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” by Montana humanitarian Greg Mortenson, were distributed to freshmen attend orientation.  In addition to its use in dozens of first-year courses underway now, the book is the source of topics for faculty and guest presentations spread across two semesters in the popular evening series, Common Reading Tuesdays.

Mortenson is also coming to Pullman January 26, 2011 for an evening lecture directed to students but also open to the public.

Last fall, the selection committee read numerous nominated books before selecting its top four to send to Provost and Executive Vice President Warwick M. Bayly for his evaluation.  It was he who chose “Stones into Schools” for this year.

The process is to nominate a book will again be easy, says Poch.  An online nomination form asks the nominator to include about the book they favor and how it could be widely used across disciplines as the common reading.

Previous common reading books include:

  • “Flu: The Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 and the Search for the Virus That Caused It,” by Gina Kolata.  In fall 2007, it was the first common reading book.
  • “Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers,” by Mary Roach, was the second, used in fall 2008.
  • “Omnivore’s Dilemma: A History of Four Meals,” by Michael Pollan, was the third in 2009-2010, but the first to be used in both fall and spring semesters.

Each author visited campus.  A former faculty member, Alfred Crosby, a historian, also visited campus in 2007 to present on the 1917 flu pandemic.

For more information, visit CommonReading.wsu.edu.


CONTACT: Beverly Makhani, Communications Director, WSU University College, 509-335-6679, Makhani@wsu.edu

Susan Poch, Co-Director, WSU Common Reading Program, and Associate Dean, WSU University College, 509-335-7769, poch@wsu.edu