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Common Reading Program Division of Academic Engagement and Student Achievement

WSU Common Reading Program Welcomes WSU Alumnus and U.S. Air Force Space Executive Richard W. McKinney for April 18 Lecture

PULLMAN, Wash.—Satellites, space, and policy are topics that Deputy Under Secretary of the Air Force for Space Programs Richard W. McKinney will discuss at his presentation “How Does the U.S. Air Force Use Space?” Wednesday, April 18 for the Common Reading Program. The lecture will be at 7 p.m. in Todd 116 at Washington State University, and the public is invited.

McKinney earned his B.A. in business administration in marketing from WSU. A distinguished graduate of the Air Force ROTC on campus, he spent 28 years on active duty before retiring as a colonel in 2001. The following year, he was appointed to the prestigious Senior Executive Service, a corps of federal government executives charged with leading the continuing transformation of government.

In his current position, he provides guidance, direction, and oversight for the formulation, review, and execution of military space programs, which includes integrating military space activities between Air Force, National Reconnaissance Office, NASA, and other agencies and nations. He previously served as the Director for Space Acquisition in the Under Secretary’s office and was the Air Force liaison to Europe to facilitate and expand Air Force international cooperation on space with Europe.

A native of Lacey, Wash., he maintains strong ties to WSU by serving as a member of the WSU Foundation Board of Trustees, on the advisory board of the College of Business, on the campaign steering committee of the University College, and as the creator of the Richard McKinney Honors Study Abroad Scholarship in the Honors College at WSU.

McKinney’s presentation on April 18 is the final Common Reading Tuesdays lecture of the 2011-12 academic year. The faculty/guest expert lecture series is part of the Common Reading Program, which promotes dialogue between freshmen and the university community around topics in a shared book. This year the Common Reading book is “Physics for Future Presidents,” by U.C.-Berkeley retired professor Richard A. Muller.

While in Pullman, McKinney will meet with Honors College students to discuss careers in public service, and also with his scholarship recipient.

At 10:30 on April 19 in the Bundy Reading Room in Avery Hall, McKinney will present “Space Policy 101” as a Coffee and Politics presentation hosted by the Foley Institute.

CONTACT: Karen Weathermon, Co-Director, Common Reading Program in the University College at WSU, 509-335-5488,
Beverly Makhani, Director, Communications, University College at WSU, 509-335-6679, Makhani@wsu


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

Desk Copies of Common Reading 2011-12 “Physics for Future Presidents” Available to WSU Faculty

PULLMAN, Wash.-Copies of the 2011-12 common reading book, “Physics for Future Presidents:  The Science behind the Headlines” by Richard A. Muller, are available to Washington State University faculty interested in using the book in their undergraduate courses for the coming year.

“Physics for Future Presidents” was chosen as the common reading book for freshmen by Provost and Executive Vice President Warwick M. Bayly in late March.  The 2010-11 book, “Stones into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books, not Bombs in Afghanistan and Pakistan” by Greg Mortenson, was widely used in first-year classes by faculty across campus.

The book covers five complex, contemporary issues: terrorism, energy, “nukes,” space, and global warming in a manner that is designed to be understandable for readers from all backgrounds.  Each set of chapters concludes with a “Presidential Summary” that explains the decisions the reader would need to make on the topic as the president of the United States.

In the text, Muller looks at history, misinformation, and hype while helping the reader balance those with a more logical scientific approach.  The physics professor’s book is based on his own renowned course at Berkeley for non-science majors.

Muller’s book is broadly applicable to fields across campus, including business, communications, education, the humanities, political science, and STEM disciplines.

To enhance the experience of students using the book in classes, the Common Reading Program hosts an evening lecture series, which starts during the week-of-welcome.  The events feature WSU faculty, students, and guests presenting topics inspired by the text.  For the 2010-11 program, 77% of attendees reported that the lectures helped further their understanding of the issues presented in the book.

Those interested in a desk copy should contact Karen Weathermon, co-director of the WSU Common Reading Program, at 509-335-5488 or by email at

For more information on “Physics for Future Presidents” and on the Common Reading Program visit

MEDIA CONTACT:  David Clarke, communications assistant, WSU University College, 509-335-8070,

SOURCE:  Karen Weathermon, co-director, WSU Common Reading Program, 509-335-5488,