Written By by Published on February 4, 2013 at 8:00 pm
By JACKSON WANG
Did you always enjoy having your parents read you a book before bed? Well, Saint Rose President David Szczerbacki can now do the same thing, sort of.
Szczerbacki, who’s an avid reader, has started an online book club via the Saint Rose Blog to engage with students and the community.
“The book club at its essence is a way of having different conversations between myself and the people that make up the Saint Rose community,” said Szczerbacki, who was inaugurated as the ninth president of The College last October. “I’m pretty excited about it.”
Six books will be discussed this year by Szczerbacki, one book every two months.
“I thought that was enough time for me to read and to announce the book,” said Szczerbacki. “It also gives people time to read it, and it gives people a chance to discuss it.”
The first book Szczerbacki picked was “The Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck, which serves for January and February’s discussion. His first blog post was put up in late January, which has received seven comments. As of Friday, there were 195 independent hits on the blog.
“We’re trying to get the word out,” said Szczerbacki, who’s been publicizing the book club through social media.
Szczerbacki also sees his online book clubs as a way to reach out to alumni and new students.
During alumni reunion weekend this June, he’ll be holding an in-person book discussion with former students. Szczerbacki said he hasn’t picked a book for the months of May and June, but it’ll be something appealing to alumni.
As for reaching out to new students, Szczerbacki would like to send a copy of the book for July and August, which hasn’t been selected, to incoming freshmen. He’s hoping the new students will read it and contribute to the blog.
“It’s an intellectual way to interact with students,” said Szczerbacki. “It’s going to be fun, it’s not going to be a test.”
The bookstore in the EAC has also set up a book display for the book club. They’ll be selling books that the president is reading for that month with a 30 percent discount.
The idea for the online book club began in late fall of 2012, said Szczerbacki. He looked around to see what other college presidents were doing to interact with their community. He discovered a few college presidents were doing book clubs online and Szczerbacki thought that would be something fun to do with his community.
After a conversation with the public relations office, the blog would soon be launched with the help of Kayla Germain, who manages the Saint Rose media platforms.
Szczerbacki said he has responded back to all the current posts on his blog, either individually or as a group. There also hasn’t been much feedback on the idea of the blog because many people are still finding out about the online book club, Szczerbacki said.
One of the comments on Szczerbacki’s blog came from Courtney Carr, sophomore at Saint Rose. She is a blogger for the college and was excited to see what the college president could bring to the Saint Rose blog.
“I think this has been a great idea and has put the President in a more approachable position,” said Carr, who’s a communications major. “I would have never thought I would be talking with my college’s president about the Grapes of Wrath- never mind on a blog.”
Carr thinks Szczerbacki did a good job on his first post and felt welcomed into the conversation when reading the post. She also enjoyed Szczerbacki responding back to her comment.
“When the president of your college comments on one your posts you cannot help but to get a little excited,” said Carr.
Peter Koonz, director of the library and a follower of the Saint Rose Blog, discovered Szczerbacki’s online book club through an email notification. He said he found Szczerbacki’s first post very interesting.
“It strikes me as a great idea, and a way to further create a sense of community among students, faculty, and staff at Saint Rose. Book discussions create a unique dynamic among members.” said Koonz. “We each respond to a book from our own set of experiences and base of knowledge; but once we start to talk about what we take out of a book and how we understand it, we quickly see that others find things we may have missed.”
For March and April’s book, Szczerbacki has selected “Life of Pi” by Yann Martel. He said he has just finished reading the book, but hasn’t seen the movie yet. He looks forward to the comments on the book.
“I think it’ll be a widely discussed book,” said Szczerbacki.
Carr said if she has time, she will continue to read and share thoughts to the online book club.
Koonz said he plans on following the posts on the blog and contribute to the discussion.
As for future books, Szczerbacki hasn’t decided which book he would like to read yet. But he said he’ll be asking people for book recommendations.
Szczerbacki said the ultimate goal he’s trying reach is more communication with the Saint Rose community, as well as encourage book reading and intellectual conversations.
To keep up a strong communication with students and faculty, Szczerbacki is thinking about having a general purpose blog, which is for anyone who has a question for the college president.
“I think it’s important that the president is available for people,” said Szczerbacki.
As for the current book club blog, Szczerbacki believes it’ll take a year for the online book club to sink in and get more people involved in it.
“It’s a low risk high reward kind of thing,” said Szczerbacki. “It’ll be fun.”