Before they ever arrive on campus, Wesleyan students have homework. Assistant Dean of Students Kevin Butler leads a 10-person committee that selects a common text from approximately 50 themed nominations, which students must read and respond to as part of the First-Year Matters program.
“We do our best to choose a text that will engage [them] in a critical way and serve as an intellectual introduction to life at Wesleyan,” Butler says. “Because it’s their very first homework assignment, we get about a 95 percent response rate.”
The common text’s authors often come to campus as part of the program, and interest was so strong in this year’s speaker, Kennedy Odede ’12, the University had to set up a simulcast location in Beckham Hall. Upon hearing this, Odede made sure to personally visit the students in Beckham after delivering his main address in Memorial Chapel, and received a standing ovation upon his arrival.
“The students were really engaged with Kennedy, not only for the book but for his message about the challenges of navigating privilege,” Butler says. “The fact that he would take time to visit with all those students—it was heartwarming. It was a great start to the year.”