Reading program gives incoming students a head start on homework

Members of the Class of 2011 have just arrived on campus today, but they’ve already completed their first assignment.

The students have all read Alan Lightman’s book “Einstein’s Dreams” in preparation for discussion with faculty and peers and a semester of programming based on the book and its themes.

The annual Freshman Reading Program is designed to reach freshmen before they arrive on campus to help them focus on skills they will continue to cultivate throughout the year and their entire college careers. It also encourages interaction with members of the WUSTL faculty in informal discussions outside the classroom setting.

As part of Fall Orientation 2007, students will attend discussions led by nearly 70 faculty members Aug. 27 and were encouraged to participate in online discussions about the book before arriving on campus.

“We’re very excited about this book,” said Karen Levin Coburn, assistant vice chancellor for students, dean for the freshman transition and a member of the reading program steering committee. “I think it’s a provocative book that will stimulate students to think about the concept of time and what it means in our lives. It’s really a wonderful bridge between science and art.”

“Einstein’s Dreams,” written by physicist Lightman, adjunct professor of humanities at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is a fictional collage of stories dreamed by Albert Einstein in 1905 when he worked in a patent office in Switzerland.

The book was chosen following solicitations from current students and faculty.

These were collected and reviewed by the Freshman Reading Program steering committee, comprised of students, faculty and staff members.

Early in the summer, incoming freshmen were sent a copy of the book as well as an introductory DVD movie, created by WUSTL sophomore Jeff Nelson and Alicia Schnell, project manager for the Freshman Reading Program.

“This is an excellent opportunity for freshmen to challenge themselves, to meet their new classmates and to engage in meaningful interaction with members of the faculty,” Coburn said.

Freshmen will encounter themes from “Einstein’s Dreams” during the semester in classes, discussions and on-campus programming and exhibits. The programs are further explorations of the issues raised in the book and the theme of time.

Lightman will serve as a Hurst Visiting Professor for two days and will deliver a lecture for the Assembly Series Sept. 19.

For more information and to view the DVD, go online to

The reading program is part of Fall Orientation 2007, which runs through Aug. 28

Orientation officially kicks off today with “move-in” and residence hall floor meetings, followed by Convocation, Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton’s opportunity to welcome all new students and parents to the University.

An array of departmental open houses is scheduled for Aug. 24. The open houses give students an opportunity to meet with representatives from the faculty and staff to learn more about the departments. Various placement exams, financial aid meetings and campus ministry dinners will also take place today.

Friday’s closing event is the Club 40 Dance at 10 p.m. in the South 40 Clock Tower Plaza.

Aug. 25 will feature placement exams, deans meetings and residence hall floor meetings.

Highlighting the evening will be “Choices 101 — An Introduction to the First Year Experience,” presented by upper class students. A discussion will follow. The presentation will be at 8 p.m. in Edison Theatre.

Aug. 26 will open with worship opportunities. The day consists of a full schedule of adviser meetings for all incoming students. At 8 p.m., students can attend “The Date,” an interactive theatrical presentation that examines the issues of sexual assault and alcohol on college campuses. A discussion will follow.

Aug. 27 will feature peer advising and more campus orientation. “Freshmen Foundations,” a presentation by Richard J. Smith, Ph.D., the Ralph E. Morrow Distinguished University Professor of physical anthropology in Arts & Sciences, provides an opportunity for students to gain an insider’s view of how to succeed in the classroom while at the same time creating a healthy balance outside the classroom. Cornerstone will host a panel of students who will talk about their academic experience.

The Aug. 28 schedule includes meetings, faculty presentations, library tours and receptions. An outdoor movie will be shown from 9-11:30 p.m. in the South 40 Swamp.

Also scheduled during the week are a variety of events designed especially for international, commuter and transfer students.

To view the complete schedule for freshmen, transfer students and parents, go online to