Common Reading Experience

CETL is pleased to announce that Ta-Nehisi Coates’ 2012 article, “Fear of a Black President,” has been selected as UW-Milwaukee’s 2016 Common Reading Experience text. Entering first-year students will receive the article at New Student Orientation. Discussions with UWM faculty and staff will be held on Panther Academic Welcome Day (PAWD) during Fall Welcome on Friday, September 2, 2016.

Fear of a Black President

Call for Discussion Facilitators

All discussion sessions will take place on Friday, September 2, 2016. Sessions will last 60 minutes. Any faculty or staff member interested in facilitating one of the first-year student discussion sections can register by completing the facilitator sign-up form AND registering to attend one of the facilitator workshops offered below.

Facilitator Workshops

To help prepare volunteers to facilitate discussions, CETL has designed and scheduled three workshops with the help of faculty and staff with expertise in the themes and topics of the article. Facilitators need only attend one but are welcome at any or all of them. The workshop dates are as follows:

  • Thursday, August 18, 2016
  • Wednesday, August 24, 2016
  • Tuesday, August 30, 2106

All workshops are from 1-3pm and will be held in GML E175. Interested persons may register for any of these three sessions by completing the following form:

Facilitators will receive a copy of the article as well as additional resources designed to introduce you to the themes and topics of the essay. CETL will also provide a discussion guide and other resources. More details about the Common Reading Experience and complimentary events can be found on the Student Success Center website.

About the Essay

Ta-Nehisi Coates’ cover story for the September issue of The Atlantic, “Fear of a Black President,” has had the kind of impact for which magazines hunger. A long-novella-scale account of the way in which, Coates argues, America has proved to be much more ready to elect a black president than to be governed by one, the article has powered a conversation about race that, as the piece notes, the president himself cannot engage.

At the same time, this essay offers a lot of opportunities to think about the technical side of what Coates did. What goes into constructing a piece on this scale, especially given Coates’ ambition not just to inform but also to evoke emotion, to persuade his readers?

About the Author
Ta-Nehisi Coates is an American writer, journalist, and educator. Coates is a national correspondent for The Atlantic, where he writes about cultural, social and political issues, particularly as they regard African-Americans. Coates has worked for The Village Voice, Washington City Paper, and Time. He has contributed to The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, The Washington Monthly, O, and other publications. In 2008 he published a memoir, The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood. His second book, Between the World and Me, was released in July 2015. It won the 2015 National Book Award for Nonfiction. He was the recipient of a “Genius Grant” from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in 2015.

A Commitment to Common Experience

The Common Reading Experience is a joint project sponsored by the Student Success Center and CETL. Its aim is to spark conversation about important social and moral issues; to connect first-year students with faculty and staff members from disciplines around the university; to introduce students to the nature of university work and discussion. By asking an incoming class of freshmen to read the same book, students have a rare opportunity to share how it affected them and understand how and why someone else may have read it differently. More details about the Common Reading Experience and this year’s selection can be found on the Student Success Center website.

CETL organizes the selection of the faculty and staff volunteer discussion leaders and provides professional development for them.

Discussion as a community-building activity lives at the heart of the common reading experience. In crafting these values, we draw on Discussion as a Way of Teaching by Stephen D. Brookfield and Stephen Preskill:

“Democracy and discussion imply a process of giving and taking, speaking and listening, describing and witnessing—all of which help expand horizons and foster mutual understanding. Discussion is one of the best ways to nurture growth because it is premised on the idea that only through collaboration and cooperation with others can we be exposed to new points of view. This exposure increases our understanding and renews our motivation to continue learning. In the process, our democratic instincts are confirmed: by giving the floor to as many different participants as possible, a collective wisdom emerges that would have been impossible for any of the participants to achieve on their own.”