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Project Wake: Citizenship

This page is in the process of being updated. The information for Project Wake 2017 will not be finalized until May 1, 2017.

Wake Forest has a long tradition of engaging in a summer academic project, and including in Orientation time for students to engage with a faculty or staff member over an issue of intellectual and social importance.  This year, Project Wake will explore issues of citizenship. Citizenship is exercised on many levels, from the individual to the local and to the international. What are an individual’s obligations to nation, community, and self in this process? How do larger institutional structures inform our experience as citizens? Start your Wake Forest journey by making meaningful connections with citizens of the WFU community through conversations on this important topic.

We invite you to join WFU faculty, staff, and your fellow students in conversations exploring what it means to be a citizen. As you enter college, this is an incredible opportunity to consider a wide range of social identities (whether nationality, gender, class, race, or sexuality) and how these identities shape our interactions with one another, with institutions, and with the political process. Below you will find descriptions of the discussion groups from which you can choose that has been provided by the leaders.  If you choose to participate, you will read the book for your chosen group over the summer and meet for a discussion once on campus.  All but one discussion groups will meet on Sunday afternoon of Orientation (August 28, 1:30-3 pm).

Participation, which is optional, will introduce to you the vibrant intellectual discussion we value at Wake Forest and also give you the opportunity to get to know one of our wonderful WFU faculty or staff members in a small group setting.  You might even discover a professor or campus program with whom you’ll want to get further acquainted after Orientation.

Registration links will be made available by the end of May. Be sure to sign up by July 17. Then, order your book and read away! If purchasing the book would create a financial hardship for you, please contact Dean Buchanan ( about the possibility of obtaining financial assistance.

If you find that your first-choice discussion group is full, we encourage you to sign up for an alternative.  There are so many options, we hope that several will be of interest to you!


A Good American, by Alex George

Discussion leader: Dr. Michael Shuman, Learning Assistance Center GoodAmerican.indd

How does citizenship develop? In A Good American by Alex George (a Library Journal Best Book 2012) a German immigrant couple discovers the importance of home, community, and belonging. A pleasure to read, A Good American covers 100 years of American history and four generations of the Meisenheimer family as they become integral members of a small town in Missouri. Using the basic themes of food and music throughout, the novel describes their new life and the difficulties of acculturation. And as in many small towns there are additional fascinating characters with their own unusual stories.

But even in small town America there are problems of prejudice, discrimination, and racism, disagreements and misunderstandings about religion and politics, tragedies and secrets. Becoming members of a community requires honesty, compassion, respect, responsibility, and courage. How do these qualities develop? How do individuals become citizens? Where does it start? Can citizenship be taught? Recently in an interview published in NY Review of Books President Obama stated that novels taught him the “most important” things about being a citizen. He said “It has to do with empathy. It has to do with being comfortable with the notion that the world is complicated and full of greys, but there’s still truth to be found…” Perhaps a careful reading and involved discussion of A Good American will help define the meaning of citizenship for each of us. I am the Director of the Learning Assistance Center & Disability Services, and our office is committed to providing opportunities for all students to achieve academic success.

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Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow

Discussion leader: Dr. Barbara Lentz , Wake Forest School of Law


Ron Chernow’s biography Alexander Hamilton runs 818 pages and weighs more than 2 pounds (even in paperback). You should read it anyway, and once you start reading about this brilliant, inspiring, scandal-prone Founding Father you will have a hard time setting the book down. As a public policy and economics major, lawyer and law professor, I have studied much of Hamilton’s work – including the Federalist essays that are still a leading source for interpreting our Constitution. Yet the story of Hamilton’s pivotal role shaping the government and then leading the cabinet of President Washington while they figured out how to run the country greatly adds to my understanding of our government and founding documents. Chernow writes that Hamilton “is the foremost figure in American history who never attained the presidency, yet he probably had a much deeper and more lasting impact than many who did.”

Hamilton did not qualify to serve as President (he was not a natural born citizen), yet had a much greater impact on the American economy and government than nearly any other leader of his time or since. We will discuss his life and times, including what might have happened to Hamilton and the United States if (spoiler alert!) he had survived his duel with Burr. I hear there is also a Broadway show based on the book, so if time permits, we can listen to some of the soundtrack, too, while completing a hands-on project. The book group will meet on Sunday afternoon, August 28 or September 4.*

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All Our Names by Dinaw Mengestu

Discussion leader: Dr. Erica Still, English 978-0-385-34998-7

A story about an immigrant and the social worker who loves him, All Our Names takes on complex issues of belonging, identity, and commitment to the countries that shape our views of the world. The novel is a love story at heart, and it raises questions about what it means to love–people, ideas, and places–in the midst of turmoil and change. Readers will find themselves examining their own commitments, personal and political, as they encounter this couple struggling to make something of their lives. In keeping with the theme of citizenship, this novel will help us explore questions about the obligations we have to our countries, our communities, and our closest relationships.

I teach in the English Department here at Wake Forest, and I love sharing with students the fun and power of reading–literature has so much to offer us, and I like trying to figure out its lessons. I look forward to having a great conversation about this intriguing book.

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Citizen: An American Lyric, by Claudia Rankine 

Discussion leaders: Dr. Sara Dahill-Brown, Politics and International Affairs and Kaylan Baxter, Pro Humanitate Institute citizen

Claudia Rankine is a poet and professor at Pomona College in California. Her award-winning book, Citizen: An American Lyric (2014), is a combination of poems and short essays that focus on the perspectives of traditionally marginalized peoples in the United States, and abroad. Her subjects range from Serena Williams to Trayvon Martin to the French-Algerian soccer player, Zinedine Zidane.  She reveals through visceral language the many ways in which race, culture, identity, and bias shape everyday experiences. This book offers students an opportunity to learn from a different voice and asks them to think critically about how the rights, privileges, obligations, and burdens of citizenship change when one’s culture or appearance do not match up with the expectations or norms of mainstream society. Kaylan Baxter holds a dual appointment as associate director for assessment and consultant in the Pro Humanitate Institute and Anna Julia Cooper Center, respectively. Sara Dahill-Brown is an assistant professor in the department of Politics and International Affairs. She studies educational politics and teaches courses on public policy in the United States.

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City of Thorns: Nine Lives in the World’s Largest Refugee Camps, by Ben Rawlence 

Discussion leader: Dr. Alessandra Von Burg, Communication and Lauren Formica, Global Programs and Studies 


This book encourages students to reflect on the meaning and practices of citizenship through the stories of non-citizens, those with little or no rights, benefits, and protection from a nation state. Through personal and powerful stories, this book challenges the taken-for-granted ideals of citizenship and encourages students to reflect on the life of those whose experience may be nothing like their own “everyday” citizenship. Alessandra Von Burg and alumna Lauren Formica will discuss how the book relates to their experience meeting and interviewing refugees across Greece in June 2016. They will encourage students to reflect on the ways the stories of Syrian refugees in Greece may differ from those in the Dabaad refugee camp in Kenya, and what lessons may emerge for citizenship,

Alessandra Von Burg is an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication and Chair of Eastern Asian Languages and Cultures. Her research focuses on rhetorical theory, political theory, mobility studies, and citizenship. She is Curriculum Director for the Benjamin Franklin Transatlantic Fellows (BFTF) Summer Institute, a Department of State-funded summer program for international and American students; and the director and executive producer of the Where Are You From? Project. Her classes include “Practices of Citizenship,” “Where Are You From?” and others that connect her research, projects, and community engagement with non-citizens. Lauren Formica is a 2016 alumna who majored in Economics, with a double minor in international relations and environmental studies. She is a Program Coordinator for the Global Programs and Studies Office.

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Coming of Age in Mississippi, by Ann Moody

Discussion leader: Dr. Katy Harriger, Politics and International Affairs 


Ann Moody’s autobiography tells the story of a young African-America woman growing up and going to college during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.  She tells the story of her awakening to the injustice that surrounded her and her decision to become involved in the student organizations challenging Jim Crow in her home state.  This book speaks to our theme of citizenship because it reminds us that successful movements take many ordinary people who decide to act, not just famous leaders who inspire us.  As a political scientist who studies American politics, constitutional law, and the civic engagement of young people, the book speaks to me personally about both a particularly important time in American political history and the continuing relevance of the need for everyday people to act to challenge injustice when we see it.

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Consider the Lobster: And Other Essays, by David Foster Wallace 

Discussion leader: Allen Brown, Office of Online Education 


Written by one of the great essayists of his generation, Consider the Lobster provides fertile ground for reflecting on what it means live consciously in contemporary society. While the works contained within this collection were written 10 to 20 years ago, I feel that their content is particularly salient to our current social and political climate. Surface level topics (i.e. Maine’s Lobster festival, Franz Kafka, Political Talk Radio, the Annual Adult Video News Awards, etc.) unfold in a way that invites deep reflection on what it means to live, and to consume, in contemporary America. During a well known commencement speech delivered by Wallace in 2005, he asserted that, “You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn’t.” For me, the essays collected in Consider the Lobster provide fertile ground for such consideration. My work here at Wake consists primarily of partnering with faculty to develop and adapt curriculum across a variety of learning environments. Prior to moving into instructional design in higher ed, I taught high school chemistry and physics for many years. As a relative newcomer to North Carolina (having moved here in 2015), I am excited about the possibility of discussing DFW’s work with all of you as we try to figure out what citizenship looks like at Wake and in the city of Winston.

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Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers, by Kwame Anthony Appiah 

Discussion leader: Dr. Win-chiat Lee, Philosophy 


We are all citizens of the world. That statement sounds pretty cool. But what does it mean? Does it make sense to identify ourselves as citizens of the world even if there is no such political entity as the world state of which we are all citizens? Does this identity come into conflict with our more local identities such as that of being the citizen of a particular country? How do we understand the demands of patriotism as citizens of the world? These are not easy questions to answer, but they are some of the questions we confront in the world we live in today in relation to a whole host of practical issues – issues such as human rights, immigration, cultural diversity. You may have already raised some of these questions yourself because you have been told that it is a global village we all live in. But these questions have their ancient origin in the idea of cosmopolitanism in Hellenistic philosophy. In this highly accessible book, the philosopher Anthony Appiah explores the idea of cosmopolitanism that advocates the view that it is our identity as members of humanity that should take precedence over our more local identities and the ethical implications of such a view for many of our practical concerns. We will take the journey with him.

Appiah is a world renowned philosopher teaching at New York University. In addition to his keen philosophical insights, his own multicultural and cosmopolitan personal background (Ghana, England, United States) from which he draws often, makes the book particularly compelling. Appiah also writes for a popular ethics column in the New York Times Sunday Magazine. My name is Win-chiat Lee. I will lead the discussion. I teach philosophy and also serve as Chair of the Philosophy Department at Wake Forest. I specialize in philosophy of law, political philosophy and ethics. I teach a course on global justice regularly and have also written on cosmopolitanism (and other global issues, such as universal jurisdiction). I am also the co-editor of a forthcoming book, Citizenship and Immigration: Borders, Migration and Political Membership in a Global Age, due out this summer.

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Divergent, by Veronica Roth 

Discussion leader: Matt Clifford, Residence Life & Housing 


Have you ever felt like there are completely artificial structures and rules built into our society? What if we, as 16 year-olds do in the dystopian novel Divergent, took an aptitude test to determine our faction? These factions have deeply embedded socialization practices and specific roles in a highly divided society. We’ll use the book (not the movie!) to discuss the application of citizenship in our society. Using dystopian literature can be a unique way of approaching citizenship. In Divergent, society is divided up into groups based on seemingly artificial categories. Additionally, the novel describes extensive systems designed to support societal values. Not surprisingly, these systems erode due to the actions of small revolutionary groups. We will discuss systems, political structures, socialization and how they shape our experience as citizens…we’ll also have time to talk about which faction we’d join – Abnegation, Erudite, Candor, Amity, or Dauntless. I am the Director of Residence Life at Wake Forest, so I’m very interested in how communities form and develop. I’d probably join Amity on choosing day.

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Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, by Alison Bechdel

Discussion leader: Dr. Angela Mazaris, Director of the LGBTQ Center 


Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, written by MacArthur grant awardee Alison Bechdel, is a “tragicomic memoir” written in graphic novel form. The story, which follows Bechdel’s coming of age as a lesbian and her grappling with her closeted queer father’s suicide, is funny, smart, and asks important questions about identity, family, and what it means to belong. I am excited about discussing this book with students who are in the midst of a huge transition of their own, and thinking about what it means to look back on our families/homes/histories from the distance of college.

I serve as director of Wake Forest’s LGBTQ Center, and also teach classes about queer and transgender history. I’m excited to connect with students who identify as LGBTQ+, as well as straight students who don’t know what all those letters mean but want to learn more!

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Future: Economic Peril or Prosperity? Edited by Robert Whaples, Christopher Coyne, and Michael C. Munger 

Discussion leader: Dr. Robert Whaples, Economics


How will your life turn out?  How will our lives turn out?  None of us knows.  To help answer these questions, prepare for meaningful lives, and shape these outcomes, this book examines one of the factors that will profoundly shape the future.  Future: Economic Prosperity or Peril? asks a range of thinkers (economists and non-economists) to predict how the economy will change over the next fifty year.  Their answers — in sixteen short, readable essays — consider a broad set of issues at the intersection of technology, culture and public policy.  Some are optimistic, others are much more guarded.  These thought-provoking essays suggest that the future hinges on how citizens (as individuals and collectively) will respond to the opportunities and challenges we face. I teach Introduction to Economics, Current Economic Issues, Natural Resource and Environmental Economics, and Economics of Entrepreneurship at Wake and I am a co-editor of Future: Economic Prosperity or Peril?

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Hamilton: The Revolution, by Lin-Manual Miranda and Jeremy McCarter

Discussion leader: Dr. Kendall Tarte, Romance Languages 


How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a Scotsman, dropped in the middle of a forgotten spot in the Caribbean end up being the subject of a hit Broadway musical? How does Alexander Hamilton become a hero to contemporary Americans from so many different backgrounds? How do Lin-Manuel Miranda’s words and his music – rap, hip-hop, R&B – capture both the story of the ten-dollar founding father, and the American experience past and present, so expertly?

Hamilton: The Revolution tells the story of the ground-breaking stage musical, from its conception as a mixtape to its opening night on Broadway. This story of the first citizens of the U.S. speaks to everyone in this country, but especially – because of the language and music, as well as the multiethnic casting of the Broadway production – to young, diverse populations. I am a French professor who teaches courses in language, culture, and literature at all levels and a #Hamilfan. I’m looking forward to talking about this story and music with a few of you in August.

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Invisible Man: Got the Whole World Watching, by Mychal Denzel Smith 

Discussion leaders: Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry, Maya Angelou Presidential Chair in the Department of Politics and Dr. Dani Parker, Associate Director of Research and Curricular Support for the Anna Julia Cooper Center and Assistant Professor of Education  


Our group will read and discuss Mychal Denzel Smith’s Invisible Man: Got the Whole World Watching. It is an unflinching memoir a young black man insisting on full citizenship within an America that allows the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Tamir Rice to go unpunished. Even more remarkably, Smith seeks his equality while demanding that straight black men be held accountable for their participation in perpetuating marginal citizenship status for women and queer folk.

The discussion will be lead by Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry, Maya Angelou Presidential Chair in the Department of Politics who also serves as the Executive Director of the Pro Humanitate Institute and founding Director of the Anna Julia Cooper Center. Joining her is Dr. Dani Parker Associate Director of Research and Curricular Support for the Anna Julia Center and Assistant Professor of Education. We are very excited to announce the book’s author, Mr. Mychal Denzel Smith, will also be present to personally discuss his searing and important memoir. Mr. Smith was recently profiled in a terrific piece for the NY Times titled, The Intellectual in Air Jordans. The discussion will be held at the PHI/AJC House at 2599 Reynolda Road on August 28 at 1:30 PM.

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Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, by Bryan Stevenson 

Discussion leader: Rev. Virginia Christman, Office of the Chaplain 


From the Introduction: “We are all implicated when we allow other people to be mistreated.” Citizenship is not only a set of rights and privileges; it is also a set of responsibilities.  This is a powerful true story about the potential for mercy to redeem us and a call to fix our broken system of justice–from one of the most brilliant and influential lawyers of our time

One of Bryan Stevenson’s first cases was that of Walter McMillian, a young man who was sentenced to die for a notorious murder he insisted he didn’t commit. The case drew Bryan into a tangle of conspiracy and transformed his understanding of mercy and justice forever.  Readers explore individual and societal roles in compassion, justice, and mercy, and are invited to consider how one’s position and power can and should be used to uplift the most vulnerable around us. I am an Associate Chaplain at WFU who believes that choosing to become a student at Wake Forest University is choosing to make a commitment to work for justice and live with mercy.  These commitments are vital for one’s own wellbeing, the wellbeing of others, and the wellbeing of any community in which we live.

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Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?, by Michael Sandel

Discussion leader: Dr. Stavroula Glezakos, Philosophy 41OGhZMT5QL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do? invites us to investigate the deeper moral commitments that lie beneath many of our positions on issues that divide us. Sandel is a master teacher. His lively, accessible book engages with questions like: in what ways might it be necessary to limit freedom in a free society? To what extent are each of us obligated to attend to the welfare of others? How (if at all) should we be responsive to considerations of equality and fairness when setting up our institutions? In reading his explanations of how philosophers have justified their different views on these and other matters, we will, I hope, come to a better understanding of our own beliefs, and an enhanced ability to talk about hard problems with each other, even when we don’t agree.

I am an associate professor in the philosophy department. Among the courses that I teach are Philosophy of Language, Logic, and Love and Friendship. I look forward to having a lively and rewarding conversation about this book with students who enjoy thinking about and discussing “big questions” surrounding citizenship and society.

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Moral Man and Immoral Society, by Reinhold Niebuhr

Discussion leader: Brian Calhoun, Department of Counseling 


Reinhold Niebuhr’s legacy is solidly entrenched in our history.  Among his many philosophical and political thoughts, he is known as the author of the Serenity Prayer and for his book regarding citizenship that we will read for Project Wake.  His words and thoughts continue to transcend our present day realities.  Over the decades, Niebuhr’s discourse on American political realism has been cited by countless influential political (from both the left and the right) leaders as a philosophical foundation for change.  Born in 1892, Niebuhr witnessed the Great Depression, World Wars, Vietnam, and the Civil Rights Movement.  After the passing of his father, he was thrust into a leadership role in his early twenties.  Reinhold Niebuhr held a firm grasp on seeing the bigger picture.  In his early writing, Niebuhr stated, “There are historic situations in which refusal to defend the inheritance of a civilization, however imperfect, against tyranny and aggression may result in consequences even worse than war.”  As an admirer of Niebuhr’s non-violent activism, Martin Luther King, Jr. invited Niebuhr for the third Selma March to Montgomery in 1965.  Reinhold Niebuhr reveals in his writing that we should observe and learn from our history to become greater citizens of not just our own country, but the world and humankind.

I am an instructor of the College-to-Career series of courses, offered by the Department of Counseling (CNS). I am highly invested in helping students examine and explore the guiding principle of our University, Pro Humanitate. As members of the Wake Forest University community, we are committed as citizens of the world to see humankind grow and flourish.

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Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World, by Tracy Kidder 

Discussion leader: Dr. Christa Colyer, Chemistry and Office of the Dean of the College 


If, as Dr. Paul Farmer asserts: “the only real nation is humanity,” then each and every one of us must assume the responsibility of being a global citizen.   And being a global citizen means that we must look beyond our own needs – and those of our own neighborhood and state and country – and focus instead on meeting the needs of humanity. “Mountains Beyond Mountains” is the inspirational and compelling story of Dr. Paul Farmer – a physician and anthropologist – as told by Pulitzer prize winning author Tracy Kidder.  After establishing the nonprofit “Partners in Health” in 1987 to bring modern medicine and hope to the citizens of Haiti, Dr. Farmer has worked tirelessly to address health inequities facing people worldwide, including most recently in West Africa during the Ebola outbreak. By focusing on global citizenship, Paul Farmer proves that just one person really can change the world.

As a professor in the Chemistry Department who was a first-generation university student (many years ago!) and an immigrant to the United States, I often ponder the meaning and importance of citizenship in and across these various communities. I am looking forward to discussing “Mountains Beyond Mountains” with members of the class of 2020 so that we can begin the new academic year together on a hopeful note, imbued with a sense of the power of embracing global citizenship.

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My Beloved World, by Sonia Sotomayor 

Discussion leaders: Dr. Michele Gillespie, History Department and Dean of the College 


Sonia Sotomayor’s acclaimed autobiography is a powerful and poignant read. The first Hispanic and third woman to be appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, Sotomayor divulges how she journeyed from a child growing up in a Puerto Rican neighborhood in a Bronx housing project to her appointment on the federal bench in 2009, and how her unflagging belief in democracy and social justice propelled her every difficult step along the way. As unique as her personal story is, and as unlikely her ascendancy to the highest court in the nation, her story is also a familiar one.  As the brilliant, determined child of impoverished immigrant parents, she pulled herself up from her proverbial bootstraps to take advantage of what it means to be an American.

I am a U.S. historian who is deeply interested in why and how people tell their own life stories.  I look forward to discussing this passionate, accomplished woman of color’s compelling self-discovery and what we can learn from her about what it means to be an American citizen in the 21st century.

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Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, by Elizabeth L. Cline

Discussion leader: Amanda Foster, Z. Smith Reynolds Library


We all wear clothes. Cheap and readily available, the introduction of “fast fashion” has fundamentally changed the relationship Americans have with clothes. Historically, most Americans rotated through a few outfits, most of which were manufactured in the United States. Today, the average American buys 64 new items of clothing a year, largely from fast fashion retailers that source their garments from overseas factories. As retailers have driven down the cost of making garments, clothing has become a disposable good. Overdressed will argue that this change has an impact the people who make our clothes, the environment, and the global economy.

I am an Assistant Teaching Librarian at the Z. Smith Reynolds Library, where I teach classes on information literacy. I also love clothes. The purpose of this conversation will not be to shame ourselves for our clothing choices or spending habits. Rather, I hope to have a lively discussion about how we can love our clothes while critically examining our own clothing choices in relation to the issues raised in Overdressed.

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Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions, by Dan Ariely

Discussion leader: Dr. Al Rives, Chemistry 


The core of our citizenship is revealed in our values … or at least our ability to make decisions and behave in ways that reflect those values.  Predictably Irrational explores decision-making in some common arenas, and, in doing so, may help you understand some of the irrational nature of your behavior.  It encourages you to be more introspective and less superficial in your decision-making. Ariely is a very engaging “behavioral economist.”  He summarizes his ambitions with this book…

“My goal, by the end of this book, is to help you fundamentally rethink what makes you and the people around you tick. I hope to lead you there by presenting a wide range of scientific experiments, findings, and anecdotes that are in many cases quite amusing. Once you see how systematic certain mistakes are—how we repeat them again and again—I think you will begin to learn how to avoid some of them.”

I am a teaching faculty member in the Chemistry department. The fun part of being a chemist is finding relationships among the properties of materials.  The more you know, the better suited you are to finding these relationships, but you are never immune from misjudgment.  A book like this will help you look into your decision-making process in many aspects of your life.  That’s bound to be a good thing.

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Take Me With You: A Memoir, by Carlos Frías 

Discussion leader: Dr. José Villalba, Counseling and Office of the Dean of the College 


Citizenship, or what some might summarize as a “sense of belonging and devotion to,” can take on many forms. The manner in which second-generation immigrants, or rather those individuals born in the U.S. to immigrant parents, frame their “sense of belonging and devotion to” can be complicated by a sense of connection to the U.S. as well as their parent’s country of origin. This intersectionality and “split” is part of the context for Mr. Frías’ nuanced and layered book, but not it’s only contribution to the discussion of  citizenship.

In Take Me With You, Mr. Frías’ chronicles a visit to his parents’ homeland, Cuba. His journey is filled with a search for identity, a search for heritage, and a search for connection, all while contemplating the meaning of citizenship to a country he’s only heard about in stories and seen in photographs. As you enter college, a place you too have only heard about in stories and seen in pictures, it will be interesting how your acculturation to life away from home and your search for self might parallel Mr. Frías’ own search for a “sense of belonging and devotion to.” It should be noted that the book has been translated to Spanish, and you are free to read either the original English version of the book, or the translated Spanish version.

I am a Professor in the Department of Counseling, as well as an Associate Dean for Faculty Recruitment and Diversity and Inclusion. My favorite courses to teach are Multicultural Counseling, Orientation to Health and Human Services, and School Counseling. I also love spending time with my wife and kids, which I know sounds cliché, but at least it’s true. The themes of this particular book, as it is for my favorite books, are applicable to most (if not all) of us. And yet, despite the universal nature of these themes, it’s apparent that everyone has their own personal, cultural, societal, nuanced, and unique view and set of experiences, which “paints” each universal theme in infinitely special ways.

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The Art of Sacred Listening, by Kay Lindahl

Discussion leader: Rev. Timothy Auman, University Chaplain 


There seems to be an almost universal yearning for personal spiritual growth, which is nurtured in the experience of deep listening.  In the Office of the Chaplain, we believe that listening is a creative force that transforms all relationships.  We also believe that the best gift you can give another human being is your undivided attention.  Listening is being fully present.  Listening is a sacred art.  It is what happens when two or more people are deeply listening to each other.  And it is an awareness that not only are we present to each other, we are present to something ancient and primordial inside of us. Today’s modern campus leaves little room for reflection and listening.  Kay Lindahl’s engaging book will guide us to do good self-care as we listen from the essence of our being.

I am the University Chaplain at Wake Forest.  As a teacher and pastoral care provider, I devote my time to the life of inner transformation and relationship building, exploring the expressive journey of healing where everyday life and spirit meet.  The Office of the Chaplain is devoted to the wholeness of mind, body, and spirit as it informs our individual and communal wellbeing.

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The Last American Man, by Elizabeth Gilbert 

Discussion leader: Dr. Stephanie Koscak, History 


Pioneers, explorers, frontiers, uncultivated wilderness, and the self-made man–these ideas are closely linked to American identity in a tradition going all the way back to the Revolution itself. The Last American Man revisits these myths through the story of Eustace Conway, a Carolina native and idealistic naturalist who chose to leave “civilization” to live deliberately in the woods outside of Boone, NC. Conway created an Appalachian utopia as an alternative to what he views as the materialism, inauthenticity, and disconnectedness of contemporary American society. Through a close examination of Conway’s politics and personal history, Elizabeth Gilbert’s book raises questions about what culture is, what citizens owe to one another, and the responsibilities of individuals for responding to broad-scale environmental change. It also will make for rich discussion of the gender dynamics embedded in the naturalist tradition and histories of citizenship.

I am a historian who teaches the cultural and political history of early modern Britain and the eighteenth-century Atlantic. Although this book is far outside my areas of teaching and research, I am especially eager to read and discuss it as a recent transplant to North Carolina.

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The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd

Discussion leader:  Dr. Christy Buchanan, Psychology and Office of the Dean of the College and Riley Mistrot, WFU sophomore 


This fictionalized story of the real-life Sarah Grimke gives an eye-opening and compelling view into the lives of slave owners and slaves in the 1800s.  It also tells the story of the development of a girl into a young adult who fought to find her role and her voice as a citizen.  She wasn’t allowed to participate in some acts of citizenship we often deem central to that role, such as voting.  When she tried to follow her conscience about human rights and relationships, her family and her society told her in no uncertain terms that she was out of line.  This is an inspirational story of a young woman who, against these forces, found a way to exert her citizenship in a way that ultimately made a difference for human rights in the United States.

Dr. Buchanan is a Professor of Psychology who teaches and studies developmental psychology.  She is also the Senior Associate Dean for Academic Advising.  You’ll hear from her many times this summer, and she looks forward to meeting a few of you for a great discussion of a wonderful and thought-provoking book.

Riley Mistrot is a sophomore majoring in Politics and International Affairs with a double minor in Arabic and Middle East and South Asia (MESA) Studies. She says: “My Project Wake discussion last year opened my eyes to the caliber of intellectual curiosity of my peers and was the first time during orientation that I felt like I was in my element, and I am excited to have the opportunity to facilitate that initial comfort for this year’s freshmen.”

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The Plague, by Albert Camus 

Discussion leader: Dr. Tom Phillips, Humanities and Office of the Dean of the College


Following upon the horror of WWII in Europe, French Nobel Laureate Albert Camus wrote this study of a plague that invades an Algerian port. The inhabitants respond variously to the pressures of isolation, strained relationships, potential mortality.  The narrator — who will emerge as one of the principal actors — must weigh his personal interests against his civic duties.  Camus’s fascinating novel asks of the reader what are the inherent values and virtues of humankind, how people reveal themselves — or rise above themselves — in crisis. I study the novel as genre and also teach the examination of ethics through literature.  The Plague is one of those rare and important literary works both wholly accessible and philosophically challenging.

I work in the Dean’s Office and serve as director of the Wake Forest Scholars program. I have taught a variety of First Year Seminars and class on literature and film, both on the Reynolda campus and in the residential semester programs in Vienna, London, and Venice. I hold degrees in English from Wake Forest and UNC-CH.

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This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, by Naomi Klein

Discussion leader: Justin Catanoso, Journalism 


Of all the great issues facing humanity, none is more pressing, dramatic or polarizing than climate change and the global will required to cope with it effectively. The diversity of opinion about this issue splits not only along political lines in the United States, but also among developed nations and developing nations, wealthy populations and poor populations, northern latitudes and southern latitudes. Deploying thorough reporting and compelling storytelling, Naomi Klein argues that the very system that has enabled mankind to prosper — capitalism and the fossil-fuel economy — is now imperiling the health of the earth. That understanding, she argues, “changes everything” — everything about how we look at global economies, how we look at consumerism, how we look at our role as citizens, and how we grapple with what needs to change to head off the worst possible impacts of global warming in the coming generation.

As the director of journalism, and an active environmental journalist who reports on the impact of climate change in the tropics, I have found Klein’s book to be incredibly powerful, insightful and most importantly, readable. We are a campus that is becoming more engaged in the process of increasing our sustainability when it comes to energy, food and recycling, while reducing our carbon footprint. Reading and discussing Klein’s book will provide a valuable framework for how new students view such issues on our campus and out in the world.

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This Muslim American Life: Dispatches from the War on Terror, by Moustafa Bayoumi

Discussion leader: Dr. Darlene May, Arabic 


One of the questions being bandied about in the current election cycle by presidential candidates, print and broadcast commentators, and voters alike is:  Can the 3-6 million Americans who practice the Islamic faith truly be “honest-to-goodness” citizens of this country?

This very relevant and timely question is the focus of This Muslim American Life, which was identified by Library Journal as the #1 best-selling book on U.S. History in February of this year.  It is a collection of personal essays about Muslim life in America, past and present, as seen through the lens of terrorism.  The current collective caricature of Muslims in America is that none share traditional American values, none are committed to the flourishing of American society—and, hence, none can be patriots.  Rather, they are regarded as fundamentally dangerous and potential terrorists.  The author, who is an award-winning writer of essays and op-ed columns for nationally circulated magazines and newspapers, was born into an Arab Muslim family in Switzerland, raised in Canada, and naturalized as an American citizen in 2011.  Having earned his Ph. D. in English from Columbia University, he now is Associate Professor of English at Brooklyn College.  For a taste of Dr. Bayoumi’s thoughts and writings through blog entries and tweets, visit

I have a Ph. D. in Arabic Language and Islamic Studies from Indiana University and am founder of the Arabic Program at Wake Forest.  I teach fulltime as Full Professor of Arabic and affiliated faculty member in the Middle East South Asia Studies interdisciplinary minor, am a Faculty Fellow for Luter Residence Hall, and serve as Faculty Adviser for the WFU Muslim Students Association.  A founding member of the Board of Guidance for Interfaith Winston-Salem, I am passionate about educating the community about the core tenets and practices of the Islamic faith and promoting Wake Forest’s principles of diversity, tolerance, and inclusion.

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We Should All Be Feminists: by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Discussion leader: Dr. Simone Caron, History 51Pueh2cUUL._SX348_BO1,204,203,200_

Citizenship bestows on us membership in a community with certain duties, obligations and functions, such as the right to live, work and vote. This community must be inclusive of all people based on equal rights and status. We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie discusses how personal and institutional actions marginalize women around the world. Her analysis of how gender discrimination harms all citizens — men, women and transgender alike — is a wake-up call to galvanize each of us to fight for gender equality in our global, national and local communities.

I am a historian who teaches classes on Gender, Race and Class; American Medical history; and US political, economic and social history since 1850.  This text fits well with my teaching and research interests in race and gender in American history.

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Why School?: Reclaiming Education for All of Us, by Mike Rose

Discussion leader: Dr. Alan Brown, Education  


Why School? by Mike Rose contains compelling stories from Rose’s 40 years of working in education and insights into the nature of learning and the development of our country’s educational institutions. Chapters range from topics such as achievement, education, and intelligence, and discussions center on issues including the role of education in the life of the poor, the freshman experience in college, the business of schooling, and the academic-vocational divide. This small book lends itself to big conversations about what it means to be educated and why all citizens should weigh the importance of education for the public good.

As an assistant professor in the Department of Education who teaches courses focused on leadership, literacy, pedagogy, and service, I am excited to explore this text with you as you reflect on these topics and connect them to your previous, current, and future educational experiences and civic responsibilities.

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Years of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague, by Geraldine Brooks 

Discussion leader: Rosalind Tedford, ZSR Library 


Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague might seem an unlikely pick for a book about citizenship but it is a fictionalized account of an actual story. In 1665, when the plague was ravaging England, the small Derbyshire village of Eyam decided to quarantine itself rather than spread the plague. The village agreed that no one would leave until the plague had run its course. As a result they village lost nearly half of its population, but did keep the plague from spreading to neighboring villages. This book explores, in fictional form, the lives of the people in Eyam and the conflicts between doing what is right and the human instinct to flee to safety. It’s a well-told story with a lot to say about community, greater good and human nature. I cannot wait to introduce the book to a new group of readers. I read it first 15 years ago and the characters and the situation have stayed with me.

I am currently the Director for Research and Instruction at the ZSR Library at WFU, and I have a BA (English and Psychology) and a MA (English) from Wake.

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Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values, by Robert M. Pirsig 

Discussion leader: Dr. Amanda Jones, Chemistry 41vxAMcHOzL._SX307_BO1,204,203,200_

In this book, Robert Pirsig tells of the summer motorcycle road trip he took with his son. In telling, he reflects on the meaning of quality and the frequent challenges in recognizing it when supposedly conflicting ideals are part of the assessment. A constant theme running throughout is the tension between science and technology versus art, religion and the humanities. Whereas the former may be viewed by many as embodying some of the uglier characteristics of life (pragmatic but soulless), the latter is seen to have more obvious appeal (beautiful and inspiring).

I read this book as a sophomore in college after my dad gave it to me as a gift. I had just declared Chemistry as my major and was thrilled to begin embarking on a path of scientific research and exploration, but I was also anxious about the many things I felt I was leaving behind. I was also, naturally, anxious about doing well. This book helped me to think about my motivations. It helped me to recognize that if it ever came to a point where I was doing things for reasons other than my own passion, it would be time to stop. It helped to me to recognize that the process of achieving quality is alife-long process.

You are all here at Wake because you have excelled at the challenges set in front of you. College is an amazing opportunity to start creating your own vision of success, and Wake’s liberal arts curriculum provides you with many opportunities to explore. We will spend the rest of our lives reflecting on what it means to be good: to do good work and go through our days feeling like we’ve spent them well. This individual maintenance(!) is a necessary precursor to being a good citizen. This book has been my guide ever since I read it in 1999, and I’m looking forward to discussing it with you!

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