Former NFL Wide Receiver Donte Stallworth Kicks off Common Read Series


On Tuesday, September 14, the First Year Seminar (FYS) Program will host the first of a series of academic events related to the 2021-2022 Common Read, Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man by Emmanuel Acho. Former NFL wide receiver of 10 years, Donte Stallworth, will be joined by Jane McManus, the Director of the Center for Sports Communication, to discuss Acho’s book. Stallworth and McManus will discuss race, the NFL, and how to move beyond racial divisions.

According to McManus, “Donte Stallworth has been having uncomfortable conversations for years, whether about the NFL, social justice and the protests that accompanied the murder of George Floyd, or his own personal history. It makes him the perfect person to have this discussion with.”

Tuesday’s event is the first in a series of lectures related to the common read that are slated for the academic year. Each academic school was tasked with putting forward an event that connects with prominent themes in Acho’s book. This approach was taken to ground the book in the expertise and academic disciplines of each school, with the goal of making the book a tangible part of the first-year experience of the Class of 2025. Split into two semesters worth of lectures, the fall semester includes events planned by the Schools of Communication and the Arts, Liberal Arts, and Science. The spring semester will include events from the Schools of Management, Computer Science and Mathematics, and Social and Behavioral Sciences. Attendance at the events is reserved for first-year students with Stallworth’s event will be recorded and shared with the Marist community.

Acho’s book was selected by the Common Read Committee, chaired by Dr. Robyn Rosen, FYS Director and Professor of History. The committee includes representatives from the staff, administration, and student body. According to Dr. Rosen, “the committee was looking for a book on race that while being accessible for students not yet in college, would also tackle serious issues and open the door to further reflection, discussion, and study. We believe that Uncomfortable Conversations hits all these notes.”

The common read is integrated into the First Year Seminar, and is used to assess incoming students’ critical thinking, values awareness, and writing. Dr. James Snyder, a Dean in the Office of Academic Affairs whose works focuses on high-impact practices, explains that the “common read gives us the special opportunity to focus students on our core institutional learning outcomes that are at the heart of a Marist education.” Dr. Snyder adds that “the book is more than an assessment, signaling to our incoming class that their college education will take them to new places, challenge their thinking, and help them grow personally and intellectually.” In recent years, the college has selected common read books about immigration, sexism and the “Me Too” movement, and the 2020 presidential election.

A second event related to the common read is scheduled for October 1 when the philosopher and ethicist Kwame Anthony Appiah will come to Marist to present “What is racism?” Appiah is a professor of philosophy and law at New York University, and he is the author of The Ethics of Identity, Cosmopolitanism, The Honors Code, and many more. This event is also part of the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies Speaker Series, and Appiah will be presented with a special award from a Marist alumnus for his important contributions to applied philosophy.

The third First Year Seminar event will take place in November when the School of Science will bring Megan Deichler, Executive Director of the Catskill-Hudson Area Health Education Center, to discuss the social determinants of health and access to health care. The mission of the center is to encourage underrepresented students to consider careers in healthcare. Deichler will be joined by Dr. Lisa Stephens, Senior Lecturer of Chemistry and Coordinator of Marist’s Pre-Health Program. Deichler and Stephens will discuss the impact of race on health care access in the Hudson Valley. 

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