LEXINGTON, Ky. (July 26, 2016) — Every year, new University of Kentucky students are prompted to read a book selected for their cohort the summer before their first semester on campus. This program is referred to as the Common Reading Experience (CRE).
The goal of the CRE is two-fold: first, to bring new students together for a common reading experience that introduces them to academic discourse prior to the start of classes; and second, to engage the UK community in a common intellectual experience through yearlong programming that encourages deeper thinking and discussion to further unite the campus community.
The CRE eases the academic transition to college of first-year students through small group discussion, curricular assignments and co-curricular programming based on a single book.
One way the CRE book is integrated into first-year curriculum is through various UK Core classes such as Rachel Farr's "Introduction to Psychology" course.
Farr began her career at UK in the summer of 2015. As a developmental psychologist, her research is focused on adoptive families and families headed by sexual minority parents.
The 2016-2017 CRE book, "Orphan Train," relates directly to Farr's research as it tells the story of personal upheaval and adoption. The main character in the novel is orphaned as a child, taking her on a journey of living with several families. After growing up in an early form of foster care, she eventually faces adoption again as an adult.
"I like that 'Orphan Train' highlights some aspects of adoption history in our culture to a wider audience that might not know anything about this and have ever heard of it, so it can stimulate some interest in that," she said.
Farr plans to incorporate lessons and themes from "Orphan Train" into her teaching. Her diverse family systems seminar, for example, will spend two weeks focusing on adoptive families and the foster care system.
"I think it is helpful for students to make connections across the research and the book and then also real world scenarios," she said.
Farr's personal connection to adoptive and diverse families sparked her interest in this field of study.
"Although I am not adopted, my sister is from India. She is a couple of years younger than I am and was adopted into my family when she was nine months old," said Farr. "The most intimate way in which I saw another kid coming into the family actually was adoption."
"Above all, my personal connection to my research gives me a lot of motivation for continuing in this work."
For more information about the 2016-2017 CRE book, "Orphan Train," visit the Common Reading Experience website.
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