New campus-wide reading initiative encourages cultural dialogue, critical thinking

October 16, 2017

Metro Read is a campus program to instill a joy of learning, to think critically and to increase community engagement.

 Metro Read
Metro Read

A new program on campus wants you to read into it. And then take the time to examine, communicate and reflect.

UM-Dearborn Metro Read is a campus initiative to instill a joy of learning, to think critically, and to enhance the culture of creating a metropolitan engagement within southeast Michigan by coming together through a common campus read, said Assistant Director for Success Programs Tyler Guenette.

Over pumpkin muffins and coffee, members of the community—from both on campus and in the Metro Detroit area—gather at Mardigian Library’s Books & Brew series. The discussion surrounds the book Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation by Eboo Patel.

In addition to sharing interesting quotes and passages in the book, the Metro Read initiative encourages cultural questions and engaged dialogue surrounding it. Guenette, who brought the Metro Read idea to campus, said the author’s autobiography explores where religion fits into his life and the lives of the people around him.

“The book looks at differences and similarities of beliefs, spanning from religious totalitarianism to pluralism,” said Guenette, who worked on Metro Read program with the Metro Read Commission and communications senior Catherine Lencione. “Through exploration, Patel—who believes in the world-changing potential of an interfaith youth movement—finds a common core element across society: Regardless of the belief system, people are striving to do good.”

Guenette first read the book when he started college. It had such a profound impact that when he overheard people sharing their concerns about a divisive national climate, he wanted to start the Metro Read program and chose this book as the inaugural reading material.

“As an incoming freshman, I had never met an individual of Muslim faith,” Guenette said. “This book helped shape my thinking about world religions and helped me better understand that there is a commonality among belief systems. Realizing that interconnectedness opened my mind to so many more people and experiences than before.”

With that in mind, the Metro Read book is also part of this year’s Intro to University Life Seminar curriculum—which is a non-credit course incoming students can take to become acclimated to campus—as a way to start a conversation about cultural differences and similarities.

“The Metro Read program is meant to serve as an intellectual bridge for our students, for our campus community and beyond,” he said. “By being able to express viewpoints, have others listen to you and come up with ways we can think through our personal lens and learn together, we will all work toward developing a clearer picture of our community and what it means to be a part of it.”

The free-to-attend Books & Brew program reviews two chapters of the Metro Read book each session. The next session, which will focus on Acts of Faith chapters 4 and 5, is from 10:30-11:30 a.m. Oct. 30 in the library’s Berkowitz Gallery. Each session is independent and people do not need to have attended previous sessions to take part.

There will also be a Metro Read Scholarship Competition, an Interfaith Dialogue Series and more during the 2017-2018 academic year.

Acts of Faith can be found for free through the Mardigian Library, both in hard copy and as a digital copy through the online catalog.