Members of the Class of 2024 should read Adaptability: Susquehanna University Common Reading Anthology 2021-2022 and complete a written assignment before arriving on campus (see instructions below). Here is a glimpse of some of what you will find in the anthology:

  • A graphic essay on what its like to lose your first language, composed by SU Professor Hasanthika Sirisena and introduced by Professor Lynn Palermo.
  • An excerpt from Nadina LaSpina’s memoir, Such a Pretty Girl: A Story of Struggle, Empowerment, and Disability Pride. The excerpt explores the way Nadina, a polio survivor, and her husband navigate their experiences with disabilities, introduced by SU ’21 alum Joanna Messineo.
  • An essay by New York Times critic Wesley Morris featuring an exploration of Black masculinity in popular culture and post-COVID America, introduced by Chief Inclusion and Diversity Officer Michael Dixon.
  • “Debunking the Myth of Happiness,” an interview with Sonja Lyubomirsky, a leading researcher in the field of positive psychology, who explores how we truly achieve happiness, introduced by Professor Theresa Lopez.
  • A transcript of Janet Echelman’s “Taking Imagination Seriously” TED Talk, which explores the ways artists use their imaginations to adapt to unforeseen circumstances and create innovative compositions, introduced by Common Reading Chief Editor Anastasia Ballasy.

The Adaptability anthology will be mailed home to you over the summer! International students will receive a copy when they arrive to campus.

Important links

Common Reading Lecture via Zoom

Nadina LaSpina
Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021—7:30 p.m., Zoom

Nadina LaSpina is a memoirist and prominent activist in the disability rights movement. Her book, Such a Pretty Girl: A Story of Struggle, Empowerment, and Disability Pride, details the story of her life, from her early years in her native Sicily, where she contracted polio as a baby, to her adolescence and youth in America, spent almost entirely in hospitals, to her rebellion and her activism in the disability rights movement. She now lives in New York City, where you can find her in the streets with Disabled In Action, ADAPT, The Disability Caucus, and other groups.

This event is required for first year students. Students should access the webinar through Presence in order to track their attendance.

Faculty, staff, and community members can join the webinar here.

Instructions for First-Year Students

Summer Writing Assignment: Adaptability

The Common Reading Summer Assignment is meant to help you connect with your Perspectives professor, your peers, and the campus at large. You’ll turn it in to your Perspectives (or Global Business Perspectives, Honors Thought, or your Living Learning Community) Instructor at the beginning of the term. All students are also invited to submit their works to the Common Reading Program Summer Assignment Contest! We’ll pick our three favorite works to publish in next year’s anthology, and contest winners will receive a prize package!

For your summer assignment, we invite you to think outside the box. We invite you to adapt the assignment to best represent you, your experience, and your interests. In a form short personal narrative, explore the idea of adaptation and how it has fit into your life. Your assignment may take shape as be a written essay (1-2 pages) or a video essay (1-3 minutes).

Reflecting on one or more of the works within your anthology, consider a time in your life that required you to adapt. How did this experience change you? What did you learn about yourself and your environment in the process?

As you complete this assignment, feel free to tap into your creative side! Your assignment can strive for accuracy, or lean toward fiction and exaggeration, it can focus on text, or could even become a series of TikToks. There’s one catch: You need to be able to turn your assignment in to your instructor, so all videos must be in a .mp4 format and all documents must be .docx or .pdf.

For examples of how others have completed the summer assignment and instructions on how to enter the Summer Assignment Context, visit the Reading and Teaching Guide at, or follow us on Instagram @sucommonreading.


The tradition of selecting a year-long university theme began at Susquehanna University in 2003 with the purpose of creating opportunities for diverse members of the community to develop dialogue around a central idea or question. Past themes have included key words such as “resilience,” “conflict,” “technology,” “memory” and “water,” and have brought these ideas and more to the center of conversation and exploration at the university.

Faculty, staff, and students involved in the Common Reading Program create a new book each year that centers on the university theme that has been selected. Stories, poems, essays, reports, scholarly articles, and other texts appear alongside introductions written by members of the SU community. The anthology is used in a variety of ways during students’ first semester on campus, including during Welcome Week and in classrooms. Events, such as the annual Common Reading Lecture, bring authors of the texts to campus, and an online Reading and Teaching Guide offers additional means of interacting with the materials.

We hope the Common Reading Program will engage you in lively conversations and challenge you to think critically. It is an introduction to life in a community of learners, where we are all participate in discussion and reflection on texts and ideas. We invite you to explore the various theme-based events and activities that occur throughout the academic year.


We experience adaptability in many ways. Change can happen quickly, and we may have to adapt to new circumstances unexpectedly, like many of us did at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Other times, we can accept change and adapt more slowly, like new students transitioning to college life, graduates starting their careers, or life-long learners encountering different cultures. In being adaptable, we learn from and support one another, and our flexibility provides new opportunities to further ourselves. Change is inevitable. How will you adapt?

This year’s theme of Adaptability was nominated by Hannah C. Lyons, Class of 2020.