October 14, 2019

What is the University Theme?

Lectures and discussions related to the 2019-20 theme are at the forefront as another academic year is underway at Susquehanna.

This year’s theme is The Power of Stories. It was nominated by Karla Bohmbach, professor and head of the Department of Religious Studies.

“Humans are story-making and story-telling creatures,” Bohmbach said in her nomination. “Stories shape powerfully who we are, what we believe, and how we act — for both good and ill.”

The tradition of selecting a year-long university theme began at Susquehanna in 2003 to give diverse members of the campus community the opportunity to develop dialogue around a central idea or question. Past themes have included resilience, conflict, technology, memory and water.

Throughout the course of the academic year, various lectures and discussions revolve around the theme. Faculty and staff can also apply to the provost’s office for funding to support their theme-inspired event.

Susquehanna is unique in that not only does the student body, faculty and staff select the annual university theme, but they also suggest texts for the like-themed Common Reading Anthology, which is distributed to all incoming, first-year students at Preview Days. Selected stories, poems, essays, reports, scholarly articles and other texts appear alongside introductions written by members of the SU community.

The Power of Stories anthology includes stories, poems, scholarly articles and other texts by 19 authors, demonstrating a broad diversity in age, religion, gender, race, sexual orientation and national origin. Each text in the anthology is prefaced by introductions written by members of the SU community.
First-year students are required to read the anthology over the summer and complete a written assignment before arriving on campus.

This year, incoming students were asked to write their own story — a personal tale — about how a story or storyteller has affected their life. They were asked to draw connections between their story and several of the texts in the Common Reading Anthology.

“In considering the power of stories, we will examine both the sources of stories and their impacts,” Bohmbach said. “We will explore what it means to question our stories, and we will analyze the difficulties and challenges involved in letting go of false and hurtful stories and embracing new and helpful ones.”