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Skidmore College
First-Year Experience

2010 Summer Reading Program

Dear Members of the Class of 2014,

A central feature of Skidmore's First-Year Experience is its summer reading program.  Indeed, the goal of the first-year reading program is twofold.  First, we want to celebrate the fact that the educational experience—the process of learning—is ongoing and not just confined to the classroom or the academic calendar.  Our aim is to get you thinking before you arrive on campus.  Second, we want to provide first-year students, and the entire College community, with a common experience centered on an intellectually interesting and challenging subject.  The way we see it is that the first-year reading program provides a starting point for members of the Skidmore community to engage in important intellectual dialogues.

For the class of 2014, the FYE has chosen Neil Shubin's poignant and provocative exploration of the development of the human body.  The book is entitled, Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5 Billion Year History of the Human Body.

Shubin, who is Provost of the Field Museum and professor of anatomy at the University of Chicago, writes about his discovery of Tiktaalik, the "fish with hands," and how such a discovery offers profound insights into the development of the human body.  He uses stories (many of them personal), analogies, and metaphors to explain complex scientific experiments and findings.  Oliver Sacks describes the book as an "intelligent, exhilarating, and compelling scientific adventure story, one which will change forever how you understand what it means to be human."  I have no doubt that you will enjoy the book and that you will learn a great deal about topics ranging from evolution to academia.

This book advances Skidmore's steadfast commitment to increased scientific literacy.  All liberally educated citizens should, at the very least, have some basic understanding of the importance of science and the environments in which we live. And while we do not believe that assigning one book or enrolling in one course fulfills the College's goal of a more scientifically literate community, the summer reading program represents an important first step on a journey to greater scientific awareness.  

All first-year students are expected to read, contemplate, and scrutinize the book in its entirety prior to arriving on campus.  There will be ample opportunity throughout the academic year to examine and discuss the issues raised by this reading.  Partnering with several offices around campus, the First-Year Experience will organize the year's programming around the themes of scientific understanding and scientific literacy.  More details are forthcoming in the months ahead.

I hope you enjoy the summer, and that as you relax and get ready for your arrival at Skidmore you talk with family, friends, and colleagues about the ideas generated by Your Inner Fish.  

All the best,

Beau Breslin
Assistant Dean of the Faculty and Director of the First-Year Experience
Professor of Government