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Students relate to search for personal identity in ‘Asher Lev’

braced the theme of identity through studying the book “My Name is Asher Lev” by Chaim Potok.

“I’ve heard through some of my faculty colleagues that there has been a lot of meaningful engagement with the theme of “ways of knowing” throughout the semester,” said Dr. Jeffrey Coker, assistant provost for General Education and Assessment.

The book was one among several being considered for the study, but Potok’s novel best addressed all of the goals for the course.

“As a book that describes intersections of faith and art, the individual and the community, tradition and the modern, we were confident that students would find the book to be a valuable intellectual experience,” said Coker, who is involved with the final book selection along with a committee of veteran First Year Seminar instructors.

Multiple convos complemented the study, including a lecture on “invention and creativity” from Dr. David Lyle Jeffrey, a professor of literature and humanities at Baylor University.

Jeffrey spoke on the search for harmony through three questions raised in the novel: “Who are we? Why are we here? How then, should we live?”

The convo ended with a song, written and performed by freshmen Jeff Dekuiper, a songwriting major, and Winslow Newman, a music business major. The song, created for a seminar project, was a reflection of the book and how they could relate the story to their personal lives.

“I related to the book a lot,” Dekuiper said. “My parents were both sports fans and I am a musician so I didn’t really fit in. We talked about that tension of what your family wants you to be and who you are becoming.”

Reading and discussing Potok’s novel also granted Dekuiper with reassurance.

“It really confirmed that I was doing the right thing,” he said. “My parents wanted me to play basketball but reading it confirmed that I made the right choice in doing what I wanted to do.”

The same theme and book will be studied next semester in all seminar classes and the book choice for next year is under way.

“We have some excellent nominations, and the committee will be reading several good books over the holidays so that we can come together in January to make a final decision,” Coker said.

Students are encouraged to suggest novels for the book selection process, engaging students in shaping the academic structure on campus.

“We would be delighted to see more student nominations moving forward,” Coker said.

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