DU’s new initiative for community engagement is now in its second year of development with the One Book, One DU project. This project encourages incoming students to respond to a prompt related to the book that they read over the summer. The One Voice committee then selects the best responses to display. The class of 2021 read “Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis” by J.D. Vance.

The goal of this initiative is to unite the entire incoming class on a subject that is different from the shared FSEM experience and to get them thinking about the larger world around them. After reading the book each student was required to answer the prompt: “Think of a person who has left some impression upon you. Tell their story,” and submit it to One Voice committee.

In “Hillbilly Elegy” Vance discusses his own personal narrative through the stories of his family and friends. His book uncovers critical messages the Appalachian community in America.

The One Voice committee selected 18 responses that they felt best encapsulated the question to display in the library. During the event they chose five students to stand and read their submissions to the audience. The pieces ranged from short essays to poems and each taught the audience about how they see the world and ways in which the audience could change how they interact with the world.

The students selected were Alana Silber, Naia Perkins, Lisa Truong, Micala Khavari and Autumn Fredline. As they read aloud the pieces they had written, the audience was able to glimpse what each student was like as a person and how they viewed the world. They talked about their families, mentors, teachers and about lessons they have learned that have guided them through challenges.

Some stories were heartbreaking like Alana Silber’s powerful essay about her brother coming out as gay to their parents. But, others were funny like Naia Perkins story about her mother who has one foot in this world and the other in a magical world.

Each story proved a powerful message about love, acceptance or hard work, which was the goal of this project because the students demonstrated the potential of books to stimulate minds to think critically.

While this event was the only one this year where the students will be presenting their responses, One Voice will be issuing volume two of the Many Voices, One DU book. This publication showcases essays and poems written by students, faculty and community members who all answered the same question. The book widens the pool of responders to the community because DU wants to not only engage internally, but also with the larger area around it.

Many Voices, One DU vol.2 will be available May of 2018 when the writing program has finished gathering and compiling responses.