Discussion groups, visit by Timothy Egan highlights of fall KU Common Book activities

Thursday, August 15, 2013

LAWRENCE – University of Kansas students, faculty, staff and community members will develop a greater understanding of the Dust Bowl, its effects on the region and its continued relevance in the 21st century through several opportunities connected to the 2013-14 KU Common Book, “The Worst Hard Time.” The Common Book program is coordinated by the KU Office of First-Year Experience.

All incoming freshmen and transfer students receive a copy of “The Worst Hard Time” during orientation, and new students will participate in discussion groups across campus from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 25. Pulitzer Prize winning author Timothy Egan will participate in a pair of activities during a campus visit Sept. 26-27.

"I couldn't be more honored to have students of Kansas, where so much of the gritty history of the Dust Bowl took place, taking up ‘The Worst Hard Time,’” says Egan. “It's an American story of tough times and even tougher people – many of whom were the grandparents of KU students. What a thrill for an author.”

Egan will present a keynote at “An Evening with Author Timothy Egan” at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 26, at the Lied Center of Kansas. He will participate in a question-and-answer session as part of Coffee and Conversation featuring Timothy Egan at 9 a.m. Friday, Sept. 27, at The Commons in Spooner Hall.

Several other events across campus related to “The Worst Hard Time” are listed online. As part of the KU Common Book program, the Spencer Museum of Art has selected a series of objects that chronicle the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, its aftermath, and memory in a pair of exhibitions, “1 Kansas Farmer” and the 2013-14 Common Work of Art, "Conversation XV: Dust.”

“The Office of First-Year Experience has been thrilled by the reception to the Common Book program, and we are excited to interact with new students about the book as part of Hawk Week,” said Sarah Crawford-Parker, assistant vice provost and director. “We are also looking forward to increasing participation in the program during its second year and continuing to measure its effectiveness in implementing the strategies of Bold Aspirations, our strategic plan.”

 “The Worst Hard Time” is integrated into all sections of Psychology and Research in Education 101 and being used in other courses across campus.

In selecting “The Worst Hard Time,” the KU Common Book selection committee praised Egan’s use of personal stories to tell the story of one of the nation’s first large-scale ecological disasters. In their recommendation, they noted the book “tells the stories of the people who stayed, the parents, grandparents and great-grandparents of people living in Kansas today. Egan follows the lives of real individuals — Native Americans, Hispanic ranchers, homesteaders, Volga German immigrants — in Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas. Egan challenges readers to think critically about the causes of the Dust Bowl, individual and national responses, and the modern legacy of this era.”

For more information on programming or assistance in integrating “The Worst Hard Time” into a course or campus activity, contact Christina Kerns, program coordinator for KU Common Book in the Office of First-Year Experience, (785) 864-4720.