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Program gives alumni, parents, and friends a chance to learn and reconnect

By Natalie Sportelli '15 on December 5, 2012
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Salman Rusdie

Salman Rushdie, author of novels such as The Satanic Verses and Midnight’s Children, meets with members of the Colgate community at a dinner held after his public lecture. (Photo by Andy Daddio)

Novels — good novels — can serve as windows to new worlds. A shared discussion of these novels enriches that exploration, and that is what alumni, parents, and friends said the Colgate LW Online program did this past semester.

Nearly 200 people participated in the distance-learning program, which is an extension of a course for undergraduates that has been in place for about 25 years. This year’s program focused on international writers.

“To have an opportunity for educational engagement post-graduation [through LW Online] was a fantastic opportunity for me,” said Geoffrey Gold ’86. “With a focus on international writers this year, it really opened a new world about places and things that I didn’t have much familiarity with, which is one of the primary reasons this course in particular interested me.”

Led by English professors Jane Pinchin and Jennifer Brice, LW Online included book discussions that were webcast live from the video studio at Case Library and Geyer Center for Information Technology.

Program participants phoned in questions or used an interactive chat to share comments with the professors and their studio guests, including author Daniel Alarcón, Colgate President Jeffrey Herbst, fellow Colgate professor Kezia Page, and Jim Elrod ’76.

Some participants met at a New York City event at the program’s start. A blog kept participants engaged throughout the semester, and the capstone event on campus involved the appearance of Salman Rushdie.

Those who returned to meet Rushdie first made a stop in Lawrence Hall to sit in on the undergraduate Living Writers course.

They were able to interact with current students and discuss Rushdie’s work before going to hear the author’s public talk at Memorial Chapel. A dinner with Rushdie followed, and a chance to wrap things up was available at a LW Online breakfast the next day.

“This group brought to the table a range of experience and expertise that energized and humbled Jane and me,” said Brice. “The range and depth of conversations we’ve been able to have—online, over the phone, and in person — was hugely exciting.”

In addition to Rushdie and Alarcon, the program focused on books by Alexandra Fuller, Chimamanda Adichie, and Orhan Pamuk.

For several LW Online participants, the program provided a variety of ways to reconnect with Colgate.

“My daughter took Living Writers last year and I, as an alumnus, had Professor Pinchin as a student, so I am familiar with it,” said Bill Robertson’79 P’13. “It exposes me to a combination of things, known writers and other writers I don’t know much about. It keeps me interested and engaged in particularly younger writers that I’m not familiar with. It pushes me to explore a little more than I’m used to.”

Salman Rushdie

Salman Rushdie spent a full day on Colgate’s campus. (Photo by Andy Daddio)

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