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Common Reading Experience

The President's Book Circle

In the fall of 2015, the Office of the President created a unique opportunity for students to engage in a collective literary program designed to introduce students to an interdisciplinary approach to the arts and liberal studies.

Program Goal

book-discussionThe goal of the President's Book Circle, an exciting program designed by President Mary Schmidt Campbell in collaboration with members of the senior team -- Drs. Myra Burnett, interim provost of academic affairs; Darnita Killian, vice president for Student Affairs; and Desiree Pedescleaux, dean of Undergraduate Studies, was to bring a select group of students together to engage in critical interdisciplinary discussions with the President and select faculty throughout the fall semester on the book, "Alexander Hamilton," written by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ron Chernow. The biography presents a detailed portrait of Alexander Hamilton as one of the founding fathers of the United States.

“Music, theater, dance, visual arts, art history, curatorial studies, a museum, and the digital media salon are vital to the creative health of Spelman,” said Dr. Campbell.

blue-quote-leftThis demonstration project illustrates how the arts in collaboration with the liberal arts can be a catalyst for new knowledge and new ways of thinking and knowing. The arts play a critical role at Spelman, as we live in a world that requires creativity, resilience, a comfort in risk taking and with the rapidity of change in today’s world, the exercise of the imagination.
-- President Mary Schmidt Campbellblue-quote-right

To participate in the President's Book Circle supported by the Office of the President, Office of the Provost, Office of Undergraduate Studies, Office of Student Affairs and other campus partners, students had to apply and participate in the reading sessions. The top five majors represented by the more than three dozen students accepted into the program are political science, theater/drama, psychology, English and biology.

Social Media Engagement

#SpelmanTakesHamilton: Students Embrace President Campbell’s Book Circle

Using #SpelmanTakesHamilton on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, the group shared photos, videos and tweets from their time spent in New York with “Hamilton” cast members and author Ron Chernow.


View Hamilton Photo Gallery on Flickr Flickr
Photos courtesy of Lee White and Ben Kornegay

New York Excursion

ny-ChernowFrom January 5-8, 2016, 30 Spelman students experienced a defining moment in their intellectual lives by embarking upon a New York excursion to see the Broadway musical “Hamilton” by Lin-Manuel Miranda.

While in New York, the students had the opportunity to meet with Chernow and to discuss both the book and the play. They also had a post-production discussion with the Hamilton cast and later visited  The Public Theater staff to talk about the play's development, the role of theater in a democracy, and professional opportunities in theater.


The HRC and Excursion represents an authentic Spelman experience.

The Hamilton Reading Circle and Excursion has been a defining moment in the intellectual lives of its participants who read the Hamilton biography and then saw it come to life on the Broadway stage," explained Dean Pedescleaux. It was a great bonding experience for the students, administrators, faculty and -- Desiree Pedescleaux, Ph.D.

ny-group Self-Reflections and Community Presentations

Upon their return, students participated in a wrap-up session with President Campbell in Reynolds College, reflected upon their experiences, and discussed ways in which the College can institutionalize what every student recounted as a "transforming experience."

Also, students submitted reflection papers and creatively shared their experiences more broadly on campus.

blue-quote-leftMy experience in New York was amazing. It was my first time there and my first time at a Broadway play. It was definitely an eye-opening experience for me as an artist. We have never had a program like this at Spelman before. I appreciate President Campbell for being so invested in focusing on the arts and having programs like this.

Hamilton was incredible and this experience opened my eyes to so many more opportunities available in the art field. I didn’t know much about The Public Theater, or that there is a place like The Public Theater in New York that develops artists.  That is essentially what I want to do. So coming on this trip helped me to create those connections to certain people and it has helped to open doors for me as a graduating seniorblue-quote-right.
  -- Tia Austin, C’2016, psychology major

>>> Read More Student Reflections