Story by Stephanie Cobb
What are (Un)common Reads courses?
(Un)common Reads are one-credit courses available exclusively to students in the University of Florida Honors Program. Each course is centered around one book, and students spend the semester delving into that book through seminars and various activities. (Un)common Reads can be about anything from the Harry Potter series to neuroanatomy; one course offered in Fall 2019 even challenged students to enroll in “Baking School” and create delicious cakes and pastries.
What do current Honors Gators think of these courses?
Second year advertising major Ariana Rao has completed two (Un)common Reads, Rigor Mortis and Hamilton, and is currently taking Natural Woman: A Memoir, which centers around the life of singer-songwriter Carole King. She cites her favorite (Un)common Reads experience as her final project in the Hamilton class.
“I had drawn a campaign poster for Hamilton, pretending as if he had survived to run for president, and I was pretty proud of it, so it was nice to see my peers’ reactions.”
She added, “All of their projects were so creative and wonderful— one person even wrote their own song! We didn’t have much of a rubric, so it was cool seeing how people interpreted the historic tale through different approaches.”
When asked if she would recommend taking an (Un)common Read to incoming honors students, Ariana responded, “Definitely! Not only is it typically a pretty laid back course, it allows you to get to know your fellow honors students and professors while delving into a topic of interest. You’re essentially getting college credit for a formalized book club.”
Sofia Valencia, a first year microbiology major, was similarly positive about her (Un)common Reads experience.
“It’s a great way to learn based on a story. Whether it’s real or fictitious, [it’s] a unique way to learn and incorporate what you learn into the real world. Books teach you a lot if you take the time to decipher what they mean and what they want you to understand.”
This semester, Sofia is taking The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, which is based on the 1997 novel of the same name by Anne Fadiman. The book is about a refugee family from Laos and their experiences with the American healthcare system.
Overall, Sofia enjoys “being able to share with everyone your thoughts and opinions on the subject of the book and seeing how everyone is passionate about the topic.”
Though seminars are a vital part of (Un)common Reads, learning doesn’t always just take place through class discussions. Third year sustainability and the built environment major Zachary Delaney has taken two (Un)common Reads throughout his UF career, What is a Nation? and Urban Revolution. He discussed how one of his professors enhanced his experience through various interactive activities.
“My favorite experience was in the Urban Revolution class when we went to the Reitz Union at the end of the semester to use everything we had learned in the class to assess the building design. Another favorite was in that class when the professor taught us how to make tiramisu.”
How do you take an (Un)common Reads course?
Registration for the Spring 2020 (Un)common Reads has already opened, but there are still a number of spots left. Topics for the upcoming semester range from women’s health, to Florida’s water supply, to the process of “creating atheists.” Students of all majors have a myriad of options to choose from if they want to get involved in these unique classes.