23 April 2019
Reading Clusters are presented and supported by the Heller Center for Arts and Humanities and encourage students to extend interests sparked in classes, directing their own learning independently and collectively while sharing books, insight and conversations.
A faculty member must endorse each cluster and a cluster contact must be a UCCS student with faculty endorsement. Those applying to the program are required to design a reading proposal explaining why they chose their selected area of study.
According to Rhonda Goodman-Gaghan, the curator of the Heller Center, next year it is expected that applications will be due the Friday after spring break. Applications will be approved by the end of the spring semester, allowing them to begin meeting the next fall semester. The due date for this year has already passed.
Each group will be allocated a $100 stipend available for group use and access to the Heller Center for discussions. The budget for the program supports for student groups for the first outing.
Groups are required to meet at least four times over the academic school year. Other requirements for the clusters are that there has to be a minimum of three students in attendance and that three books are read over the course of the semester.
The creation of Reading Clusters was the result of a collaboration between Heller Center for Arts and Humanities’ faculty advisory board at the suggestion of Stephen Carter, assistant professor of English.
“I participated in a similar program as a graduate student, and I wanted to bring something to UCCS that would encourage students’ interests in learning beyond the classroom,” said Carter.
Topics suggested in the application range from literature and politics to gender and the influence of digital identity. The only limit on what is available for discussion is what students are interested in.
Many individuals say that they love to read and learn but that they do not like being graded or quizzed on content, they just want to enjoy reading. Reading Clusters presents an opportunity for students to learn outside the parameters of the classroom. Although groups must be sponsored by a faculty member, the member need not attend all meetings, though they are welcome.
Reading Clusters also offer the opportunity for faculty to connect with their students outside of the classroom and engage in a recreational pursuit of knowledge. While book clubs can certainly be more leisurely entertainment based, Carter is hoping that Reading Clusters will be an explicitly intellectual and scholarly space of discussion.
Reading Clusters will also present an opportunity for more students to enjoy the amenities of the Heller Center. Most commonly, the Heller Center is oriented towards events for faculty and staff.
“It’s a beautiful space and I can’t think of anything more fun than discussing books with friends there,” said Carter.
Although not exclusionary of lower-level undergraduates, it is anticipated that upper-level undergraduate students, graduate students and doctorate students will take the most interest in the collaboration.
“We expect more expansion of both the audience and resources available as the program grows,” said Goodman-Gaghan.
The last meeting of the academic year for the Heller Center faculty board will convene and select applicants on April 23. Students who missed the deadline are encouraged to hold onto any ideas that they have.
“These Reading Clusters have the opportunity to improve the lives of students and the outreach of the Heller Center,” said Carter.
The Heller Center is a 34-acre piece of property on the UCCS campus. It contains three buildings, two of which are Pueblo Revival homes and were donated to UCCS in 1999 by Larry and Dorothy Heller.