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2019 Honors Summer Assignment

Cover for the book Educated by Tara Westover. A red pencil, where the paint also looks like hills with a person hiking. 

Your WVU experience is not just learning content; it's also about developing the tools to think ⁠— reflectively, logically and strategically. At the Honors College, we're invested in having you arrive on campus having begun that process.

The captivating and startling memoir Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover is the 2019-20 Campus Read at WVU. Many people will be reading this book this year, and we are asking you as an Honors student to delve into the material a little deeper and reflect on the book before starting your classes this fall.

Through the Honors College Summer Reading Assignment, we are asking you to do three things: 
  1. Come prepared to join a campus conversation upon your arrival,
  2. Take some time to reflect on your transition into a new environment and 
  3. Think critically about a subject that is meaningful no matter what your chosen field.
The Honors College has developed several prompts for you based on the reading. Please choose one prompt and write an essay that is 4+ pages, double-spaced,12- point, Times New Roman font, with one-inch margins (roughly 1,400-1,600 words). Your essay will be due the first week of classes during your HONR 298o orientation class. See the grading rubric here.

For this reading assignment, we encourage you to consider the many perspectives of the individual characters and the pivotal role in the author's story. Consider how Westover came to understand and process her developmental years as a child living in rural Idaho. Against all odds, she persevered and went on to earn a PhD from Cambridge University. How do you think she was able to do that? What parts of her experience can you take as lessons for your own experience to come? Through this memoir, we will explore self-reliance, mentorship, determination, mental health and what it means to become educated. 

Each of the following prompts will ask you to address three elements:
  • Consider and define the concept of the prompt.
  • Illustrate how that concept functions in Westover's narrative.
  • Reflect on how that concept has functioned in your life and might function in your college career.

Choose One

PROMPT 1: BELONGING

At each stage of her life - at home, at BYU, at Cambridge, etc. — Westover feels at some point like she might not fit in, and in several moments needs to be reminded of her right to be where she is. How is belonging a key concept in a person's life path? How does Westover struggle with belonging? How do you anticipate your sense of belonging in the Honors community at WVU?

PROMPT 2: MENTORSHIP

Growing up, Westover has little guidance from her immediate family, though her brother Tyler encourages her to go to college. There, she meets mentors like her bishop, Dr. Kerry and Dr. Steinberg, all who help her along, and offer her just enough support and guidance to ultimately make a huge impact on her life. What does effective mentorship look like to you? How did it function in Westover's life? Who are some of your unsung heroes and how have they impacted your life? What kind of mentors do you hope for at WVU?

PROMPT 3: UNCONVENTIONAL PATHS

While Westover is not traditionally educated for the first 17 years of her life, she certainly has access to skills and expertise that most people her age never learn. She knows how to operate heavy machinery, how to prepare many natural remedies for illnesses, etc. What are the boundaries of the "conventional" path to college? Do any of these skills help Westover in her quest to become traditionally educated? Are there other aspects to her unconventional education that are valuable to her? Like what? And what about you: what unique or nontraditional skills or expertise do you bring to college? How can you use these to help you succeed in your traditional education?

PROMPT 4: PATIENCE AND PERSISTENCE

In chapter 6, after her older brother Tyler leaves for college, Tara and her brother Richard both find ways to pursue knowledge. At the end of the section, Westover writes, "The skill I was learning was a crucial one, the patience to read things I could not yet understand." Patience is an under-discussed part of learning. What do you think are the key features of patience and persistence? How does Westover demonstrate these characteristics throughout her story? In what subjects will you need to exercise the most patience with ideas you do not yet understand? What tactics will you use to incentivize and reward patient learning?

What is a Campus Read?

WVU's Campus Read engages the campuses and community in a common reading experience, which fosters dialog, critical thinking and community participation.If you have questions about the summer reading assignment, please contact Ashley Watts at 304-293-1808 or via email at ashley.watts@mail.wvu.edu. For more information about the book, visit campusread.wvu.edu.

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