Books@Work: It’s All About Relationships!

Books@Work: It’s All About Relationships!

We are thrilled to include the voices of individuals who have experienced the Books@Work program. Today’s post was written by Kevin Williams, a Senior Service Supervisor at Fairbanks Morse Engine:

“Books@Work (B@W) is using a small piece of writing to foster easy conversation between team members to gain some mutual understanding of how we as individuals think and perceive different situations. We use stories and characters to trigger random conversations about similarities to our own experience, or point of view. We might explore alternate choices characters might have made, or maybe alternate endings. It’s always fun and interesting to see where the conversations go. A participant might just be having fun talking about a character or something, meanwhile the rest of us are learning a little about how to better interact with them.” Learn more about how Kevin’s Books@Work experience has helped him build better working relationships with his colleagues.

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New Opportunities, New Perspectives: The Value of Books We Dislike

New Opportunities, New Perspectives: The Value of Books We Dislike

I recently had the chance to speak with Professor Sabine Ferran Gerhardt about her experience leading several programs with Books@Work. Sabine is an Associate Professor at the University of Akron, where she specializes in Criminology and Justice Studies, with an emphasis on the children of incarcerated parents and school shooter prevention. Sabine found that reading and discussing texts in the workplace – even texts we don’t like – can be a transformative experience. How can a book we’re not sure about bring us closer to our colleagues?

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Hungry for Conversation: How Literature Inspires Personal and Intellectual Discussions at Work

Hungry for Conversation: How Literature Inspires Personal and Intellectual Discussions at Work

I recently spoke with Professor Homero Galicia about his experience leading the first bilingual Books@Work program in a Texas manufacturing plant – he and the participants read and discussed literature in both Spanish and English. A native of Texas and a graduate of Stanford University, Homero has worked to promote dialogue in a number of settings – and he found that using literature as a platform for a bilingual discussion provided a unique experience. How can a bilingual Books@Work program help colleagues share their personal experiences and ideas?

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Surprising Ourselves and Others: A Conversation

Surprising Ourselves and Others: A Conversation

I recently had the opportunity to talk with Lela Hilton, Program Director of the Clemente Course in the Humanities, Inc., about the element of surprise in our respective programs. Founded by the late Earl Shorris, Clemente brings free humanities education to people living in economic distress. The foundational ideas for Clemente may be found in Shorris’ powerful 1997 article in Harper’s Magazine entitled “As A Weapon in the Hands of the Restless Poor (On the Uses of a Liberal Education).” I was fortunate to speak to Earl Shorris before he died about Books@Work. He inspired me deeply and supported my then-fledgling idea of partnering with employers to reach working adults. When Clemente and Books@Work became co-grantees in the Teagle Foundation’s special initiative, Liberal Arts Beyond the Academy, Lela and I were introduced. What follows is a snippet of our ongoing dialogue.

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“Now You’re Teaching Me”: Fostering Teamwork and Confidence Through Literature

“Now You’re Teaching Me”: Fostering Teamwork and Confidence Through Literature

In a recent conversation, Professor Theresa Grupico spoke reflected on her experiences teaching with Books@Work: “There are these moments, especially when working with a complex novel, where you really see the lightbulbs going on. These are ‘aha’ moments, and they come from discussing a character or a passage from a novel. Reading alone, they think they get it – but as they start to have a conversation, they ask themselves ‘why didn’t I see that?’ They learn from each other and grow together. It’s a wonderful way to approach teamwork, and it shows why meetings are important, why colleagues are important. You get something from those interactions that you don’t get on your own. It is so neat to sit in a room with people and learn about what they are thinking.”

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“Learning to Respect One Another’s Point of View”: A Books@Work Participant Interview

“Learning to Respect One Another’s Point of View”: A Books@Work Participant Interview

Recently, I spoke with Gail Monahan, a Books@Work participant, about her experience in our programs. Gail is a Senior Applications Engineer at Fairbanks Morse Engine, an Enpro Industries company. Fairbanks Morse Engine has been a valued Books@Work partner since we first began offering seminars in their Beloit, Wisconsin facility in late 2013. In our discussion, Gail emphasized that Books@Work provides a valuable opportunity explore new subjects and cultures, to get to know your colleagues on a different level and to see things from their perspectives.

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Learning From Our Differences: Talking About Nervous Conditions

Learning From Our Differences: Talking About Nervous Conditions

“I was not sorry when my brother died.” So begins Tsitsi Dangarembga’s semi-autobiographical novel Nervous Conditions, the story of Tambudzai, a teenage girl in the former Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) who lives in two worlds: that of her parents, poor farmers who earn a meager living, and that of her aunt and uncle, whom the British colonists have chosen to receive an education in England and eventually to run the missionary school. I fell in love with Tambu in the first few pages, and as I introduce her to more readers, I have discovered that they take her to their hearts as well. This includes participants in a Books@Work group as well as college students in a “Questions of Identity” seminar.

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Stories That Resonate: Sharing Literature With Veterans

Stories That Resonate: Sharing Literature With Veterans

Last week, Karen Nestor wrote about her experience teaching in a Books@Work special program with Veterans living at the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center Domiciliary. Karen’s was an hour-long program for the entire residency—but, in partnership with Ohio Humanities and several individual donors, Books@Work has been serving this community with weekly seminars over the past six months. Each week in this program, a group of Veterans came together with a professor to discuss a short story. Recently, I had the chance to speak with Professor Peter Haas about his experience guiding these discussions. Peter is an ordained rabbi and served as a chaplain in the United States Army before entering academe. He retired in the summer of 2016 from Case Western Reserve University, where he was professor of Religious Studies and former chair of his department. Here, Peter talks about the power of the short story and the moving discussions he was able to lead and take part in at the VA Domiciliary.

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Iconic Books and Personal Experience: Classics at Work

Iconic Books and Personal Experience: Classics at Work

When it comes to teaching, I confess that I’m a sucker for iconic texts: Shakespeare’s Othello, Mary Godwin Shelley’s Frankenstein, and Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Frankly, it bothers me that these authors’ fame derives from ubiquitous cultural allusions so divorced from their work. Boris Karloff immediately comes to mind when people hear the name Frankenstein. People blithely characterize someone as a “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde-type” without knowing the original story. And they refer to a talented person as a Shakespeare without having read enough of the Bard to know why he’s a genius. With the mission of connecting cultural allusions to their sources, I have introduced these texts to Books@Work readers, and several anecdotes will tell that tale of how well my approach has worked.

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