Professors & Schools

"Reading literature in the workplace is a bonding experience."

Robin Zebrowski

Associate Professor of Cognitive Science, Beloit College

Reading literature in the workplace is a bonding experience: everyone is a bit lost and they’re all trying to figure out what on earth is going on in the story beyond the surface level. But as they start to figure that out, they suddenly find connections to their own lives and their own experiences. We use stories to ask questions about the nature of what it means to be human.

Why Teach a Class?

Books@Work offers faculty members the opportunity to connect with adult learners within their local community. By eliminating tests and grades, faculty enjoy working with individuals who simply desire to learn. This audience can offer a fresh perspective on texts and ideas. Additionally, some faculty use the seminar as a chance to teach a favorite book outside of their primary field of research.

What is a typical curriculum?

Each faculty member identifies a selection of books that he or she is passionate to teach. An ideal text challenges and provokes readers by opening pathways to critical thinking, while remaining accessible to a general audience with little or no background knowledge.

A seminar typically meets one hour per week for four weeks. In each session, the faculty member guides the participants in discussion, using the book as a chance for thoughtful conversation and collaborative learning. Discussion is both the process and the product in a Books@Work seminar.

Participants consistently report that faculty input is crucial for generating substantial conversation, as well as forging connections between the text and the workplace. Faculty, in turn, benefit from the unique workplace environment, where the book often takes on a new and unexpected dimension. In this way, each Books@Work seminar provides a learning opportunity for everyone involved, faculty and participants alike.

A great book
Seminar conversation
Faculty guidance

A few stories...

When one group in an urban hospital read Milan Kundera’s The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, they were confronted with a historical context they had never heard of before. “I’ll always remember the professor telling us ‘the victors write the history.’ That’s why we’d never heard these stories before.” The phrase stayed with her long after the seminar ended and changed her thinking about current events. She’s more inclined to watch the news now – and to seek out different sources on the same story.

Professors & Schools

For one participant, a classified staff member in a city school, reading Kafka’s Metamorphosis was an opportunity to connect with her children, in addition to the members of the program. She read the novel to her children and found that her son “related to it in the same way [I did]. My son is the oldest and I am the oldest child, so I think you understand always giving.” It gave them a chance to explore other people’s motivations together.

Professors & Schools