University of Lynchburg is hosting several lectures this fall in conjunction with American Evolution, Virginia to America, 1619 to 2019, a series of events, legacy projects, and initiatives that celebrate the 400-year history of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Lynchburg is a higher education partner of the commemoration.
Each lecture in the series is aligned with one or more of American Evolution’s themes: democracy, diversity, and opportunity. The lectures also are part of the University’s first-year seminar program, and as such, are not open to the public.
According to Dr. Chip Walton, dean of the Lynchburg College of Arts and Sciences, the lectures are just the first in a series of events the University will present in conjunction with American Evolution. “I will be working with my colleagues and our students in the next two years to coordinate a variety of activities in conjunction with the initiative,” he said. “We will host some of these events on campus and some will foster participation at other locales across the Commonwealth.”
A highlight of the fall lecture series includes an appearance by historical nonfiction author David Price. Price is the author of Love and Hate in Jamestown: John Smith, Pocahontas, and the Start of a New Nation. The book is the Common Reading Experience for Lynchburg’s Class of 2022. It was a New York Times “Notable Book of the Year” and a School Library Journal “Best Adult Book for Young Adults.”
The Common Reading Experience is a tradition at University of Lynchburg. Past selections have included All Quiet on the Western Front, Fahrenheit 451, The Fault in Our Stars, A Lesson Before Dying, and others. The common reading is discussed during Hornet Days, a three-day, first-year program that takes place just before the start of classes.
“This book presents our students with a great opportunity to wrestle with some of the fundamental contradictions that inform the American experience,” Dr. Walton said. “It reminds us that the social constructions of race, class, and gender have been with us since the founding, and moreover, that such constructions are not static, but subject to change, and that we are all shaped by this history, a history born in our own backyard.”
The Common Reading Experience also gives new college students the opportunity to participate in discourse in a collegiate, liberal arts setting. “A common reading provides students and faculty a shared experience, a platform for intellectual engagement and dialogue, and an opportunity to build community,” Dr. Sally Selden, Lynchburg’s provost, said. “While on common ground, students have an opportunity to provide different perspectives and insights about the book.”
An art exhibit associated with one of the lectures, “The Newest Americans,” will be open to the public in Lynchburg’s Daura Gallery from October 15 through December 10. The traveling exhibit, by photographer Sam Comen and reporter Michael Estrin, is produced in partnership with The California Museum and traveled by Exhibit Envoy.
“The Newest Americans” tells the stories of immigrants and their hopes for America during the presidency of Donald J. Trump. “We wanted to explore the definition of ‘American’ and who has the right to become one in the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election,” Comen said in a press release about the exhibit.
“We wanted to document the stories of new Americans, to know why they came to this country, and what the American Dream means to them. While their answers varied wildly, to our surprise all of the participants share the believe that American is still the land of opportunity, and the hope that their futures will be brighter as naturalized citizens of this country.”
Daura Gallery Director Dr. Barbara Rothermel added that the exhibit emphasizes “looking vs. seeing” and that “seeing implies understanding.”