‘Mountains Beyond Mountains’ Author Visits UT Knoxville to Talk to Freshmen

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KNOXVILLE — Tracy Kidder, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of this year’s Life of the Mind book, “Mountains Beyond Mountains,” will visit the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, on Thursday for a lecture and book-signing.

The event is open only to university freshmen and will take place at 7 p.m. in the Alumni Memorial Building’s Cox Auditorium.

However, for non-freshmen interested in seeing the lecture, it can be viewed live via webcast.

Now in its seventh year, Life of the Mind encourages all first-year students to read a common book during the summer, submit a creative response to the book and participate in discussion groups led by faculty and staff during their first week on campus. The goal is to provide a common experience for freshmen that will help them bond, grow academically and ultimately improve their chances for success in college.

Listed on The New York Times’ 2003 Notable Books list, “Mountains Beyond Mountains” is the story of physician and anthropologist Dr. Paul Farmer as he works to relieve the suffering of some of the poorest people on earth while revolutionizing international health. In keeping with Life of the Mind’s goal to foster international and intercultural awareness, the book’s themes include health, poverty, science, religion and more.

The title, drawn from a Haitian proverb, expresses a common Haitian understanding that opportunities are inexhaustible and that when one great obstacle is surmounted, the next great one comes into clearer view.

“What’s so great about ‘Mountains Beyond Mountains’ is that it focuses heavily on one person’s quest to help those suffering in places we hardly ever think about,” said Drew Webb, student engagement coordinator in the provost’s office. “It almost makes the reader uncomfortable as they begin to recognize what kind of issues they’ve been ignoring. We were really interested to see how our students reacted to the book and what kind of conversations resulted from those reactions.”

This year, Life of the Mind tried some new things.

In the past, students were asked to submit essays about the Life of the Mind book. This year, students could submit any type of creative response – up to three pages, three minutes or three megabytes. Students submitted paintings, drawings, essays, poetry, pottery, multimedia presentations and more.

Life of the Mind discussion leaders and committee members reviewed all of the creative responses and chose the top 25. Starting today, for just a few days, the campus community can view those top projects and vote on their favorites at http://torch.utk.edu/lifeofthemind/projects/.

The public vote will be used by Life of the Mind program administrators to choose the top 10 projects and designate the overall winner. The top 10 finalists will join Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek and Kidder for a special breakfast celebration on Friday. In addition, the winner will receive an iPad, four runners-up will receive iPods, and five runners-up will receive bookstore gift certificates.

Also, this past weekend, which was the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, 15 freshmen went on a Life of the Mind trip to St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes, just outside New Orleans, to assist Remote Area Medical (RAM) with a medical clinic. All freshmen were invited to apply for the trip by writing a short explanation of why they wanted to go.

The students worked from 5:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and half a day on Sunday at the RAM clinic. “They directed traffic, registered patients, and assisted with vision testing and dental work, among other duties.”

“Our students had heard of the effects of Hurricane Katrina and the Gulf oil spill,” said Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor Susan Martin who accompanied the students to New Orleans. “This trip helped them understand what those catastrophes meant to the people who live and work in the Gulf region and gave them an opportunity to help.”

The experiences also showed students that everyone has the ability to effect change in the world, Martin said.

For more information on Life of the Mind, visit http://torch.utk.edu/lifeofthemind/.

C O N T A C T :

Abbey Taylor (865-974-9409, ataylo30@utk.edu)

Drew Webb (865-974-2704, cwebb13@utk.edu)

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