Dear New Student:
WELCOME Class of 2014! The New
Student Reader Committee is excited to present, with our
compliments, A Hope in the Unseen: An American
Odyssey from the Inner City to the Ivy League, by
Ron Suskind. The committee selected this book because
of its high relevancy to the life stage of new college
students. It is the inspiring true story of Cedric
Jennings, a student at Ballou High School; one of
Washington D.C.’s most challenged institutions. The
curriculum is fraught by a tumultuous atmosphere of
disruption and crime. Here, students rarely achieve
academic success and do not graduate. Passionately
destined for success, Cedric Jennings armed himself with
an intellect and willpower that would conquer his
adversaries and afford him the privilege of an Ivy
The New Student Reader Program is
designed to provide a common reading experience for
incoming students to enhance their participation in the
intellectual facet of campus life by stimulating
discussions and critical thinking relating to a current
topic. The program conveys a sense of community between
students, faculty and staff.
So that you can engage in group
discussions with faculty and staff, you are expected to
read this book before arriving at the University campus
in the fall. We are very fortunate that Cedric Jennings,
the subject of the book, has agreed to be the
Convocation speaker. In addition, Mr. Jennings will do
a book signing the day of Convocation; a great memento
of your first collegiate academic experience. Group
discussions will be facilitated by a University faculty
or staff member immediately following Convocation.
The first step is to read the
book! To jump-start that initiative, we have provided
discussion questions. After July 9, 2010, you may visit
myclasses.salisbury.edu, where you will
find a syllabus for the program, the name of your
facilitator, location of your discussion group and other
pertinent information regarding the program.
How would you
describe Cedric Jennings? What is his background, and
what does he hope to achieve? What kind of impression of
Cedric do you have from the early part of the book?
What is Cedric’s high school like? What are the
attitudes of most of his classmates toward school?
Compare Cedric’s school with the high school that you
attended. What might explain the differences and/or
mother, Barbara, made the choice to quit her job and go
on welfare in order to give her full attention to
raising her son. What do you think of this decision? Do
you think that it had anything to do with Cedric’s
What is the
relationship between Cedric and his father? Although he
is largely an absent parent, does his father have a
significant influence on him? Does he give anything
positive to Cedric?
What is the
role of the church in Barbara’s life? In Cedric’s? Would
you agree that faith was essential to Cedric’s success?
How does the author (Suskind) view the church and its
Cedric’s experience at the MIT summer program? How is he
different from most of the other students? Why does
Prof. Trilling tell him at the end of the summer that he
will not get into MIT? What is Cedric’s reaction? Is it
What do you
make of Cedric’s graduation speech? Was it appropriate?
Cedric has a stressful first year. What are some of his
notable struggles as a first-year student? Which of
these might be attributable to his background, and which
might be more universal problems shared by first-year
What kinds of
relationships does Cedric build with his classmates? Why
does he feel isolated from them, even those who are
friendly toward him? In particular, Zayd reaches out to
Cedric, but Cedric hesitates to trust him. Is his lack
of trust well founded? Why?
Why do Cedric
and Rob have such difficulty getting along?
What kinds of
experiences does Cedric have in his classes? How do the
academic challenges and successes of his first year
affect his view of himself and his experience at Brown?
Cedric’s anger both motivate him and mitigate his
success? Do you see a change in Cedric and his world
view over the course of the book?
As he makes it
clear, the author, Ron Suskind, is a white,
well-educated, successful journalist writing about the
experiences of a poor African-American boy and his
community. Does this limit the effectiveness of his
ability to tell Cedric’s story and the story of his
the book optimistic or not? Does Cedric’s success offer
“hope in the unseen” for other economically
disadvantaged students, or does it indict the education
system for failing so many in his community?
Essay Contest Guidelines
incoming students to Salisbury University! Here’s your
chance to win a $300 gift certificate to the Salisbury
University Bookstore. You can use the gift certificate
for anything the Bookstore sells, including all those
textbooks you’ll have to buy. All you have to do is
submit the winning reflection essay related to the New
Hope in the Unseen: An American Odyssey from the Inner
City to the Ivy League.
for the essay contest must be mailed to the address
below and postmarked no later than August 6, 2010.
Guerrieri University Center, Attention: Lawanda Dockins-Gordy,
1101 Camden Avenue
Salisbury, Maryland 21801
include a cover letter with contact information. In
addition to your cover letter, you should attach a cover
page to your essay. The cover page should include your
name, the title of the essay, the date of submission,
your e-mail address and your cell phone number (if you
have one). Be sure to create your own title for the
essay; using the book’s title is not acceptable.
be 750 words and demonstrate your own serious reflection
of the book. You may choose one of the discussion
questions included with the book; if you want to narrow
the scope of your essay so that you write about one part
of a question, that’s fine.
will be judged on its effectiveness as an argument, its
creativity and originality, and its overall
readability. It should be focused, well reasoned and
written clearly, with correct grammar and spelling. If
you quote or paraphrase passages from the book, you
should include a parenthetical citation (following MLA
style). Lastly, the essay should be typed,
double-spaced, stapled and submitted by the deadline to
the address above. Please note that the winning essay
will be published on Salisbury University’s Web site;
therefore, in the first few days of the semester, the
winner of the essay contest must meet with a
representative of the University to discuss any
Discussion Room List
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Building, and Room Number.
Academic Open House Locations
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