Common Reading for New Students is Counting Descent   

August 27, 2019

The first book that new MBU students will read as part of their college experience isn’t part of a course assignment. Counting Descent by Clint Smith is meant to bring them together in a shared experience before they even arrive on campus. 

“It is one more thing that will be used to connect students to each other and to the university,” said Ernest Jeffries, vice president of student engagement. 

Students picked up MBU’s first common reading book at New Student Days over the summer, and they’ll dive into a discussion of the poems with the author during orientation this weekend.

Published in 2016, Counting Descent is Smith’s first full-length collection of poetry that explores themes of race, humanity, and coming of age. It won the 2017 Literary Award for Best Poetry Book from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association and was a finalist for an NAACP Image Award. 

“He is one of the millennial voices that really speaks to issues of social justice and inclusion,” said Jeffries. “I want our students to be exposed to young intellectuals with unique stories that they can relate to. Clint Smith is definitely that person. His poems are simple, but they have a very profound message.”

The Office of Student Engagement plans to make the common reading experience an ongoing part of New Student Orientation, and they hope to partner with Academic Affairs in the future to design a high-impact learning experience based around the annual university theme.

Smith is a writer, teacher, and doctoral candidate in education at Harvard University. Previously having taught high school English in Maryland, he currently teaches writing and literature in the D.C. Central Detention Facility. His two TED Talks together have been viewed more than 6 million times, and his poems and essays have been published in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, and more.