It’s been rumored that a book could never hurt a man, but could it change a man’s future? For James Chisholm, one such book did. While in high school his mother introduced him to the book A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking.
With already an infatuation of space, the newest addition to his bookshelf ignited an interest in physics for Chisholm that has led him through his doctorate degree and now tenure at Southern Utah University.
With 13 professors receiving tenure at the University this year, the Gerald R. Sherratt Library decide to put on display, Titles for Tenured T-Birds, the books that changed the professors’ lives, questioned their beliefs and evoked learning in their students, Chisholm’s books was one of them.
In his seventh year at SUU, Chisholm, associate professor of physics, says of the popular science book, “This book truly spurred my career in physics and I think it can do the same for students. If you are interested in scientific topics, Hawking’s book can feed that curiosity.”
The Titles for Tenured T-Birds display also invited recently tenured John Taylor, associate professor of biology, who chose to put on display A Short Stay in Hell by Steven L. Peck.
Initially reading the book because its author was a professor of Taylor’s during his doctorate program, but he ultimately chose the book for the Library’s display because of its “combining commonly held beliefs and tweaking them in a horrific way to make you rethink what you truly believe.”
The book dictates a religious man, who was sure he would make it to Heaven, but after dying is forced to hell. Taylor says of the short novella, “This book takes your somewhat naïve view of the eternities and will question you on what you believe. Every student should have an experience where they critically think about their beliefs, religious or not.”
Helping students realize why they believe or view the world in a certain way was a common theme and Grant Corser, associate professor of psychology, did it with the book Birth and Death of Meaning by Earnest Becker, an interdisciplinary book that explains why people act the way they do.
He says of the books impact, “It really helped me understand how much of our life is determined by the meaning we assign to things, and how important meaning is in our functioning in society and intra-personally.”
Corser went on to say that all students, no matter their discipline, should read the book to help them realize why they view the world the way they do.
Taking a more literal educational standpoint on his chosen book is Thomas Herb, associate professor of music education, who chose Teaching Music Through Performance in Band, an instructional book that greatly influenced Herb while a high school band director.
Now teaching at SUU for the past five years, he was given the great opportunity to submit a piece of instruction for the musical textbook with his analysis of Café 512. In the next edition he will be submitting two more analyses of music pieces.
“I just hope that there is a high school band director, like I was, who finds help in the pieces I have submitted, that is my goal,” says Herb of the book he submitted for the display.
Hoping to influence even more students, Wynne Summers, associate professor of English, chose Carnet de Voyage by Craig Thompson with hopes to help her creative nonfiction students navigate and explore their way through lyric narratives and interpretive media.
She says of the top-notch travel journal, “I think that any book that allows students to explore various modes of creativity and imagination are beneficial. Technology, while advantageous and necessary, can tend to inhibit the ways students express this creativity and push their imaginations beyond borders. That experience, in itself, is freeing.”
The inaugural Titles for Tenured T-Bird display has concluded and administrators with the Gerald R. Sherratt Library hope to continue this exhibit in coming years. All books selected by the most recently tenured professors can be checked out at the Library with a plaque of the professors names has been placed inside.