By Katie Weitkamp/Managing editor

While First-Year Programs have required incoming freshmen to read a novel before coming to Eastern for the past four years, they are doing something a little different this year.The book students will read is Silas House’s “Clay’s Quilt,” a book picked before the committee knew House would join Eastern’s community as an English professor.

“We’re really excited about this year’s program,” said Kevin Rahimzadeh, First-Year Book Committee chair.

Rahimzadeh said about 10 percent of students have already read the book and the goal is to get more students to read it before coming to Eastern.

It was picked because it is a coming-of-age tale with setting many students will be familiar- Appalachia. Also, House is a graduate of Eastern. Rahimzadeh said this fact might help prove to students the validity of Eastern’s education.

Carrie Wallace, associate dean of students in First-Year Programs, said the book is already generating a buzz among future students.

“We’ve had two orientation days so far,” Wallace said. “You see a lot of people nod their heads when we mention it.”

Wallace said the recent press around House’s hiring has helped the community become aware of his work.

Rahimzadeh said incoming freshmen will speak about the book in group discussions during orientation week. Right now there are about 60 faculty, staff and students who will lead these discussions, a big change from the six-10 discussion leaders in past years.

“One of our big goals is to create lots of discussion,” Rahimzadeh said.

He said the smaller groups would facilitate in the quality of the discussions.

Also, those who are leading the discussions will have a lunch with House one day prior to meeting with incoming freshmen.

“I think it’ll really get them fired up,” Rahimzadeh said. “They’ll go in excited and wanting to discuss the book.”

Also, the week of Sept. 15 several more activities are planned. House will speak on campus about the book, there will be lectures and student panels and a musical act, Zoe Speaks, one of House’s favorite bands, will play. All activities will center around the Appalachian theme. Also, House will speak and hold a reception at the Corbin campus.

“In the past (extended campuses) have been bussed up here and we have not had that many come (to Richmond),” Rahimzadeh said.

Rahimzadeh hopes the book will help create a community among students, faculty, staff and Richmond. He said the discussions will help students feel comfortable with each other and with the faculty and staff.

Wallace said he hopes the assignment will be an introduction to the college experience.

“They’ll realize they can’t just blow it off,” Wallace said. “They’ll also learn what the expectations of them are.”

Rahimzadeh said the First-Year Book Committee expanded on the book this year because they wanted to try something new.

“Like most universities, and I don’t think there are many with a reading requirement, we didn’t really know what to do with it,” he said. “After we met in October to discuss the book, we just kept going.”

With the addition of House to faculty, Rahimzadeh said he expects a positive experience for students, faculty, staff and the community.

Rahimzadeh is still looking for students and alumni who would like to help with the group discussions on “Clay’s Quilt.” For more information e-mail him at

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