Dear Students of the Class of 2012:
Let me add my voice to the many in welcoming you to Penn! My colleagues and I have spent several months planning your New Student Orientation activities, and we certainly hope you’ll enjoy this exciting time.
One of your first academic activities is the Penn Reading Project (PRP to all of us here). It brings together the entire freshman class with members of Penn’s faculty to discuss a book. This year, that book is Neil Shubin’s Your Inner Fish. On Sunday, August 31, you will attend a presentation by Professor Shubin and some distinguished Penn experts. On this same day, you will take part in a small group discussion with other students in your College House, led by a member of the Penn faculty. PRP is an opportunity to meet a professor outside of the classroom setting, as well as a chance to share an intellectual experience with other members of your College House community.
The path leading to Your Inner Fish, which was published in 2008, begins two years earlier, when Shubin, a renowned paleontologist and anatomy professor, discovered “Tiktaalik,” a prehistoric crocodile-like animal that may represent a missing link in the tree of life. In Your Inner Fish, Shubin continues his exploration of evolution as he investigates fundamental questions of origins, development, and human existence. The book is both fact-filled and accessible to the non-scientist. It is also a kind of diary of Shubin’s research, and a celebration of the pleasures and excitement that surround academic pursuits. Oliver Sacks said of Your Inner Fish that it is “…an intelligent, exhilarating, and compelling scientific adventure story, one which will change forever how you understand what it means to be human.” Specifically for this project, Professor Shubin has provided us with some questions for you to consider as you read, which you can find here.
The choice of this year’s PRP book also reflects Penn’s commitment to the Year of Evolution, a commemoration of Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday that examines the concept of change across many disciplines. Following the Penn Reading Project, we will continue to offer themed programming on the subject of evolution and related issues throughout the year. For more on the Year of Evolution, see: www.yearofevolution.org.
As you enjoy these last weeks of summer, I hope you’ll read and enjoy Your Inner Fish. It’s provocative and intriguing – as well as a good introduction to the intellectual world you are about to enter! On the back of this letter, you’ll find some questions – provided by Professor Shubin specifically for this project – to consider as you read.
Please also take the opportunity to learn more about Penn’s New Student Orientation, where you can also find links to our online conversation groups.
Director Penn Reading Project and New Student Orientation
University of Pennsylvania