One of the core activities in ALA’s unique curriculum, Seminal Readings, has made its way to Google.
Three ALA alums, Goodman Lepota ‘11, Tom Mbega ‘10 and Alheri Egor-Egbe ‘11, who all work at Google’s EMEA headquarters in Ireland brought Seminal Readings to the workplace. When thinking of ways to engage with and energize colleagues as they work from home and tackle digital fatigue during COVID, Goodman’s mind went straight to Seminal Readings. “One of the most interesting things a student can do is engage with a text to see how it relates to them. I really enjoyed the idea that we could read a seminal text and discuss it as a group,” says Goodman. “The most impactful thing was the idea of having to remember some of the things that were discussed in those sessions, years later,”
The virtual version of the Seminal Readings at Google gathered employees from across the world and was facilitated by Alheri. “Both sessions that we held were open, expressive and interactive. I think a lot of events tend to be talking to people, but the power of Seminal Readings, really, is allowing us to talk with people, which is something we were able to explore and do well,” says Alheri. Through seminal readings, Google colleagues built a language and shared experience to anchor a conversation about social movements sweeping the world in 2020.
The close reading of great texts in small groups empowers the ALA community to critically reflect on and engage with the world around us – a tradition that has been maintained this year both online and in person. While the COVID-19 pandemic has altered our experience of community, traditions like Seminal Readings have been a critical tool in helping our community navigate these uncertain times.
In October, members of the Class of 2020 experienced this activity for the first time virtually. With in-person, socially-distanced classes having resumed in February, first-year students were able to engage with seminal readings in person for the first time. “Seminal readings have been fascinating. I’ve been learning a lot about other people and their experiences and other people’s perspectives. It’s interesting to dissect a text and expand on different ideas – I’ve never done that before,” says first-year student Gabriella Nabitaka ‘20. Gabriella and her class explored the question of When Must a Leader Speak, reading texts from the likes of Nelson Mandela, Plato, Nawal el Saadawi, Bell Hooks, and Kwame Nkrumah.
American students from the second cohort of The School for Ethics and Global Leadership (SEGL) at ALA echoed Gabriella’s sentiments. Ava Hawkins reflects: “Seminal Reading discussions have been an eye-opening experience for me. With such a diverse group of people, it is truly amazing to hear how our life experiences affect our perspective in such dramatic ways. While discussing Bell Hooks’ Understanding Patriarchy we discussed how misogyny and gender roles appear in our own societies, and how prevalent these issues are from country to country. For some, women had no authority when it came to politics and government. Whereas for others women held very important political positions in their home country, so it truly did vary. Oftentimes as individuals, we are limited to our own personal experiences, but Seminal Readings has allowed me to take a step back from my own bubble and open myself up to new experiences, perspectives, and ideologies.”
Seminal Readings is a period in which students and staffulty takes place for one week each term: three weeks per academic year. It forms as one of ALA’s most enriching curricular activities.
Watch the video below to learn more about Seminal Readings at ALA: