"No Impact" Makes an Impact - Spring 2014 Ivy Leaf Magazine

Ivy Leaf - Spring 2014

"No Impact" Makes an Impact

No Impact Man Book Cover

It was a first go at a new campus-wide initiative that turned out so well, there are plans to do it again at the start of the next academic year. “Common Read, Uncommon Experiences,” rolled out in fall 2013. Based on similar programs at colleges and universities across the country, Penn State Altoona chose to offer Common Read as a way to get the campus community interacting with each other over a shared reading experience. The book, No Impact Man by Colin Beavan, was chosen by a committee of several Penn State Altoona faculty and could be picked up via voucher by students, staff, and faculty.

“We chose this year’s book the way I believe we will choose all of the Common Read books,” says Laura Rotunno, committee member and associate professor of English. “We wanted a book that would get people thinking and talking. We wanted something with ideas that could shake up how people think about their world, their responsibilities within it, and their abilities to shape it—like all good writing should.”

No Impact Man, a true story of one man’s attempt to live an entire year without leaving a carbon-footprint, is a book that reaches across all academic curriculums and interests. Along with fostering relationships between student and professor, the project is a way to showcase the diversity of the faculty and their willingness to work with each other and do a little bit of extra work for the good of the college. Rotunno believes that’s just one thing that sets Altoona apart from other colleges.

Events and activities centered on the book took place throughout the fall semester, including lectures, discussions, a viewing of the documentary based on the book, and a campus-wide Less-Impact Fair. Many professors incorporated the book and its ideas into their teaching curriculum and, outside of the classroom, were able to share their passions for green activities and green living. “The idea is to make sure the community is aware of what the Common Read is and get them talking about it, even debating ideas and thoughts set forth in the writing,” states Rotunno. “We would much rather spur a diversity of reaction so that real conversations can ensue.”

Student Tori Miller believes Common Read is a worthwhile program and enjoyed the learning experience it afforded. Miller was also organizer of the No-Impact Fair. “It was my favorite part of the Common Read experience. I was impressed by the quality of each table on display and by the number of those in attendance.” As part of the fair, students gathered signatures on a petition in favor of reusable containers replacing disposables in Port-Sky Café. The academic administration hopes Common Read grows and becomes a successful staple of Penn State Altoona’s curriculum, believing it will help distinguish the college and the students who begin their academic careers here.