DANIEL SMITH/THE HOYA Author Dinaw Mengestu speaks at New Student Orientation’s Marino Workshop on Monday, for which one of his novels, “All Our Names,” was required reading for all incoming freshmen for the second time in four years.
Author Dinaw Mengestu speaks at New Student Orientation’s Marino Workshop on Monday, for which one of his novels, “All Our Names,” was required reading for all incoming freshmen for the second time in four years.

This year’s nautical-themed New Student Orientation, “Anchors Aweigh,” led by about 180 orientation advisors, began Aug. 23, featuring the new “I Am Ready,” a class-wide discussion about sexual assault on campus.

The Sexual Assault Peer Educators and various members of the administration helped develop the “I Am Ready” program, which organized the freshman class, composed of approximately 1,700 students, into small groups of 15 to 25 for discussion.

Bethan Saunders (SFS ’17) facilitated discussion for one of the many groups after extensive training and education in regard to the subject.

“‘I Am Ready’ is really about facilitating discussion on campus about sexual assault and about how we can create, as a community, a culture of caring and consent, education on bystander behavior, and education about access to resources that we have on campus,” Saunders said.

Matt Beshke (COL ’18), said the discussion was a surprise, but turned into a positive learning experience.

“I wasn’t expecting it,” Beshke said. “Going into NSO, I wasn’t expecting it to be that heavy of an element, but I’m glad that it was something that they addressed, because it was recognized as a problem on college campuses.”

The discussion groups helped introduce students to potentially new concepts and ideas that are necessary to create an aware, educated and thoughtful group of new students, Saunders said.

“We really want to get across the idea that this is something that we talk about here at Georgetown, and sexual assault is completely unacceptable,” she said. “We wanted to make sure that people who may have never talked about this before understand the Georgetown policy, understand the repercussions of this type of action and understand what they can do to create a culture that’s safe.”

Beshke said he enjoyed the discussion, and that it allowed a variety of students with different levels of knowledge of sexual assault to interact well.

“The two leaders did a great job of talking about ways we can seek help and also bring to light issues that weren’t on the forefront of my mind,” Beshke said. “The kids in the room were receptive to what was being talked about and, as a whole, we were able to have a conductive conversation and a good dialogue between people who knew about sexual assault and those who were trying to learn more.”

One of NSO’s flagship events is the Marino Family International Writers’ Workshop. Funded by Frederick Marino (SLL ’68), this program requires all incoming students to read an international text chosen by a board of Georgetown teachers and staff members and write a short reflection on what they have read. During NSO, the students discuss the book with their peers and get a chance to listen to the author speak.

According to Coordinator of Communications, Outreach and Programming for Main Campus libraries Jennifer Ann Smith, the workshop gives new students a preview of their future academic environment.

“The Marino Workshop is the introduction to the ‘life of the mind’ at Georgetown,” Smith said. “It is intended to give new students a low-pressure opportunity to critically engage with the material and discuss a piece of literature with their peers, with the added opportunity to hear directly from the author about the book.” This year, the Marino Workshop committee, composed of staff members and teachers, chose Dinaw Mengestu’s (COL ’00) novel ‘All Our Names.’ This is the second time Mengestu, who is also the Lannan Foundation Chair of Poetics in the English department, has been chosen for the workshop, which according to Smith, is a coincidence.

“Dinaw’s book had received glowing reviews and a member of our committee suggested it, and that’s how we ended up selecting him this year,” Smith said. “He was also the featured author three years ago, but that didn’t really factor into our decision, since none of the students this year would have been involved in that workshop.”

Beshke said that the international requirements for the book helped introduce new students to Georgetown’s culture.

“I think that’s a good thing to have as the incoming book because Georgetown is a really international community. It’s a good touching ground point for NSO, because so many kids here are interested in different cultures,” he said.

Mengestu spoke to the students, and according to Beshke, his speech brought a new dimension to “All Our Names.”

“It was cool to be able to hear from him in person and hear his perspective on why he wrote the book and how his life connected with the topics that were discussed in the book,” Beshke said. “It brought the book to life a little more because the book wasn’t as relatable as I would have liked.”

After hearing him speak, students discussed Mengestu’s book in small 10- to 20-person discussion groups led by faculty and a few students. The discussions were conducted seminar-style and topics will vary depending on the group.

New students at the School of Foreign Service campus in Doha, Qatar, participated in the workshop.

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