Cal Poly Pomona’s largest book club has chosen its pick for the 2021-22 academic year: Jamil Zaki’s “The War for Kindness: Building Empathy in a Fractured World.”
The Cal Poly Pomona First Year Experience Committee selected the book for the Common Read, a community initiative that encourages all CPP students, staff, faculty and friends to read and engage with the same book. The Common Read is also a component of the university’s First Year Experience (FYE) courses.
Zaki, a professor of psychology at Stanford University and the director of the Stanford Social Neuroscience Laboratory, writes about empathy with a scientific edge. Backing up real-world stories with the latest research trends, some of which comes from his lab, Zaki argues that “empathy is not a fixed trait – something we’re born with or not – but rather a skill that can be strengthened through effort.”
Assistant Professor Jessica O. Perez, an FYE committee member and the College of Engineering’s FYE coordinator, nominated the book. In FYE courses, first-year students learn more about student life and opportunities for their major. Perez and other faculty teach EGR 1000 students from across the college about the discipline, fundamental engineering topics, and the skills they’ll need to succeed in their careers. One of those skills is teamwork, and Perez thought that the book could help all of CPP’s FYE students understand how empathy is integral to working in groups – both in the classroom and on the job.
“In order to build a good group dynamic and work towards a goal, you have to be able to understand different perspectives,” Perez said. “In engineering and all of the other majors we offer at CPP, the future of the field can’t move forward and grow if you don’t have multiple perspectives.”
In addition to their coursework around “The War for Kindness,” FYE students will have the opportunity to engage with their peers through an essay contest and the annual Learn Through Discovery FYE Challenge. Information about these opportunities, which are open to all CPP community members, will be available on the FYE website.
Established in 2007, FYE’s community grows every year with new students, faculty and staff engaging with the Common Read and its programming. The Common Read is organized by the Office of Student Success and the First Year Experience Committee, comprised of faculty and staff across colleges and divisions.