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Common Reading Events

The Common Reading Program is made possible through the generous support of the Shepherd University Foundation. All events are free & open to the public.


Monday, March 20th @ 6:00 PM – Byrd Center for Congressional History & Education Auditorium

Youth & Crime Recidivism – Dr. Erin McNett, of Marymount University, teaches classes on diagnosing mental health disorders to graduate forensic psychology students. She’ll give an introductory presentation on assessing risk for re-offense and violence in offenders who committed their crimes as juveniles. She’ll give examples of cases to stimulate discussion of sentencing that fits with the themes in Just Mercy and criminal justice in general. Free & Open to the Public. Refreshments to Follow.


Monday, April 10th @ 3:10 pm – Erma Ora Byrd Auditorium

“13th” – film screening of the documentary “13th” as part of HIST 352: African-American History Since 1865 (open to other students as well).


Thursday, March 2nd @ 7:00 PM – Byrd Center for Congressional History & Education Auditorium

“Sick Behind Bars: The Ethics of the Incarceration of the Mentally Ill” – Panel Discussion: – panelists include Richard Dieter, former Executive Director of the Death Penalty Information Center; Jim Auxer, Vice President of West Virginia Mental Health and mayor of Shepherdstown; Don Patchell, a clinical psychologist at the Hope Center at the VA Hospital in Martinsburg, WV; and Michael Lorensen, WV 23rd Circuit Judge. Free & Open to the Public. Refreshments to Follow. Co-sponsored by the SU Common Reading Program and the George Washington Institute of Living Ethics.


Friday, Feb. 3rd @ 7:00 pm – Reynolds Hall

“The Thin Blue Line” – film screening in partnership with Shepherdstown Film Society; post-film discussion led by Professor Karen Green of the Shepherd Social Work Department.

Wednesday, Feb. 8 @ 6:30-8:30 PM – Byrd Center for Congressional History and Education Auditorium 

“13th” – film screening –  The title of Ava DuVernay’s extraordinary and galvanizing documentary refers to the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which reads “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States.” The progression from that second qualifying clause to the horrors of mass criminalization and the sprawling American prison industry is laid out by DuVernay with bracing lucidity. With a potent mixture of archival footage and testimony from a dazzling array of activists, politicians, historians, and formerly incarcerated women and men, DuVernay creates a work of grand historical synthesis. Co-sponsored by the Robert C. Byrd Center, the Shepherd University Lifelong Learning Program, and the Common Reading.


Friday, November 4th @ 7:30 pM – Reynolds Hall

The Rude Mechanicals present: OTHELLO w/ special common reading-themed post-play discussion w/ cast

Saturday, November 5th @ 2:00 PM – Reynolds Hall

The Rude Mechanicals present: OTHELLO w/ special common reading-themed post-play discussion w/ cast

Monday, November 7th @ 7:30 PM – Erma Ora Byrd (EOB) Auditorium

Bryan Stevenson – live webcast of his talk at WVU

“Just Mercy” author, Bryan Stevenson, will speak at West Virginia University and we will live stream the event, allowing us to watch his talk from Shepherd’s EOB Auditorium. WVU is also using “Just Mercy” as their 2016 Campus Read. Free & Open to the Public.

Wednesday, November 16th @ 6:30 PM – Byrd Center for Congressional History and Education Auditorium

The Return – film screening & discussion – Co-Sponsored by the Robert C. Byrd Center for Congressional History & Education, Shepherd’s Lifelong Learning Program, and the Common Reading Program. Refreshments to follow. Free & Open to the Public.


Thursday, October 6, 2016 @ 6:00 pM – Frank Center Auditorium

ANTHONY RAY HINTON: Featured Guest Speaker

Anthony Ray Hinton was exonerated in April 2015 after serving 30 years on Alabama’s death row for a crime he did not commit. Hinton will share his experiences on death row and in solitary confinement; more about the work that Bryan Stevenson and the Equal Justice Initiative did to help free him; and the role of race in the American prison and justice system.

Monday, October 10th @ 7:00 PM – Byrd Center For Congressional History And Education Auditorium

Dialogue on Race Relations: “Challenges & Initiatives” – Panel Discussion with community leaders and citizens from public, private, and non-profit sectors from the Tri-State Region. Bringing together stakeholders for a community-regional dialogue to 1) discuss challenges which inhibit constructive race relations and offer solutions 2) share community-based initiatives on possible pathways to enhance race relations among diverse groups in the region.

Participants include: Sheriff Pete Dougherty, Jefferson Co, WV; Naim Muhammed, SU student leader; Dr. Chiquita Howard Bostic, SU Professor of Sociology; Frances Morgan, former Jefferson Co Commissioner; Jimmy Salinas, Hispanic community leader; Joseph Deck, Ex. Director of the Institute of Radical Reconciliation, Washington, DC

Refreshments provided. Sponsored by Ezekiels’ Place, Rotary Club, Jefferson Co School System, NAACP, Shepherdstown Ministerial Association, Hagerstown Area Religious Council, & the Winchester/VA Inter-Faith Council. Please confirm your participation by Oct. 3rd to Dr. Richard Anson:


Thursday, September 8th – Library Breakfast on the Porch – 9:00 – 11:00 aM

Celebrate the 10 Year Anniversary of the Shepherd Common Reading Program during the Library’s annual Breakfast on the Porch event. Enjoy free, delicious breakfast on the front porch of the Scarborough Library while learning more about library services and the Common Reading. Sponsored by the Scarborough Library 

Tuesday, September 13th @ 7:30 pM – Robert C. Byrd Center Auditorium –  Shepherd Student Panel Discussion:

Black Voices on Campus: Common Issues and Divergent Perspectives  – Join us for an honest discussion focusing on the experiences and perspectives from students and staff about what it is like to be black on campus.  Co-sponsored by Student Activities & Leadership, Common Reading, Black Student Union, and Multicultural Student Affairs

Wednesday, September 14th @ 12:30 pM – Byrd Center for Congressional History and Education Auditorium

A White Historian Reads Black History –  (A Shepherd University Lifelong Learning Program event)

As a 15-year-old during the Civil Rights Movement, Susan Strasser picketed Woolworth’s in her hometown in support of the sit-ins at lunch counters in the South, and stood on the National Mall to hear Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. describe a dream that was hers, too. Today, in response to the murders at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC, and to #BlackLivesMatter, Strasser seeks to use her skills as a prize-winning historian to address issues of contemporary racism.

Thursday, September 15th @ 10-11am & 12-4pm – Robert C. Byrd Center

Talking About Race & Policing Through Community DialogueConstructive Conversations about Critical Issues

A Sites of Conscience facilitated workshop. Attend a public session from 10:00 – 11:00 am in the Byrd Center auditorium to learn more about the work of the non-profit organization, Sites of Conscience. Dig deeper into issues of race, policing, and the criminal justice system during an immersive, facilitated workshop from 12:00 – 4:00 pm. Registration is required for the workshop and lunch.  To register for this afternoon seminar, simply fill out the form here:  Sponsored by The Shepherd University Common Reading Program with support from the SU Foundation; Ezekiel’s Place; The Student Center; & Robert C. Byrd Center for Congressional History & Education

Tuesday, September 20th @ 7:00 PM – Byrd Center for Congressional History and Education Auditorium

Tom E. Moses Memorial Constitution Day Lecture featuring: Elizabeth Hinton, author of From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime: The Making of Mass Incarceration in America        Open to the Public & Free of Charge, but you must RSVP by calling (304) 876-5648 to confirm your ticket.  Hosted by the Robert C. Byrd Center for Congressional History & Education with support from the Shepherd University Common Reading Program & Four Seasons Bookstore. For more information visit: