New Student Book Forum

Helen and Philip Brecher New Student Forum

Now in its 30th year, the Helen and Philip Brecher New Student Forum is the first of many experiences that will begin to build your community and a sense of belonging at Brandeis. The forum is the only time your entire class will have a shared academic experience, reading the same book, and bringing you together for a meaningful connection with your peers and members of our outstanding faculty. This special experience is the beginning of creating a unifying connection that will last for years to come.

Each year, the book is thoughtfully and carefully selected by a committee of faculty and students and staff from a diverse range of disciplines and backgrounds and a unified dedication to humanistic studies. The composition of the committee supports strong cross disciplinary connections, and critical inquiry from multiple perspectives.

The highlight of this experience is that the community of scholars comprising your entering class and the Faculty Ambassadors, participates in a discussion together with the author during New Student Orientation. This spirited engagement is an exemplar of Brandeis’ value of open engagement with important ideas, and a commitment to civility when the book is discussed. The kick-off to your academic experience at Brandeis, this book, and the forum experience provide as an introduction to the types of questions you will seek connection around throughout your tenure at Brandeis and beyond.

If you have questions about the New Student Forum, please email  The selection for the Class of 2026 will be announced in Spring 2022.

Student Forum Books 2010 - 2020

"Other Minds:  The Octopus, The Sea, & The Deep Origins of Consciousness" -
Peter Godfrey-Smith

"Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions" - Valeria Luiselli

"Swing Time" - Zadie Smith

"Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk" - Ben Fountain

"Citizen: An American Lyric" - Claudia Rankine

"Oryx and Crake" - Margaret Atwood

"Anil’s Ghost" - Michael Ondaatje

"Housekeeping" – Marilynne Robinson

"The Known World" – Edward P. Jones

"When the Emperor was Divine" - Julie Otsuka

"Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic" - Alison Bechdel

New Student Forum Committee

Elizabeth Ferry, Professor of Anthropology
Committee Co-Chair

Gina Turrigiano, Joseph Levitan Professor of Vision Science
Committee Co-Chair

Josette McWilliams, Office of the Dean of Arts and Sciences
non-voting ex oficio representative

Karen Desmond, Associate Professor of Music 

Matthew Fraleigh, Associate Professor of East Asian Literature and Culture

Albion Lawrence, Professor of Physics

Carina Ray, Associate Professor of African and African American Studies

Lisa Rourke, Assistant Professor of University Writing and Director of First-Year Writing

Student Representative, TBD for 21-22
Dean of Student Affairs, TBD
Dean of Academic Services, TBD