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Clarkson University Common Conversations   2019

Clarkson Common Conversations engage the campus community in the shared intellectual exploration of ideas around a theme or concepts inspired by a common read, traditionally a book. The chosen reading is tied to current issues and the Clarkson curriculum through group discussions. These discussions and the associated Van Sickle Endowed Lecture, with invited guest speakers who reflect on the readings, are held during Convocation/Orientation weekend, the official opening of the academic year.

The Kenneth J. and Irla Van Sickle Endowed Lectureship was established in 1992 through generous bequests from the estates of Kenneth and Irla Van Sickle of Shortsville, N.Y. The Van Sickles shared interests in photography, gardening, nature and stamp collecting. During their long and active lives, the Van Sickles were dedicated to hard work, placing great value on education, particularly higher education.

This year we launch our discussions from The Devil's Highway by Luis Alberto Urrea.



Attend Convocation

Friday, August 30th, 6-7 pm in the IRC 
(Indoor Recreation Center - #11 on campus map)

The Van Sickle Endowed Lecture with Luis Alberto Urrea

All Clarkson students, families, faculty, and staff are welcome to attend.


Meet the Author

Friday, August 30th, 4-5 pm at the University Bookstore
(downtown at 39 Market Street)

Mr. Urrea will be available for book signing


Join the Conversation

Saturday,  August 31st, 3:45-4:45 pm

New Student Orientation Discussion Groups

All first year students will be assigned a session to attend.
Room assignments are listed in the Orientation Schedule.  


Book Summary

In May 2001, a group of twenty-six men attempted to cross the Mexican border into the desert of Southern Arizona, led into the deadly region known as the "Devil's Highway" by 'Coyotes'. Luis Alberto Urrea delivers an investigative report of what happened to these men on this harrowing journey, where only 12 made it safely across. He takes us back to the small towns and unpaved cities south of the border, where the poor fall prey to dreams of a better life and sinister promises of smugglers. We meet the men who will decide to make the crossing, and learn about the circumstances and events that prevent them from reaching their destination. Urrea's story is a well-crafted mix of first-person testimony, geographic history, cultural and economic analysis, and poetry. His story reminds us that immigration is a complicated and pressing moral, socioeconomic, and political issue.