University of South Carolina

Freshmen to go into the wild for First-Year Reading


This morning, the First-Year Reading Experience will whisk incoming freshmen to the Alaskan wilderness as they follow the wanderlust of a young drifter whose 1992 death inspired a national bestseller, Into the Wild.

Discussion of the non-fiction account, written by mountain climber and explorer Jon Krakauer, will include an introductory speech by Patrick Hickey, a USC nursing professor who has climbed the world’s seven summits.

“The main character in Krakauer’s book had admirable goals: to survive in the wilderness, to find his potential. But he didn’t have balance in his life, and he wasn’t prepared,” Hickey said. “Preparation is paramount to survival. If I hadn’t done my homework or had the proper gear on my mountain climbing expeditions, I wouldn’t have made it. You can set yourself up to fail or to succeed.”

May graduate Anna Walton also will speak at the First-Year Reading Experience event. Walton, who received degrees in biology and Spanish, was awarded the University's student Social Justice Award this past spring. She served as president of Amigos Buen Samaritano, a student organization that assists the West Columbia Good Samaritan clinic in coordinating volunteers and providing assistance with computers and raising funds. She was nominated for her commitment to improving the quality and access to public health within the Hispanic community.

Into the Wild follows Chris McCandless, an honors graduate of Emory University, who decided to walk away from his upper-middle class roots to adopt a vagabond lifestyle. In the process, he gave away or abandoned his possessions and made his way to Alaska, hoping to emulate Henry David Thoreau’s Walden Pond experience of solitude.

But with few provisions or planning, McCandless’ adventure on the Stampede Trail near the Denali National Park became a doomed fight for survival. He starved to death and was found by hunters four months after he entered the Alaskan wilderness. His diary offered rich fodder for Krakauer’s subsequent book, which retraces McCandless’ path across the country.

USC started the First-Year Reading Experience in 1994 to provide incoming freshmen with a common academic experience—a book to read during the summer followed by a first-year class gathering and discussion groups before fall classes begin.

Posted: 02/12/10 @ 12:00 AM | Updated: 08/09/11 @ 9:16 AM | Permalink