Sophomore molecular biology and biochemistry major Evan Brandenburg has always been an avid reader. From nonfiction to literature to philosophy, Brandenburg said he reads constantly, currently tearing through Victor E. Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning,” Jordan B. Peterson’s “12 Rules for Life” and J.K. Rowling’s “The Order of the Phoenix”—a memoir, a self-help book and a young adult novel, respectively. Brandenburg said the diversity in his reading list is part of what has inspired him to start a literature club at the University of Indianapolis.
“I kind of recognized a need for this literature group on campus,” Brandenburg said. “It’s really more like a book club, but I’ve been calling it a literature group because we’re going to be talking about more than just one specific type of book in general. We’re going to talk about a wide variety of topics like film adaptations, news, new releases or just anything people are up and excited about.”
Brandenburg first recognized this need for a literature group in a class he took last semester. The class, taught by Assistant Professor of English Steve Zimmerly, was an English course focused on analyzing and dissecting young adult literature. Brandenburg noticed that, despite the many different majors scattered throughout the class, all of the students seemed to be passionate about one topic or another. According to Brandenburg, literature brought them together.
“I saw a lot of the students in there [that] really had a passion for reading and discussing what they were reading, and sharing that with others,” Brandenburg said. “I just saw, during that class, how passionate people were about the topics, and to hear their voices light up and the enthusiasm they had when discussing what books they were reading… I just wanted to give people the opportunity to do that on campus. And we don’t really have many clubs or organizations that do anything like that.”
The group initially started out as a young adult literature club, but branched out in an attempt to cover a broader scope of reading materials. The group is a product of both Brandenburg and numerous other collaborating professors, the group intends to be a location where people from different backgrounds and majors can gather and discuss literature in a stress-free, no grades environment. Zimmerly said he sees this as an opportunity to enrich a student’s college experience by making literature a voluntary extracurricular as opposed to a required course.
“If you look into what general education is supposed to do, and the idea of becoming a well-rounded student beyond your major, I think that reading is such a huge part of that. You have to know how to read,” Zimmerly said. “Reading, if you’re an active reader, even beyond your own field, it bolsters so much. You become a better writer, you become a better reader, a better thinker, your vocabulary goes up… if you read about people’s experiences beyond your own, your empathy level deepens. And so from the standpoint of general education on campus, like, slam dunk, right? It’s awesome.”
The literature club is currently in the process of being labeled as an official RSO. Zimmerly says they hope to officially begin operations in the fall of next semester, with the hope of attracting the new, incoming students.
Along with reading and discussing literature, Brandenburg hopes to implement a service element to the group, where members would go and read to young children in Indianapolis.
Brandenburg, who said he is very passionate about literature, noted that it is very easy to begin an RSO on campus for whatever a student might be enthusiastic about. For whatever special interest a person may have, a RSO can only serve to enhance the experience.
“I really want people to know how easy it really is for anybody to start their own [RSO],” Brandenburg said. “If they have something they are passionate about, they should pursue that, because it’s really not hard. And if you can get other students on campus to have an interest in it, then that’s a great opportunity.”