Walker Shared Reading Conversation on “Between the World and Me” brings book themes into personal context through unique format

On October 29, the Walker College of Business at Appalachian State University hosted a conversation on it’s shared reading book, “Between the World and Me,” a memoir by Ta-Nehisi Coates. 

Written in the form of a letter from a father to his son, the memoir provides a raw and painfully honest exploration of the experience of being Black in the US. The event was the first in the Walker College’s Inclusive Excellence Shared Reading Initiative, and it brought together approximately 100 students, faculty and staff members at App State for a unique exploration of themes from the book.

Dr. Lamont Sellers, Appalachian State’s director of intercultural student affairs, was joined by Jawoin Williams, coordinator for university housing, Dontrell Parson, director of graduate admissions, and Dr. Alex Howard, assistant vice chancellor for student affairsfor a “fishbowl conversation.” 

The fishbowl format allowed the audience to listen in on an informal and unscripted conversation, and it brought the themes from the memoir into a personal, immediate context. Panelists shared stories of their own parents, their children and their personal histories, with frequent parallels drawn with the book’s themes.


Dr. Lamont Sellers and Jawoin Williams discuss themes from “Between the World and Me.”

This creative approach was proposed by Dr. Sellers. “The diversity of our experiences in these types of conversations are a glimpse into the lived experiences, particularly of black men in this shared reading,” said Dr. Sellers. “I am an educator by nature, and this is just one of the tools to help educate those around us in tangible ways that make our lives REAL for students, not just words on a page.”

For attendees, the opportunity to hear new perspectives and personal experiences with racism was eye-opening.

“I loved the fishbowl execution of the discussion,” said sophomore social work major Emi Velez. “Being able to just sit, hear and soak in what was being said was super valuable. I loved that all of the men speaking were from different backgrounds, held different positions at App, and gave a downright honest approach.” 

One staff attendee shared that they appreciated the openness and honesty of the panelists. “I found the stories they shared enlightening and will influence the way I advise diverse students.”

As a current initiative of the Walker College’s Inclusive Excellence team, this event supports the college’s mission to “deliver transformational educational experiences that prepare and inspire students to be ethical, innovative and engaged business leaders who positively impact our community, both locally and globally.”

“Promoting social good and good citizenship is an important part of our students' education to do business for good,” said Walker College of Business Interim Dean Sandra Vannoy. “We strive to create a culture of respect and inclusion and protect against prejudice. We are thankful for this additional opportunity to discuss race and inclusion.”

Event Recording

Event Photos

Register for the next event

An additional discussion of “Between the World and Me” is planned for Tuesday, April 12 from 4-5:30 pm and is open to participation across campus. Add to Google Calendar

Walker College of Business faculty, staff and student participants receive a free copy of “Between the World and Me,” by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Faculty and staff members who are interested in incentivising student participation should fill out the faculty and staff sign up form. Students interested in participating should complete the student sign up form.

Walker College of Business Shared Reading Initiative

The Walker College of Business Shared Reading Initiative brings students, faculty and staff together to read and discuss a work on social and/or environmental justice. The work selected will highlight ways business can help achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The shared reading book is selected by the office of Global and Civic Engagement, with input from the Inclusive Excellence Liaisons and/or the Sustainability Steering Committee.

Walker College of Business Inclusive Excellence Team

The Inclusive Excellence (IE) team is composed of Walker College of Business faculty, staff and students who advise college administrators on diversity and inclusiveness opportunities and needs within the college. The WCOB IE Team also looks at comparative and aspirational programs to benchmark seeking to make the college a leader at the university in pursuing inclusive excellence.

Intercultural Student Affairs

The Office of Intercultural Student Affairs, a part of the Division of Student Affairs, contributes to the academic mission of Appalachian State University by providing marginalized and underrepresented students with mentoring, advocacy, community affirmation; as well as by offering multiple and varied learning opportunities for all Appalachian students to develop an appreciation for diversity and different perspectives, enhance self-awareness, increase multicultural knowledge and strengthen intercultural competency. Intercultural Student Affairs operates three student-led outreach centers; the LGBT Center , Multicultural Center  and Women's Center .

L-R Moderator: Dr. Lamont Sellers, Panelists: Jawoin Williams, Dontrell Parson & Dr. Alex Howard
Published: Nov 5, 2021 12:00am