Fall 2021 Convocation Essay Prompts

After reading The Story of More, please carefully read the prompts below and select the one that most appeals to you. Produce a response of about 750 words (this word count does not apply to the creative prompt #2) in which you both engage the book and reflect upon your own unique experience and perspective. Your responses, which will be collected, will prepare you for the Convocation discussion. Check out The College Reads! website for more resources!

Students will submit their essay through their OAKS convocation group that will be available on August 19th.  Art projects will be submitted to the Office of New Student Programs (#4 on campus map).

1.  The Actions You Take
Hope Jahren concludes her book with a question: “Do you want to live in a more equitable world with a brighter future? If your answer is ‘Yes,’ then we need to talk about the steps necessary to get there.” Those steps include examining your values, gathering information to get a sense of your consumption patterns, and thinking of ways to align your values with actions you can take. In the first part of your response, discuss three issues raised in The Story of More that you care most deeply about and that are most likely to inspire personal change. Provide examples from Jahren’s book that make clear the scope and scale of the issue at hand, and describe why you feel that it is so important to you and to the world that we share.

As Jahren notes, however, how we live our lives each day does not often align neatly with our values. In the second part of your response, reflect on your own daily habits and commitments. In what ways do your daily activities—from small stuff like water use and shopping habits, to broader social and community-based interests—support or detract from the issues and personal values that you highlighted? Finally, pick one of the issues that you highlighted and describe what you, personally, can do to drive change, and what you think your broader community (your school, your city, your country) might also do.

2.  Creating Change
Hope Jahren writes near the end of her book that “we need everyone, not just scientists, to start thinking about tomorrow.” The dynamic ways in which artists and writers, musicians and dancers, graphic designers and podcast producers respond to these issues have the potential to powerfully shape our response to them. In short, there are so many ways creatively to think through the many issues presented in The Story of More. In the first part of this creative response, please describe one issue raised in The Story of More that resonated most deeply with you. Provide examples from the text that make clear the scope and scale of this issue, and describe why you feel strongly about it. For the second part of your response, engage the issue you selected in a way that moves beyond the traditional essay form.

You might compose a poem, craft a collage, paint a canvas, record a podcast, compose a song, create a digital timeline, or design an infographic: the options are limitless! Just make sure your creation is sharable in either digital or physical form. Please also provide a reflective paragraph describing your goals for the project.

3.  Your Sustainable Story
So many of the global sustainability crises that Jahren discusses relate directly back to us: our communities, our homes, our patterns of energy use and consumption. Though most of us have had only a couple of decades—and not Jahren’s 50 years—to find our way in the world, our lives are full of barriers that limit our ability to live sustainably. But our lives are also marked by gateways that can lead to meaningful action. In the first part of your response, describe the things in your life that make it difficult to live sustainably. This could involve grocery stores packed with processed and packaged food, an economic system that demands growth, or advertisements that feed your desire for more instead of less, among other issues.

In the second part of your response, describe some of the actions that you have taken to push back against those barriers, creating gateways that can lead to meaningful action. These gateways might include an important class that you have taken that relates to sustainability, ways in which you’ve advocated for equity and social justice, personal consumption patterns you’ve altered, or other changes that you have inspired in your home or community. Finally, describe what you might do to help create a more sustainable future in the years ahead as you pursue a major and career, and as you engage on campus and in the broader Charleston community. What role do you hope to play in our shared sustainable future?

Reading Guide and Convocation Questions (pdf)

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