Every incoming Colgate class participates in the tradition of a shared summer reading.

The 2024 reading selection will be announced soon, and details for the class of 2028 summer assignment will be released in the summer of 2024.


2023 Summer Reading Selection

How to Stand Up to a Dictator book cover

How to Stand up to a Dictator
Maria Ressa

From the recipient of the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize, How to Stand up to a Dictator is a passionate defense of truth and critical inquiry in an age of disinformation and democratic backsliding.

The Summer Reading Selection Committee composed of faculty, staff, and student representatives from all four Residential Commons stewarded the selection of the text.

Accessing Your Copy

You will automatically receive an email from Vitalsource with an access code to redeem your digital copy. Follow the instructions in the email to access your digital copy. You may also follow these instructions:

  1. Sign in to Bookshelf Online (https://bookshelf.vitalsource.com) using your email address and password. If you do not have a Bookshelf account, click Create a VitalSource account and follow the prompts to create a Bookshelf account.
  2. Once you are logged into Bookshelf, click Redeem Codes at the bottom right of the page.
  3. Copy and paste the redemption code you received in your email and click Redeem.
  4. Your Bookshelf library will update with your new book. Updating your library may take a few minutes.
    Note: You can manually update your app by clicking the following  icon and selecting Update Library
  5. Tap on the book cover to read it.

Summer Assignment

Due: August 7
Submit your assignment

For the first exercise, you will complete a brief reflection based on the following prompt:

Imagine it is mid-May 2027, i.e., the week of your Colgate graduation. In no more than one double-spaced page, please write a brief letter that details what made your time at Colgate your ideal college experience. Consider describing the growth you made academically, personally, co-curricularly, and in preparation toward your professional ambitions. What impact did you have on this community? What trait or experience do you recall about yourself when you arrived at Colgate that set you up for these achievements?

Note: It’s okay if you are not sure where your path is leading you yet. Do your best to consider what skills and characteristics will contribute to your success and sense of accomplishment. 

Your response will be shared with your FSEM instructor, your administrative dean, and your LLW facilitator. As part of the LLW, you will also have an opportunity to revisit your response in an exercise devoted to “Self-Reflection and Decision Making.” This is an excellent way to introduce yourself to some of the key mentors in your first-year experience, so please be thoughtful in your response and ensure that this is some of your best writing.

The second part of your assignment is to read How to Stand Up to a Dictator by 2021 Nobel Peace Prize Winner Maria Ressa and then prepare a written response (750-1000 words) to ONE of the two prompts below.

  1. According to Ressa, democracy depends on access to healthy information ecosystems and responsible habits of information dissemination. Without a shared reality and general agreement about the facts, democratic decision-making quickly breaks down. How would you describe your own information-seeking and information-sharing habits and what kinds of online sources do you engage to inform your view of the world and guide your decision-making? Do you feel manipulated by these information sources, and, if so, in what ways? After reading Ressa’s book, what do you think are the most important practices and techniques for engaging responsibly online and navigating the information ecosystem there? What actions and habits of mind can we cultivate to push back against those who want to use social media for the purposes of sowing political discord and social fragmentation?
  2. Ressa entered Princeton on the “pre-med” track, and she completed the requirements of that track within her first two years of study. What happens to Ressa during her time at Princeton that nudges her away from medicine and into the world of journalism, and how does her undergraduate experience inform her career as a journalist? In particular, how do you think her liberal arts education prepared her to “Stand Up to a Dictator,” even though the risks of doing so are significant? What elements of her education has she relied on to propel her investigative work and activism? What connections can you trace between her educational background and her professional work in defense of journalistic ethics? 

    This response will be shared with your FSEM instructor, your administrative dean, and your LLW facilitator. You should also keep a copy of the assignment, as you may wish to refer back to it during the academic year.

About the Summer Reading Program

This is the first opportunity for new students to engage with the practice of the liberal arts — students engaging in dialogue with faculty and staff members on questions that transcend disciplinary interests and that require independent analysis. Through these conversations, which incorporate multiple perspectives, students synthesize a coherent understanding of human experience. The shared summer reading also provides a foundation for a variety of related events throughout your first year at Colgate.

In addition, your responses to the summer reading will provide a way to introduce yourself to your faculty adviser (your First-Year Seminar instructor) and administrative dean so that they can get to know you better.