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News Archive

SCC Common Read brings campus and community together for critical thinking and discussion

At Somerset Community College, students have the opportunity to connect both in and out of the classroom. Through the SCC Common Read Experience, students are able to unite and engage in an intellectual experience that encourages critical thinking and meaningful discussion.

As part of the SCC Common Read, anyone who chooses to participate purchases a predetermined book, reads it, and then joins the campus community to discuss themes and questions about the book. Opportunities are given to attend free workshops, activities and panel discussions that explore the book further. Many professors at SCC also incorporate the book into their class reading and discussion.

Last year, the SCC Common Read was Picking Cotton, a memoir by Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton. The book tells the story of Jennifer Thompson, who was raped at knifepoint, and the man she identified as the rapist, Ronald Cotton. After 11 years, Cotton was allowed to take a DNA test that proved his innocence. The story is about tragedy, DNA testing, innocence and more, and challenges ideas of memory and judgement.

To explore the topics in the novel in detail, students, staff, faculty and guests at SCC spent the 2016-2017 academic year exploring the main themes of the novel through the workshops below:

  • DNA and Rape Kits: John Starnes, SCC instructor, created DNA lab work for participants in order to demonstrate how DNA results prove innocence, or guilt. Teresa Hinkle, also an SCC instructor, went through the process of rape-kit testing, including how thorough and invasive the process is for the victim.
  • Eye-witness Testimonies and False Accusations:  Brandi Copenhaver, criminal justice faculty member, and Dr. Craylon Mills, sociology faculty at SCC, spoke about how witnesses can have memory contaminated by the words and actions of the officers and others involved in criminal cases.
  • Forgiveness Panel:  Panelists of students, faculty, staff and community members Kasandra McNeil, Elaine Wilson, Ron Mace, Rev. Amanda Musterman, Dr. Greg Ryan and Dr. Don Whitehead, spoke about forgiveness. Irene Larason, SCC faculty, gave an example of racial injustice and the repercussions of racism from the book.
  • Innocence Project:  James (Jimmer) Dudley, who teaches wrongful convictions classes at several area universities and works with the Kentucky Innocence Project, and Mike VonAllmen, a Kentucky exonoree, shared their experiences with participants. 
  • Book Discussions:  Regular group discussion for the students, staff, faculty and community allowed for thought-provoking sessions.

“The Common Read provides great potential for creating community among those who participate,” said Marci Randall, chair of the SCC Common Read team. “The value of our discussions, lectures and panels cannot be replaced. The ripple effect of the readings will continue to add a richness to our community, long after students graduate.”

Prior to Picking Cotton, the SCC Common Read books have included All Over but the Shoutin’ by Rick Bragg and The Work by Wes Moore. The next read will be Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance. Hillbilly Elegy now appears on the New York Times Non-Fiction Bestseller list as number one. A movie based on the book, directed by Ron Howard, is also in the works. The book is Vance’s memoir of growing up in Appalachian Kentucky and Ohio.

The SCC Common Read is open to community members. For more information, contact Randall at


faculty with the book the works

Above: SCC faculty, staff and administration holding a former SCC Common Read book, The Work by Wes Moore.

Jimmy Dudley and Mike VonAllmen at SCC

Above: James (Jimmer) Dudley, who teaches wrongful convictions classes at several area universities and works with the Kentucky Innocence Project, and Mike VonAllmen, a Kentucky exonoree, shared their experiences during the SCC Common Read featuring Picking Cotton, a memoir about wrongful accusations and forgiveness.