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Letter to Students

20 June 2017

Dear Incoming UC Merced Student:

You hold in your hands William Bryant Logan’s Air: The Restless Shaper of the World—a compelling, wide-ranging interdisciplinary survey of all that air encompasses—which has been selected for UC Merced’s 2017–2018 Common Reading Project. Our goal with a common reading is to establish a greater sense of community among students and faculty by fostering open inquiry characteristic of academic life. In support of UC Merced’s commitment to interdisciplinary study, the common reading experience allows students and faculty to make connections across a wide range of experience and expertise. By looking at the same text through different lenses—historical, cultural, scientific, personal, etc.—we can see how different disciplines approach prevailing social issues. This year’s book was selected for the intriguing mix of arts and sciences its author employs in elucidating otherwise invisible fundamentals of atmospheric phenomena.

William Bryant Logan is a certified arborist and president of Urban Arborists, a Brooklyn-based tree company. He has won numerous Quill and Trowel Awards from the Garden Writers of America and won a 2012 Senior Scholar Award from the New York State chapter of the International Society of Arborists. He also won an NEH grant to translate Calderon de la Barca. He is on the faculty at the New York Botanical Garden and is the author of Oak and Dirt—the latter of which was made into an award-winning documentary. See his website ( as well as the accompanying “Field Guide” for more information.

You are receiving this book during orientation with the understanding that you will make your way through it before arriving on campus in late August. We will integrate discussions of the book into our curriculum; in whole or part, it will be required reading in general education and writing courses (Core 1, Writing 1, Writing 10), and recommended reading in other first-year classes. In addition to serving as course material, the book will occasion special events, guest lectures, and film screenings.

We hope that you find your own ways to connect the common reading with your coursework and with your community. But most of all, we hope you enjoy reading Air over the remaining weeks of summer. Welcome to UC Merced!

Tom Hothem
Associate Director, Merritt Writing Program
Co-Coordinator, Core 1 General Education