Natalie Gutierrez | Contributing Writer
For those who feel that reading is always a solitary activity, the Panther Book Club is bringing students and alumni together to share their love of reading.
The Panther Book Club, run by FIU Alumni Relations Manager Chelsey Melendez, became initiated in May 2020. Melendez graduated from FIU with her bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies in 2017 and a master’s degree in International Intercultural Education in 2019.
The club is a partnership between the FIU Alumni Association and the Professional Book Club (PBC) Guru, a management company that helps run fully-online book clubs.
The club gives members an opportunity to sharpen their verbal and reasoning skills because the club is inherently centered on discussion. It motivates members to better express their thoughts and ideas, as well as think critically about subject matters.
“I see the Panther Book Club as a way to connect virtually. There are times when alumni are shy or introverted so they may not want to attend an event, but they want to dive into a book club, share their feedback and concerns, and mingle. It gives us another type of opportunity and engagement experience. I feel that it gives value in connecting those across the U.S.” said Melendez.
Members can connect with former students, giving them access to academic and career advice. Melendez appreciates having alumni and students communicate and engage in the ongoing event.
Book selections depend on the shared interests of members. The types of books vary from novels to memoirs to canonical texts. Previous books that have been discussed include Charles Duhigg’s “The Power of Habit”, Neil Pasricha’s “You Are Awesome” and Cheryl Diamond’s “Nowhere Girl”. So far, the club has read and discussed a total of 13 books.
The club uses a private forum as a discussion environment. Once members create a profile, they can access the forum, which features chatting options. Members discuss the book’s themes and share their perspectives.
When asked about her thoughts on reading, Melendez said, “I think that it is an important life skill. It expands your horizons, boosts your communication skills, improves your vocabulary and strengthens your brain activity. It also allows us to develop critical thinking skills and learn more about different things.”
There’s also an emphasis on personal growth. Besides becoming better communicators, members can look forward to realizing their full potential and developing reading habits.
“The first book [“The Power of Habit”] explained that if you do something more than once, it becomes a habit. It is good to have that mental stability and be mindful. Reading helps you value life and have a better comprehension of different experiences and stories,” said Melendez.
Since the club is fully online, there is no meeting schedule.
Students, alumni, faculty, and staff are invited to join. Participation is free but members are expected to obtain a personal copy by either purchasing it online or checking the books out at a local library.
“What sets this club apart is that it is all FIU-based. Something we often say is that ‘you are a Panther for life.’ Participating in this book club enhances and enforces us to be Panthers for life. We want this to be alumni-centered,” said Melendez.
Thrifty Umrigar, the author of the current October to December selection, “Honor” will participate in an Author Talk Q&A Livestream Event on Dec. 7 at 2 p.m.
You can learn more about Panther Book Club by visiting their website at pbc.guru/FIU or contacting firstname.lastname@example.org