Class of 2016 Focuses on Buying Power in America

Buying power in AmericaBEFORE THE 629 MEMBERS of the class of 2016 arrived on campus in August, they were asked to read Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture by Ellen Ruppel Shell, which explores the dramatic changes in the global economy and the shift over the past 75 years in Americans’ shopping habits— from buying “quality to last” to an obsessive search for bargains that drives down prices and often quality.

During orientation they met in small groups led by a faculty member to discuss the book, particularly how the shift in the shopping culture also affects how people form assumptions about work, leisure, the value of employment, and the role of the United States in the world.

The book is chosen for its connection with larger conversations on campus and in society as well as addressing broad, multidisciplinary topics that affect Americans in a national context. For instance, the issues in Cheap will be part of the presidential election debates, and they are touched on in the new Common Course of Study, designed to deepen students’ understanding of the complexities of globalization.

Other related activities planned for the year began with a staged reading of Dog Eat Dog by Mary Gallagher, a sharp satire about wealthy Americans faced with financial ruin as the national economy slides from recession to depression. As the 2012-13 Closs Visiting Writer-in-Residence, Gallagher presented a lecture, held workshops with theater and English classes, and met with the cast of Dog Eat Dog. The production was directed by theater graduate Dana Pardini ’12.