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Beyond the Page Book Club Founder and President Jenny Schollaert

Our Question: You get to choose three books that everyone at Chatham must read. Which ones do you pick and why?

Book 1: “Well first, I would make them read The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. That book says so much about disability and ability and what our own limitations say about ourselves. It’s just a fabulous book; it’s so quotable, everyone should read it in the history of humanity. That’s just my evangelical zeal about it.”

 When Jenny Schollaert says she has an “evangelical zeal” for a novel, she’s not exaggerating. The Founder and President of Chatham’s Beyond the Page Book Club is wildly in love with reading. “It’s my big passion, and there’s nothing more exciting and comforting to me than a book.”

 As a kid, that meant Harry Potter. “Let’s be real,” she says, laughing. “That [series] has saved me from so many things. I just love everything about that series. I read it every single summer at least once just to kind of remind me of who I am and what that [series] has contributed to me being the person I am today.”
 Today, Schollaert’s studying to be an English professor. “More specifically,” she says, “I would love to teach a Harry Potter class. So, I want to be that girl.” While authors have been a guiding force in her life, Jenny is quick to acknowledge the extraordinary influence of educators. “I have a lot of respect for them intellectually and personally, and I would love to be up in those ranks, and I would love to go through all the schooling,” she says. “I know it’s going to be such a pain in the butt, but it’s going to be so worth it. I just love to learn and I feel like in a career in academia, it’s just a lifelong pursuit of learning and I never want to stop.”

Book 2: “The Bell Jar. I think that any woman in college—any woman period–should read that book, not to identify with her depression, but to identify with that little spark of empowerment deep inside her that she knows can be let out. Because Esther, I feel, is such a bomb feminist. She’s so cool.”

 Schollaert loves women who take a stand. Her aunt—“one of the strongest women in our family”—went to Chatham. “So this was the only school I visited, the only school that I applied to,” she says.
 Though she’s always been a progressive thinker, Chatham introduced Schollaert to the power of studying female leaders. “I took Intro to Women’s Studies with Dr. Bruckner last semester, and I thought for a minute that I was just going to tack it on as a minor,” she says. By the time the course was over, Schollaert found her second major. “I feel so strongly about helping out women and somehow tying in my passion for literature as well.”
Schollaert emerged as a leader on campus when she won a Chatham Student Government in her first year; now, she’s the Vice President of the Class of 2015. She and the women of CSG are dedicated to fostering sisterhood. “I really like the fact that we can enact real change on campus and that we really are the voice of our class,” she says. Schollaert is always eager to encourage Cougars to approach her with any concerns or ideas. “It’s all about promoting an environment that we can all feel safe and happy in.”

With the new Beyond the Page Book Club, Schollaert is working to carve out a little peace of heaven for literature lovers. “During my first year here, I was the only one in my group of friends that was an English major,” she shares. While there were multiple clubs on campus to connect writers, there was no firm community for readers. During the W.O.W. Retreat, she determined how to create one. “At the W.O.W. Retreat I was just kind of like, hey, let’s make a book club,” she says. “And it kind of just snowballed off of that and became a real thing, and I still can’t believe that it’s actually real.”

Book 3: “The book that made me fall in love with literature to begin with—a lot of people think it’s so crappy, but—A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. It was the first, like, uptight, hoity-toity literature that actually made me cry.”

Sure, Schollaert gets a kick out of complicated literature, but Book Club is designed to make everything from Dickens to Dante not only approachable, but empowering.

 She’s starting with Celebrate the Right to Read, an event featuring Sandra Cisneros’ The House on Mango Street. Co-planned by the Artist Collective, Book Club, Creative Writing Club and Minor Bird, the discussion is designed to engage Chatham women in a conversation about the social and cultural impact of Cisneros’ work. “It was a book that really tied into the censorship discussion, as well as Hispanic Heritage Month, which happens to be September,” she says. Add to that the recent banning of certain Mexican-American Studies literature in Arizona, and Schollaert believes a conversation about the book will be significantly impactful for those involved. At the September 26th event, students will hear from Dr. Bridget Kevane, a Montana State University professor who focuses on Latin literature and culture. “I’m really excited to talk to her and see how she feels about this book and what she got from it as opposed to what all of us got from it,” says Schollaert.

Even if you can’t make it to the event, you can always join Book Club. In addition to monthly meetings focused on literature appreciation, the club will work to help local libraries and partner with other on-campus organizations. “We’d like to partner with Creative Writing Club, Sigma Tau Delta and Minor Bird and kind of see what the combined force of all of us Literature and Creative Writing majors can do to really make a good impact on the community and the campus,” she says.

Deviating from the traditional book club format, there won’t be any assigned reading. “We’re not going to be reading a book in addition to everything, because that’s just way too much work. Who wants to do that?” she asks. “Well, I would,” she laughs. “But let’s be real, not everyone’s that crazy.”

To get involved with Book Club, you can email Jenny Schollaert at her Chatham email address (available through the directory on myChatham). You can also find her, and the Beyond the Page Book Club, on Facebook.

Don’t miss Celebrate the Right to Read on September 26th in the Mellon Board Room. 


  Mara Flanagan is entering her seventh semester as a Chapter Advisor. After founding the Chatham University Her Campus chapter in November 2011, she served as Campus Correspondent until graduation in 2015. Mara works as a freelance social media consultant in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She interned in incident command software publicity at ADASHI Systems, gamification at Evive Station, iQ Kids Radio in WQED’s Education Department, PR at Markowitz Communications, writing at WQED-FM, and marketing and product development at Bossa Nova Robotics. She loves jazz, filmmaking and circus arts.  
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