The University of Arkansas – Fort Smith will host a kickoff event for the 2019 NEA Big Read: Fort Smith, from 1-3 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 16, in the Reynolds Room of the Smith-Pendergraft Campus Center, located at 800 N. 49th St.


The kickoff will feature a celebration of the NEA Big Read: Fort Smith season of events, numerous games and activities for all ages, and a meet-and-greet opportunity with the community leaders and educators who will be participating in the spring programming. An “Old Tech Museum” will also be set up in the Reynolds Room, featuring a range of devices from rotary phones to some of the first home computers.


All ages are welcome to this free public event.


UAFS received the National Endowment for the Arts’ Big Read grant for “Station Eleven,” the best-selling novel by Emily St. John Mandel which was nominated for the National Book Award in 2014. The grant has enabled UAFS to book numerous literary events this spring, which will culminate in an author reading and book signing with St. John Mandel on March 26 at the UAFS Stubblefield Center.


Set 20 years after a flu pandemic destroys most of civilization, “Station Eleven” tells the story of a woman who moves between the settlements of a devastated world with a small troupe of actors and musicians until they encounter a violent prophet who threatens the existence of the group. The novel received mass acclaim when it was published in 2014, winning the Arthur C. Clarke award and receiving nominations for the PEN/Faulkner Award and the National Book Award.


Mandel has speculated that the rise in post-apocalyptic literature in recent times may be linked to our lack of new frontiers, an idea first presented to her by a bookseller. “It’s no longer possible to set out as a pioneer and stake a claim and start a new life. Now that that’s all mapped and charted out and there are no more frontiers — that’s left us with a certain restlessness,” she said.


“Our interest in Mandel’s novel is uniquely linked to our local region,” noted Dr. Cammie Sublette, UAFS English, Rhetoric and Writing department head.  “When there are no new frontiers, sometimes we look to a futuristic world, and sometimes we revisit the past. Fort Smith is engaged in both enterprises, and Mandel’s novel speaks directly to this desire to preserve the past while forging new frontiers.”


The NEA Big Read: Fort Smith (formerly known as the UAFS Read This! program) supports national trends in higher education in which students and their communities experience a shared text as a basis for cross-disciplinary communication and conversation.


“We have been a small but dynamic program for many years [as Read This!], but we are thrilled with the chance of being able to showcase our talented faculty as well as the wonderful human and historical resources in the community on a more national scale,” said Dr. Ann-Gee Lee, co-chair of UAFS Big Read and UAFS Read This!


UAFS was selected as one of only 79 organizations nationwide and the only Arkansas institution to receive the NEA Big Read Grant.


“The selection process for this particular governmental grant is incredibly rigorous,” said Dr. Christian Gerard, assistant professor of English and co-chair of UAFS Big Read. “This honor doesn’t just reflect the work happening on the UAFS campus, but demonstrates the NEA’s desire to invest in Fort Smith and the NEA’s commitment to further strengthen the bond between UAFS and the region through events and enrichment activities focused on literacy and the literary arts.”


The full slate of events is listed below. For more information on the UAFS Big Read program, contact Lee at or Gerard at 

Book Launch and Old Tech Museum [Family friendly] 

February 16, 2019 • 1-3 p.m.

Reynolds Room, Smith-Pendergraft Campus Center

UAFS Campus


Sustainable Living Talk

February 18, 2019 • 2-3 p.m.

Garden House by RAWC

525 N 51st Street

UAFS Campus


Pandemic Preparedness Talk: Dr. David McClellan

February 19, 2019 • 6-8 p.m.

Latture Conference Center, Business Institute/ Flanders Building

UAFS Campus


Trading Tales throughout History & Lions Trading Post Talk: Dr. Tom Wing

February 21, 2019 • 6-8 p.m.

 Smith-Pendergraft Campus Center, Room 129

UAFS Campus


Spoken Word/Slam Poetry Performance and Reading: Dr. Christian Gerard and Students

February 26, 2019 • 6-8:30 p.m.

Bookish 115 N. 10th, Downtown Fort Smith


Station Eleven Faculty and Student Read Aloud

February 27, 2019 • 11am-1 p.m.

Smith-Pendergraft Campus Center, Fireplace

UAFS Campus


Instrument Building Presentation and Discussion: Dr. Dennis Siler

March 1, 2019 • 2 p.m.-3 p.m.

Latture Conference Center, Business Institute/Flanders Building

UAFS Campus


Station Eleven Book Discussion 

March 2, 2019 • 4-5 p.m.

Bookish 115 N. 10th, Fort Smith


Comic Book Design Art Contest Winners Exhibition

March 4, 2019- March 8, 2019

Don Lee Student Art Gallery - Windgate Art and Design Building, Second Floor

UAFS Campus


Station Eleven Book Discussion 

March 7, 2019 • 6-7 p.m.

Bookish 115 N. 10th, Fort Smith


Music and National Trauma Talk: Dr. Elizabeth Momand and Students

March 11, 2019 • 5-6 p.m.

Breedlove Building, Room 105

UAFS Campus


How to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse Talk: Dr. Nicki Reamer

March 11, 2019 • 6:30-8 p.m.

Boreham Library, Room 122

UAFS Campus


Recycled Art Contest Exhibition

March 11-15, 2019

Don Lee Student Art Gallery - Windgate Art and Design Building, Second Floor

UAFS Campus


Self-Defense Workshop [Family friendly]  

March 13, 2019 • 7-8 p.m.

Thompson Defense Academy


Author Talk and Book Signing with Emily St. John Mandel       

March 26, 2019 • 7-8 p.m.

Stubblefield Center, UAFS campus


Rachel Rodemann Putman, Interim Public Information Director
Date Posted: 
Thursday, January 24, 2019
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