The book is the primary focus for Academic Day on Monday, August
20 -- a day dedicated to establishing a common academic
experience for everyone involved in orientation. While
reading the book, explore this site -as well as the Welcome
Week site - and you will find great information about the
author, the book, and how it will impact you as you make your
transition to Butler University.
What is a Common Reading?
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Common reading initiatives are widespread and considered a best
practice in First-Year Experience programming. Generally the
purpose is "to provide a common academic experience for all
first-year students to strengthen the academic atmosphere of the
institution from the first day the student arrives on campus"
(Patterson, 2002, p.8). A common reading is an opportunity to
"intellectualize" orientation through a shared experience of all
first-year students and with participating faculty. It enhances
academic transition by providing a base from which students can
engage with faculty in conversations about what is expected in
college-level academic work, what constitutes scholarly behavior,
and what the campus community considers important.
During Welcome Week, the Academic Day keynote
presentation and orientation group discussion will be
dedicated to beginning a conversation about the themes found within
the Common Reading, Outcasts United. The author, Warren
St. John, will present at Academic Day and discuss the
story, its origins, and the concepts found throughout the
book: identity, cultural pluralism and human rights. After the
presentation, faculty will lead the orientation groups in
discussion about the book.
From: Patterson, L. (2002). New ideas in first-year reading
programs from around the country. First-Year Experience
Newsletter (FYE), 14(3), 8-9.
About the Book
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Originally a series in
The New York Times, the book is a story of multiple
aspects: refugees, small-town struggles, Southern attitudes,
individual determination and cross-cultural
(mis)understanding. All of these elements come together in a
jubilant tale of a soccer team and its season that challenged
and changed a community forever.
Outcasts United captures the efforts of a town
"struggling to become a global community, the resilience and hope
of a group of young refugees, and how we find home in a changing
world." Its story will resonate as you consider yourself and
your experiences in this increasingly global community, and how you
will become part of your newest community -- Butler University.
What critics are saying:
"A brilliant and empathetic depiction of our common quest for
meaning and happiness. Warren St. John invites us into the
lives of a community of refugees, their bewildered neighbors in a
small town, and a Jordanian woman who not only coaches but also
mentors, mothers, and inspires some remarkable boys, to create a
heartwarming tale about the transformations that occur when our
disparate lives connect." ~Ishmael Beah, author of A Long
"Not merely about soccer, St. John's book teaches readers about
the social and economic difficulties of adapting to a new culture
and the challenges facing a town with a new and disparate
population. Despite their cultural and religious differences
and the difficulty of adaptation, the Fugees came together to play
soccer. This wonderful, poignant book is highly
recommended...." ~Library Journal, starred
"Splendidly reported...compelling from start to finish."
~Time Out New York
"[Mufleh's] energy and her achievement, as chronicled by Warren
St. John, are inspiring." ~Boston Sunday Globe
"Remarkable...a marvelous story, all the more moving for being
written straight by a talented reporter." ~The Times
About the Author
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Warren St. John is a
feature writer for The New York Times and best-selling
author of Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer: A Road Trip
into the Heart of Fan Mania (2004). His second book,
Outcasts United, was released to rave reviews in
2009. St. John has written for the New Yorker,
Slate, Wired and the New York Observer,
in addition to his work in The New York Times. His
research for Outcasts United led to an acclaimed series of
front page stories in The New York Times about the Fugees
and the struggle of Clarkston, Georgia to adapt to its new
St. John was born in Birmingham, Alabama, where he attended The
Altamont School. He studied English literature at Columbia
College in New York City, where he now lives with his wife and
daughter. He has appeared on the Today Show,
National Public Radio, MSNBC, CNN and other outlets to discuss his
Read more about St. John and the story of Outcasts
United on outcastsunited.com.
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The team at the heart of the book, the Fugees, was a team
that was comprised entirely of refugees (thus, the 'fugees) from
nations as far-flung as Afghanistan, Liberia and Sudan. The
players, recruited through fliers printed in multiple languages and
posted at apartment buildings, community stores and other locations
that had a high refugee population, were young boys who had
experienced horrors that no child should witness. One had
witnessed his father's brutal death while another was forced to
kill his best friend. But just as these children bore witness
to the cruelty of life, they also were a testament to life's pure
joys: being part of a team, winning at competition, and
befriending others. Luma's coaching, while tough, prepared
the Fugees for both success and disappointment. Through all
of the highs and lows of the season, the Fugees - and Luma- were
"powered by simple but enduring ideas: a sense of fairness, love,
forgiveness, and most of all, a willingness to work - to engage in
the process of turning these simple notions into actions that could
affect others" (Outcasts United, p. 299).
To learn more about the Fugees and Luma's newest endeavor, the
Fugees Academy, we recommend you visit these sites:
Fugees Family Foundation
The Fugees Family Facebook page
"Refugees Find Hope, Film Deal on Soccer Field,"
National Public Radio
Luma Mufleh's Speech at the Mills College 2012
Where are they now?
Following the Fugees' 2006 season, many things changed:
- Mandela Ziaty was accepted into a Job Corps program and
subsequently earned his high school diploma in 2008
- Shamsoun Dikori and Natnael Mammo were accepted to Pfeiffer
University in North Carolina. Shamsoun received a scholarship
to play soccer and hopes to start a school in his former
- Shahir Anwar, was accepted to Paideia School, an exclusive
private school in Atlanta.
- Alex, Bien and Ive's family moved to Fort Wayne, Indiana, in
part to live in a safer environment.
- Qendrim had to leave the Fugees because he was unable to get
transportation to the field from his home.
- Kanue Biah played for an elite Atlanta soccer club after
leaving the Fugees.
- Luma Mufleh continues to work to make a difference in refugees'
lives and founded the Fugees Academy.
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Students: When you received
your copy of Outcasts United in the mail,
enclosed was a reader's guide which introduced some of
the concepts and ideas that will be the basis of discussion during
Welcome Week. And don't forget to mark your stopping point
during reading with the great bookmark -- an excellent way to
remind yourself of the importance of reading the book in
preparation for Academic Day!
Students, Orientation Guides, &
Faculty: Reading Outcasts United?
You are invited to read the reader's guide online.
Still want more? Recommended articles and videos about
Outcasts United and the story:
CBS Sunday Morning
NPR Picture Show: 100 Words
Butler Reflections on "Outcasts United"
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The Common Reading is not just an exercise for incoming students
to complete prior to their arrival. The entire Butler
University Community is encouraged to read the book in order to
have an understanding of the focus of Welcome Week and Academic
Day. What follows are reflections about Outcasts
United from staff, students and faculty from across
Renee Reed, Reference and Instruction Librarian, Irwin
Library: Community Impact
"...[T]he book works to support the importance of the Butler
University Core Indianapolis Community Requirement. Only as
the coach comes to know more about the individuals, groups, and
businesses within her town is she able to market her team to the
right kids, gather support for her team (use the field), and even
find donors to help with team equipment. This concept may
especially resonate with College of Business majors."
Caroline Huck Watson, Director, PuLSE Office: Servant
Leadership in Outcasts United
"Putting Luma on a pedestal is counterproductive. [She]is really
a normal person doing what she can for the people around her. If
people can look at her and see that, that she's human, not a saint
or a super-hero, and that she doesn't - can't - do everything
or effect miracles, then maybe they can say to themselves, 'I need
to look around myself and see my neighborhood and what is going on
here and five streets over, and what I can do in terms of investing
myself and my time, to be present for the people around me and to
do something positive for change in my community.' No one person
can do everything but we can all do something." (Outcasts
For me, Luma Mufleh is a true embodiment of a servant leader and
active citizen. That is, she leads by serving those around her. She
recognized a need around her and was inspired to make a difference
in the lives of others. At the same time, she was open to personal
growth that transformed her as well. She exhibited key
characteristic of a servant leader such as empathy, foresight, a
commitment to the growth of people and building community. As an
active citizen she stepped out of her comfort zone, connected with
her passion and lived the change she sought to make. She looked for
ways that her voice and the needs of those around could be
A servant leader may hold a formal position, such as a coach.
Yet, a servant leader does not need to be the designated "leader."
Luma also created close relationships with family members of the
Fugees and served their needs as a friend. A true servant leader
learns to value and share his or her personal gifts and talents.
Perhaps more importantly, a servant leader sees the gifts and
talents in those around them. A servant leader encourages others to
share of their gifts and talents, to rise to challenges and serve.
Luma saw this light in those around her. She provided outlets for
these gifts to grow. She was one woman who saw a way she
could make a change and took action. She got involved with her
community and made a commitment.
Embrace your college experience and all that it has to offer you
in terms your personal development as well as the opportunities you
will have to lead and serve others. Look around yourself…in your
residence halls, your classrooms, your organizations, your
neighborhood, Indianapolis and beyond. You will find limitless
opportunities, both formal and informal. Share your talents and
search for ways to help others maximize their own gifts. Connect
with your passions and seek outlets to exercise them - there are
student organizations, classes, service opportunities, internships
and so much more. Know that you are not alone; you will be
surrounded by mentors, friends, educators and resources. Utilize
all of these as much as possible. You do not have to be a
super-hero to make a difference. You need to be open to the
exciting adventure that awaits you, to make the most of your time,
and to think of ways you can give of your gifts and receive the
talents of those around you.
Angela Lupton, Assistant Dean, College of Education: An
As the lives and characters in Outcasts United come
into view, one angle that is not as clearly defined is their
experiences in schools. In the book, the culture of soccer
begins to provide a framework for both unique and mutually
understood encounters, but how can the culture of school provide
the same sense of identity and belonging?
As educators, it is imperative the we focus our lens, with
understanding - not assumptions - on each of the students in our
classrooms. This text provides a challenge to you as a reader
and future educator to think about the knowledge, skills and
disposition that you will need in order to be an outstanding
teacher for each learner in your classroom
community. As a teacher education student, you will need to
push your own limits of comfort and understanding in order to truly
be able to push your future students to explore theirs. With
that in mind, think about these questions as they relate to
Outcasts United and four Core Values of the College of
- Core Value of Teaching, Learning and
Mentoring: How are the Fugees teachers for the community
of Clarkston? What are the parallels for your future
- Core Value of Diversity and Similarity: Do you
think the Fugees' classroom teachers knew of their challenges and
successes with soccer? What do you wish that your teachers
knew about you? What could they have done to make you feel
like you could share that aspect of your life with them?
- Core Value of Theory and Practice: Luma Mufleh
does not spend her days in a classroom, yet she is still a
teacher. What can we, as educators, learn from her?
- Integrity and Responsibility: Clarkston,
Georgia, undergoes tremendous change, but change is not unusual for
communities. How can teachers help name change as it is
occurring so that it can be addressed? What is the role of
the teacher in creating healthy classrooms and communities from a
social, emotional, physical and academic perspective?
Volunteer with Refugee Organizations in Indianapolis
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Butler University is committed to living and learning "the
Butler way." The Butler Way demands commitment, denies
selfishness, accepts reality yet seeks improvement every day. We
aspire to improve ourselves and those around us. This applies to
our excellent academics, supportive environment, vibrant campus and
the contributions we make to our community and world.
To that end, Butler is the proud home of the Volunteer Center, whose mission "is to assist
members of the Butler University community in finding meaningful
volunteer experiences and to provide opportunities to reflect on
these experiences; thereby deepening the education of students and
making a significant contribution of service to Indianapolis and
the larger community." One of the several organizations
served by the Volunteer Center is Exodus Refugee
Immigration, an organization dedicated to helping refugees from
all over the globe acclimate to their new home and to learn how to
be self-sufficient. Please contact the Volunteer
Center if you would like to volunteer with Exodus Refugee
In addition, Butler University's Center
for Citizenship and Community (CCC) works to provide
service-learning opportunities for students. Through
service-learning courses and classes that meet the Indianapolis Community Requirement, CCC also
works with the immigrant community through placements in the Immigrant Welcome Center.
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As you embark on reading Outcasts United, consider,
too, what it means to connect...with others, with your community
and with education. The essay, "Only Connect...": The Goals of a Liberal
Education, by William Cronon, explores the value and
distinction of a liberal arts foundation for a life
well-lived. It is an essay that you will be able to turn to
time and again during your academic career at Butler -- because the
liberal arts are the foundation upon which a Butler University
degree is built. In fact, Butler is committed to providing
the highest quality education and integrating the liberal arts with
professional education. In our curricular and co-curricular
offerings, we create and foster a stimulating intellectual
community built upon interactive dialogue and inquiry among
students, faculty, and staff. We hope that you enjoy the
essay and heed its recommendations.