June 22, 2022

Common Freshman Reader 2022-23

Photos courtesy of Ahmed M. Badr

For the 2022-23 Freshman Common Reader, the University of Delaware has selected While the Earth Sleeps, We Travel: Stories, Poetry and Art from Young Refugees Around the World, by Ahmed M. Badr and with a foreword by actor Ben Stiller, Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Freshmen read the book before arriving on campus, and the Common Reader Program organizes speakers, exhibits, and other cultural events around the theme of the book throughout the first semester.

Ahmed M. Badr is a 23-year-old Iraqi American author, poet, and social entrepreneur working at the intersection of creativity, displacement, and youth empowerment. Ahmed’s work seeks to combine poetry, archival collections and multimedia to explore the complexities of migration, identity and self-expression, with a focus on reframing and reclaiming the power of the tragedy.

On July 25, 2006, Badr’s house in Baghdad was bombed by militiamen. He and his family moved to Syria, where they lived as refugees for more than two years before receiving permission to move to the United States. As a teenager, Badr founded Narratio, an organization and online platform that activates, supports and showcases the creative expression of displaced youth through scholarships, workshops, publications and partnerships. In the summer of 2019, Narratio launched an annual storytelling scholarship for young resettled refugees in partnership with Syracuse University and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Over the past three years, the work of Narratio Fellows has impacted more than two million people worldwide.

Badr is the host of Virginia Public Media’s (VPM) award-winning show Regional Murrow Reinstalled podcast and co-host of the World Bank’s #Youth4Climate live series. Badr has addressed the United Nations more than 10 times.

Badr is the storyteller behind UNBOXED: Refugee Luggage, a multimedia installation that remodels the homes of refugees inside a series of suitcases. UNPACKED is critically acclaimed and has been exhibited at UNICEF House, Harvard Divinity School, Yale University, Juilliard, Iowa State University, University of Chicago, Mississippi State University and World Bank headquarters. In February 2020, Badr presented four visual works at Educate, an exhibition featuring global emerging artists at Christie’s New York.

Badr earned a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from Wesleyan University and a Masters of Education from Harvard University. He is the recipient of the Harvard Kennedy School Adrian Cheng Fellowship and the Harvard Business School Social Innovation Fellowship Fund Award. He is a National Geographic Young Explorer and is one of 17 United Nations Young Leaders for the Sustainable Development Goals in the Office of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth.

A UD tradition administered by the Freshman Seminar Program, the Common Reader offers freshmen the opportunity to engage in meaningful conversation with other students and begin to share the intellectual life of the entire university community.

Next steps for the new blue hens

Blue Hens is expected to read the book in the summer of 2022 and can purchase a discounted copy at New Student Orientation courtesy of the University Bookstore.

Other joint reading experiences will take place during the fall semester, including an essay and art contest, a library exhibit, and a talk with the author. More information will be shared soon.