Hearthside Project: 
Encouraging the Exploration and Celebration of the Humanities at Wartburg College

The Hearthside Project offers faculty and students the unique opportunity to connect around the virtual hearth. The program encourages student/faculty interaction outside the formality of the classroom based on the more intimate learning environments of graduate work, or of a European approach to readings and the discussion of texts often labeled “the directed reading model.”

The program allows students to engage in the process of reading with a professor and to consider connections between their own course of study and the practical and philosophical ideas explored through each text. Texts chosen by faculty and staff emphasize, by topic or implication, the key role of the humanities in contemporary thought. The program is in its 11th year (2021-22) and was developed by the late Dr. Survilla, former Slife Professor in the Humanities (2010-2016). Dr. Zak Montgomery administers the Hearthside Project as the current Slife Professor in the Humanities. The Mike and Marge McCoy Family Distinguished Chair in Lutheran Heritage and Mission is co-sponsoring the program this year.

Students receive their books free of charge. Reading groups consist of one book leader and three students. To apply, send an email to the participating leader of the book you’re interested in discussing (listed below).

Marrow Thieves, book for Hearthside Project 2021
Hidden Life of Trees, book for Hearthside Project 2021
Baptized in Tear Gas, book for Hearthside Project 2021
Bad Blood, book for Hearthside Project 2021

Readings for Fall 2021:

  • Cassie Hales:  “Baptized in Tear Gas: From White Moderate to Abolitionist”  by Elle Dowd
  • Scott Larson: The Hidden Life of Trees” by Peter Wohlleben
  • Penni Pier: “The Marrow Thieves” by Cherie Dimaline
  • Amy Pilcher: “Bad Blood: Secrets and lies in a Silicon Valley Startup” by John Carreyrou
Little Women book cover, Hearthside 2021 selection
Mindful Twenty-Something book cover, Hearthside 2021 selection
Woman Who Smashed Codes book cover, Hearthside 2021 selection
Poisoned City book cover, Hearthside 2021 selection
Elephant Company book cover, Hearthside 2021 selection
Grit book cover, Hearthside 2021 selection
Know My Name book cover, Hearthside 2021 selection
Velvet Rage book cover, Hearthside 2021 selection

Readings for Winter 2021:

  • Cynthia Bane: “The Mindful Twenty-Something: Life Skills to Handle Stress…and Everything Else”  by Holly Rogers
  • Tiffany Stouffer & Katie Kreis: “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott
  • Joy Becker: “The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine Who Outwitted America’s Enemies” by Jason Fagone
  • Cassie Hales: “The Poisoned City: Flint’s Water and the American Urban Tragedy” by Jason Reynolds & Ibram X. Kendi
  • Ruth Bahe-Jachna: “Elephant Company: The Inspiring Story of an Unlikely Hero and the Animals Who Helped Him Save Lives in World War II” by Vicki Croke 
  • Jennifer Larson: “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance” by Angela Duckworth 
  • Lindsey Leonard: “Know My Name: A Memoir” by Chanel Miller
  • Penni Pier: “The Velvet Rage: Overcoming the Pain of Growing Up Gay in a Straight Man’s World” by Alan Downs


Zak Montgomery

Associate Professor of Spanish

Cassie Hales

Director of Residential Life and Chief Student Conduct Officer

Jennifer Larson

Associate Professor of Music

Jennifer Onuigbo

Office Coordinator, Student Life

Penni Pier

Professor of Journalism and Communication

Krystal Madlock

Director of Multicultural Student Services

Mariah Birgen

Professor of Mathematics

Amy Pilcher

Assistant Professor of Business Administration

Joy Becker

Associate Professor of Mathematics

Lindsey Leonard

Assistant Dean of Students