Skip to main content
[an error occurred while processing this directive]

New Student Orientation
Collis Center for Student Involvement
6181 Collis Center
Dartmouth College
Hanover, NH  03755
Phone: 603.646.0089
[an error occurred while processing this directive]
[an error occurred while processing this directive]

Shared Academic Experience: Class of 2018 and Transfer Students

For Common Things

A bound copy of excerpts from For Common Things will be mailed to your home address in early August, courtesy of the Sphinx Foundation at Dartmouth.

We thank them for their generosity in support of new students.


Each year, a member of the Dartmouth faculty is asked to curate a Shared Academic Experience to meaningfully engage incoming students and encourage community dialogue and personal reflection.

This year, Erich Osterberg, an assistant professor in the Earth Sciences Department, has selected excerpts from For Common Things by Jedediah Purdy to launch our shared "Experience."

By early August, you will receive at your home address a bound version of selected excerpts from For Common Things. The production of the booklet and its mailing is courtesy of the Sphinx Foundation at Dartmouth.

Professor Osterberg has also created a Canvas site for this course, and will be posting other pieces of the Shared Academic Experience assignment there over the next several weeks.

  • Canvas is Dartmouth's learning management system that you will use throughout your time at Dartmouth to interact with your course materials, professors, Teaching Assistants (TAs), and peers.
  • You will be receiving information about how to access and setup your Canvas account via your Dartmouth email account in early August.

Please read the excerpts and attend to the upcoming "prompts" and instructions on the Canvas course site during August, in preparation for Professor Osterberg's Shared Academic Experience lecture during Orientation.

Enjoy! We'll talk again soon ...

Background Information

From Professor Osterberg on climate and environmental change and For Common Things:

"Important and complex decisions will need to be made by you and your generation as our rising population and increasing consumption create more pressure on the natural world. I believe that ultimately these decisions will hinge less on the science of climate change and more on our perception of our ethical responsibility to those who have fewer resources to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Our future path will depend on our willingness to act – personally and collectively – in a manner that benefits common interests rather than focusing on self interests.

In that spirit, I have chosen experts from For Common Things by Jedediah Purdy. I first read this book in 1999 as a recent graduate from Middlebury College, and its core message strongly resonated with me. Purdy describes his book as 'one young man's letter of love for the world's possibilities, written in the hope that others will recognize their own desire in it and will respond.' I suppose this Shared Academic Experience with you is part of my personal response."


Erich Osterberg is an assistant professor in the Department of Earth Sciences at Dartmouth College. His overarching research objective is to understand how and why Earth's environment changed in the past, and is changing today, so we can more accurately predict how it will change in the future. His specialty is creating records of past climate change and air pollution by analyzing chemical markers preserved in glacier ice cores. Professor Osterberg is particularly interested in how glaciers responded to warm periods in the past, as this provides an example of how glaciers and sea level may respond to future global warming. He is currently working with colleagues from several institutions to investigate these problems through multi-disciplinary research projects in Greenland and Alaska. Erich received his Ph.D. from the School of Earth and Climate Studies at the University of Maine (2007), his Master of Science degree in Geology from the University of Otago in New Zealand as a J. William Fulbright Scholar (2001), and his B.A. in Geology from Middlebury College (1999).


Erich Osterberg, Greenland

From Professor Osterberg: "The photo is from Greenland with masters student Matt Bigl (2013) at far left, me second from left, undergraduate student John Thompson ('13) second from right, and undergraduate student Ellen Roy ('13) far right."


Last Updated: 7/31/14