Provost Summer Read Program Creates Community Among First-Time Students

Inaugural Book Selection is ABC Network Anchor Byron Pitts’ ‘Step Out on Nothing’

Joining a university community for the first time can be daunting.  The large population and expansive campus can make it challenging for first-year students to feel as though they’re part of the community and culture.

The University of Houston Office of the Provost announces the Provost Summer Read Program, which aims to create community among first-year students through a common reading experience. The inaugural book selection is “Step Out on Nothing: How Faith and Family Helped Me Conquer Life’s Challenges,” by Byron Pitts, chief national correspondent and news anchor for ABC News.

“This program provides a common experience for all first-year students in each of the 10 academic colleges with undergraduate majors,” said Paula Myrick Short, UH senior vice chancellor/senior vice president for academic affairs and provost. “The Provost Summer Read Program also sets the tone for the kind of critical thinking and intellectual rigor that will be expected from their college work at UH.”  ByronPitts

In his book, Pitts chronicles his professional success that began in a single-parent home in inner-city Baltimore, where his mother worked two jobs to make ends meet. A debilitating stutter made for an embarrassing school life, but his big secret was his inability to read. He was diagnosed as functionally illiterate at age 12.   

First-year students will be given a copy of the book during New Student Orientation beginning May 29. Students will participate in faculty-led seminars and discussion groups in August to explore themes of the book. Additionally, an essay contest about their own experiences of overcoming challenges will give students a chance to meet and have lunch with Pitts. The author will be on campus September 15 to participate in student and faculty activities and to deliver a public lecture.

The book was selected by a committee of UH faculty representing diverse academic disciplines. In subsequent years, the campus community will be able to suggest books for the committee to consider.

For more information on the Provost Summer Read Program, visit

For more information on “Step Out on Nothing: How Faith and Family Helped Me Conquer Life’s Challenges,”  visit