When the Dean’s Book Club at the U.S. Military Academy was started during the fall 2017 semester, the goal was to bring cadets, staff and faculty together from throughout the academy.Each meeting was hosted at the West Point Club and would start with a roughly 30-minute lunch period, before moving into an hour-long discussion of the chosen book. Attendees were encouraged to sit with people they didn’t know and strike up a conversation. Cadets may end up sitting with professors from academic departments they had no exposure to, or maybe even share lunch with Brig. Gen. Cindy Jebb, the dean of the academic board.The book club was able to hold its first meeting this semester at the academy but plans for additional meetings were uprooted due to COVID-19.Much in the same way professors were forced to adapt to remote learning, the organizers of the book club had to look for a creative way to continue the discussion. They found the answer via Microsoft Teams and on April 10 held the semester’s second book club meeting with about 30 people attending virtually from their own homes.One book is chosen each semester and they typically hold three to four meetings with different presenters each time. Sometimes, a professor will lead the discussion. Other times it is led by a cadet, or they take a tour relevant to the topic being discussed. On multiple occasions the author has come to discuss his or her book and answer questions.This semester “Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity” by Katherine Boo was selected as the topic of discussion during the book club. The book recounts life in the Annawadi slums of Mumbai, India.The virtual discussion was led by Richard Wolfel and Amy Richmond, who are both professors in West Point’s Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering. Wolfel studies slums in India’s megacities while Richmond’s research focuses on Africa. They each presented for about five minutes, Wolfel said, before opening the floor up to questions.“To me the big value is understanding how everything connects together, which is one of our missions in the core curriculum for sure,” Wolfel said. “I’m a firm believer in interdisciplinarity and learning across disciplines and taking a question and looking at it from multiple perspectives. Being able to talk to a chemist, for example, and get their perspectives really makes me think about things in a very different manner than I would as a geographer.”Col. Chris Mayer, associate dean for strategy and initiatives, who organized the club’s meeting, said the discussion was fostered by some people participating by turning on their videos and asking questions while others asked questions in the chat function of Teams. Because there was no lunch this time, the meeting lasted about an hour, he said.The books chosen for the club come from varying genres and have included, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot, “I. Robot” by Isaac Asimov and last semester’s book “Educated: A Memoir” by Tara Westover. Mayer said “Behind the Beautiful Forevers” was suggested by a member of the staff and selected because understanding megacities and urban environments is a point of focus within the Army.“I think a lot of people don’t know much about India and I think most Americans don’t understand life in a megacity or in a slum in India,” Mayer said. “I think that really opened their eyes to what’s out in the world beyond what we’re used to and to a country like India, which is obviously a world player and will continue to be and is the world’s largest democracy.”The April 10 meeting was the last of the semester for the book club, which will return in the fall with a new book to discuss.