The Common Reader Experience provides a sense of community for first-year students


Megan Schneider

Students participate in a discussion of Willa Cather’s “My Antonia” during the Fall 2018 Common Reader Experience in Arts & Sciences Hall. Photo courtesy of the University of Nebraska at Omaha

The Common Reader Experience began as a pilot effort for the University Honors Program in the fall of 2015 and became a campus-wide success in the fall of 2018.

The program eases the transition of incoming students to college with small group discussions and assignments based around a single book. Students who read the book during the summer are asked to think about possible discussion topics. They engage in various activities, including participating in a contest and examining book-related questions and issues.

The Common Reader Experience Committee, comprised of students, staff and faculty, announced Tara Westover’s “Educated: A Memoir” as the 2019 Common Reader. The autobiography discusses a young woman’s journey to achieve an education and the formation of her own ideas.

The Common Reader Experience is meant to establish the engagement of students as part of an intellectual community, providing an opportunity to discuss personal, communal and societal values; and creating a sense of community among the freshman class through shared learning from a book.

Students who participate can reflect on their own personal experiences and values to help them relate to those discussed in the text. They can compare and contrast their academic experiences in high school and college, allowing them to articulate the importance of reading for academic success at the university level.

“Incoming students will read the book and see parts of themselves,” said Dr. Lucy Morrison, co-chair of the program. “The challenges of adjusting to college, but the excitement of trying new things, too.”

Discussion groups will be held on Aug. 25 at 3 p.m. on campus for students attending New Student Convocation.

Watch the latest Maverick Minute to see Dr. Morrison speak with Chancellor Jeffrey Gold about the importance of the Common Reader Experience.