common experience

Kaela Molina passes incoming freshman Paige Rutherford the 2019-20 Common Experience book, “What the Eyes Don’t See”, by Mona Hanna-Attisha June 24 at New Student Orientation.

The Common Experience theme, “truth,” has been chosen for Texas State students for the 2019-2020 school year. Freshman students will be introduced to the new theme during New Student Orientation.

The theme will be consolidated with the book, “What the eyes don’t see,” by Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, a Michigan pediatrician who brought national media attention to the Flint water crisis. Her book tells her story and research about the water in Flint. Hanna-Attisha is scheduled to speak in the fall semester about her book and how it relates to the theme.

Since 2004, Texas State’s Common Experience has been unique for the university and continues to grow with the purpose of reaching more students and engaging them to connect with one topic, regardless of their major. It has become the nation’s number one initiative of its kind.

Students and faculty will engage in several panel discussions during the school year in a “truth about” series, where individuals cover topics like immigration, post-graduation employment, personal finances, money management and urban legends and myths.

Twister Marquiss, director of the Common Experience and Dr. Erika Nielson, assistant director and common reading coordinator, have put together the proposal along with other committee members.

“We are polling faculty, staff and especially students to say, ‘What would you want to delve into?'” Nielson said. “We are focusing on three main things: universal truth, personal truth as well as marketing, advertising. It all comes from from the larger concept down to the very personal understanding.”

Nielson said for the 2018-19 school year, Texas State faculty and students hosted 239 events relating to the theme “innovation,” and plan to make this year’s events and planning more widespread.

Alicia Garcia, fashion marketing freshman, said a theme revolving around truth could not be more appropriate for incoming freshman.

“Especially as a freshman, coming into a new city and completely different environment from Houston, I think it is about finding yourself and finding the truth behind everything,” Garcia said.

In such a complex and collaborative program, the theme decision process is extensive. Each year in February, campus faculty and staff propose a theme meeting several requirements and how that theme will be most effective. By April, there is a selection process in which the Common Experience committee and others vote.

Following the voting process, upper administration oversees and approves the theme. The rest of the year, faculty and staff from various departments collaborate with one other to figure out all the elements that will go into the theme. In June the following year, the theme is officially announced.

Marquiss said it takes a full year of planning that goes into each year’s theme, while Nielson vets about 60-80 books for every selected theme.

“I do some research and ask different publishers, ‘if you heard the theme, what would you give to me?'” Nielson said. “I’m thinking about what would be appropriate for our campus community and I want it to be accessible to students.”

In order to reach the maximum amount of students and engagement, the Common Experience committee has reached out via social media, including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @TXSTCE.

“We advertise (Common Experience) as much as we can, but sometimes we have to just count on word of mouth; I think we need to do that a little bit more,” Marquiss said. “The Common Experience is not just for everybody at the university, but for the community too. It’s one of our ties that goes beyond the edges of campus.”

To keep up with events throughout the year, visit the Common Experience website.

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