Each year the university selects a text or texts to launch the academic year for incoming students. At Seattle University, a key part of our mission is “empowering leaders for a just and humane world.” The Common Text program welcomes students to our Ignatian-inspired process of inquiry that emphasizes meaning-making, intellectual risk-taking, and engaging in deep and critical conversations.
Incoming students receive the year’s Common Text over the summer and are asked to read thoughtfully. The issues raised by the text(s) will be incorporated into some classes and pursued in a year-long series of programs built around the themes.
This website introduces this year’s Common Text and provides resources to help you engage with the text as you read and prepare for the year. We will continue to add materials to the site, so check back regularly and be on the lookout for emails from the Common Text team with details on this year’s events.
Welcome to Seattle University, where we wrestle with big ideas!
Two years ago, incoming students read Ijeoma Oluo’s book So You Want to Talk About Race. In Fall 2020, students engaged with a suite of digital readings to help us to further understand this historic moment, where renewed calls for racial justice and the protection of Black lives were happening in the midst of a global pandemic. They also anticipated the conversation we will begin this Fall on the meaning of U.S. citizenship, starting with Jose Antonio Vargas’s book, Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen.
Jose Antonio Vargas is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, documentary filmmaker, and one of the founders of the nonprofit media and culture organization, Define American. He was born in the Philippines and immigrated to the United States at the age of 12. At 16, when he went to apply for a driver's permit, he learned that his grandparents had brought him to the U.S. using fake papers. Dear America is a memoir tells the story of that discovery, how he navigated systems of employment and government, of the family he built along the way, and what happened when, in 2011, he publicly declared his status as an undocumented citizen.
But, he says, "this is not a book about the politics of immigration . . . This book is about homelessness, not in a traditional sense, but the unsettled, unmoored, psychological state that undocumented immigrants like me find ourselves in . . . After twenty-five years of living illegally in a country that does not consider me one of its own, this book is the closest thing I have to freedom" (Dear America, xiii).
To help you get started, we have provided some background on recent immigration policy and the situation at the southern border of the United States. A brief article and short videos from Define American will demonstrate the range of immigrant experience, documented and undocumented. Finally, Jose Antonio Vargas invites us to consider three questions on citizenship in his 2020 TED Talk. These materials can be found on the The Common Text webpage or as part of your Orientation course on Canvas.
We hope these texts offer new perspectives, prompt difficult but necessary conversations, and perhaps even inspire action. Please take the time to read, listen, and watch. Then look for Common Text and partner events throughout the year that will provide you with multiple ways to engage these ideas.
Please begin by reading and viewing the following brief resources. The first two articles may help you understand recent conversations and controversies around the southern border of the United States. Also, as Vargas notes, “mine is only one story, one of an estimated eleven million here in the United States” (p. xv). Hear other stories in the next two resources. Finally, meet Jose Antonio Vargas via the talk he gave at TED2020 and consider what it means to be a U.S. citizen.
Note: Please click on "+" to expand, then click on "Access Articles Here" link to access the articles in their external pages.
Access Article Here: Opinion | All Presidents Are Deporters in Chief - The New York Times (nytimes.com)
This opinion essay from the editors of the New York Times discusses the responsibility of any president to manage the nation's borders, explains the approaches to deportation, and measures each president's approach over the last four presidencies.
Citation: “All Presidents Are Deporters in Chief.” New York Times, 13 Jul, 2019.
Access Article Here: What’s going on at the border and why it’s a humanitarian crisis - Vox
Nicole Narea explains the forces behind migration from Central America, how recent administrations have tried to prevent it, and what happens once migrants present themselves at our southern border.
Citation: Narea, Nicole. “9 Questions About the Humanitarian Crisis on the Border, Answered.” Vox, 27 Mar. 2021
Access Article Here: Being an Undocumented Immigrant—and Black—in College - The Atlantic
Ainslya Charlton graduated from Trinity College in Connecticut in 2016 with a bachelor's degree in political science and human rights. Her story as a black undocumented student further shatters the perception that immigration reform is only a Latino issue.
Citation: Citation: Anderson, Melinda D.. “Undocumented and Black.” The Atlantic, 31 May 2016
Access Article Here: Browse Stories - Define American
Define American is a culture change organization that uses the power of narrative to humanize conversations about immigrants. Choose a few of these very brief (1-2 minute) videos to hear the stories uploaded by undocumented people from around the country.
Citation: "Stories." Define American, accessed 1 May 2021
Access Article Here: Jose Antonio Vargas: 3 questions to ask yourself about US citizenship | TED Talk
Jose Antonio Vargas has three questions in this TED Talk: Where did you come from? How did you get here? Who paid?
Citation: Vargas, Jose Antonio. “3 Questions to Ask Yourself About US Citizenship." TED.com, Jul 2020