The Common Text

Why do we read a Common Text?

  • Introduce students to an Ignatian-inspired process of inquiry that emphasizes meaning-making, risk-taking, and asking deep questions
  • Provide an opportunity to practice active reading, share informed opinions, and discuss challenging or conflicting ideas
  • Connect new students with Learning Communities, faculty, staff, and one another
  • Kick off a yearlong series of programs that integrate Common Text themes

Common Text 2018

The Common Texts for the upcoming two academic years:

A committee of fifteen faculty, staff, and students selected these two texts from a lengthy list of finalists.  

Information about our 2018-19 Common Text: Tulalip from My Heart

Presented in the author’s own voice, this memoir is immediately engaging as an act of storytelling. It is accessible and varied and offers distinct, specific history of the lives of native peoples here in the greater Seattle area.

As publisher University of Washington Press explains, “Written by a member of the Tulalip tribe and edited posthumously by the local community college writing instructor who collaborated on the project, Tulalip, from My Heart is . . . written in rich, voice-driven text and the traditional Tulalip storyteller narrative style, recounts the myriad problems that such tribes faced after resettlement. Born in 1904, Dover grew up hearing the elders of her tribe tell of the hardships involved in moving from their villages to the reservation on Tulalip Bay: inadequate supplies of food and water, harsh economic conditions, and religious persecution outlawing potlatch houses and other ceremonial practices.”

Members of our committee were excited about this text as a local oral history, as it is likely to engage a broad array of members of our community, as well as a range of ethical complexities related to ethnography, local history, issues of translation, etc. This book is an immersive experience in storytelling, and it is a beautiful example of qualitative research could indeed be an important introduction to incoming SU students’ academic life. Moreover, as next year’s Common Text, it is well-timed to coincide with the opening of Vi Hilbert Hall.

Information about our 2019-20 Common Text: So You Want to Talk About Race

Written by a local Seattle journalist, So You Want to Talk About Race offers a combination of personal history and instruction-oriented critical analysis in order to present the reader with a set of insights, stakes, and vocabularies for ongoing engagement with “some of the most complex sets of realities of today's racial landscape—from white privilege and police brutality to systemic discrimination and the Black Lives Matter movement—offering straightforward clarity that readers need to contribute to the dismantling of the racial divide” (Seal Press).

The book’s best-selling success is no surprise, as “Oluo is an exceptional writer with a rare ability to be straightforward, funny, and effective in her coverage of sensitive, hyper-charged issues in America. Her messages are passionate but finely tuned, and crystalize ideas that would otherwise be vague by empowering them with aha-moment clarity. Her writing brings to mind voices like Ta-Nehisi Coates and Roxane Gay” (Seal Press).

At one student on our committee explained, So You Want to Talk About Race, “Takes things to a higher level than what was available in high school. All of the topics in the book would be treated in CORE courses. It calls out white people and pushes back against white supremacy. And validates the experiences of people of color.” A second student similarly felt that this book would take on the kinds of issues that we want to see addressed in our community.

Previous Common Texts


Notes from No Man's Land (2009)
Eula Biss


Kindred (1979)
Octavia Butler


The Lathe of Heaven (1971)
Ursula K. Le Guin


Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty (2011)
Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo


The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains (2010)
Nicholas Carr


World on the Edge: How to Prevent Environmental and Economic Collapse (2011)
Lester Russell Brown


Country Driving (2010)
Peter Hessler


Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada’s Quest to Change Harlem and America (2008)
Paul Tough


The Open Road: The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama (2008)
Pico Iyer


Crossing Into America
Louis Mendoza and S. Shankar