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The Commons Reading

Every incoming first-year class has something in common before arriving on campus: The Commons Reading – a text that all students with a domestic mailing address receive in the mail prior to move-in and are expected to read. Students with an international mailing address will receive a digital copy of the book via email.

All incoming students are asked to complete a reflective essay on The Commons Reading prior to the start of classes. Instructions on how to complete the assignment can be accessed here, along with the essay prompts. This assignment forms the basis for a community-wide dialogue that begins during orientation and continues throughout the year and takes place in houses, Vanderbilt Visions groups, and across campus. In the fall, all students will attend the annual Lawson Lecture, which focuses on topics related to the reading. The Commons Reading is selected by a committee of faculty VUceptors with representation from the VUcept Executive Board.

The Commons Reading for the Class of 2024 is The Person You Mean to Be: How Good People Fight Bias by Dolly Chugh. Published in 2018, The Person You Mean to Be offers readers a guide for discussing the challenging topics of racism, sexism, and inequality. Leveraging research from psychology, sociology, economics, political science, and other disciplines, Chugh exposes the root causes of injustice and shares practical tips for respectfully talking about it.

Chugh argues that in order to effect meaningful change in the world, one must acknowledge the privilege they bring with them, recognize their own blind spots, and commit to personal growth. In doing so, the author equips readers with the tools they need to thoughtfully engage with their communities and adhere to the values of equity, diversity, and inclusion.

Hear more from Dean of The Ingram Commons Melissa Gresalfi on why we have a Commons Reading and why The Person You Mean to Be was chosen here.

Past Commons Readings

  • 2019 – The Lies That Bind: Rethinking Identity by Kwame Anthony Appiah
  • 2018 – The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom by Jonathan Haidt
  • 2017 – Strong Inside: Perry Wallace and the Collision of Race and Sports in the South by Andrew Maraniss
  • 2016 – Strong Inside: Perry Wallace and the Collision of Race and Sports in the South by Andrew Maraniss
  • 2015 – The Madonnas of Echo Park by Brando Skyhorse
  • 2014 – Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward
  • 2013 – College: What It Was, Is, and Should Be by Andrew Delbanco
  • 2012 – Half the Sky by Nicholas D. Kristof & Sheryl WuDunn
  • 2011 – The Good Life by Peter Gomes
  • 2010 – Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin