Common Read

Nominate a text/event for Common Read 2020 here!



The Medicine Panel will be held on Monday, October 21 at 6 pm in Lee 411.

Please join us as we further examine the themes of medical topics raised in Educated – A Memoir by Tara Westover. A panel of UMW faculty, staff and students will participate in a panel discussion about alternative versus traditional medicine and the role of vaccinations in modern society. Panelists include: Nancy Wang, Ray Tuttle, Lynn Lewis and Ashley Parkhurst.

Pizza will be provided and all are invited to attend. A discussion will follow the formal remarks from the panel members.


The Common Read is a student’s first college reading assignment, and books are distributed at June Orientation. As part of new student arrival in August, all first-year students join their classmates, upperclass students, faculty, and staff in an engaging discussion of the book. Throughout the year, various programs and events carry through themes emerging from the reading.

Do you have an idea for next year’s Common Read title? Is there a theme you’d like future Common Reads to explore? Are you interested in being on the Common Read selection committee? Nominate a title or a theme, or sign up as a committee member!

2019–2020 Common Read | Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover Book cover of Educated

Tara Westover grew up in a survivalist community in Idaho, isolated from modern medicine, homeschooled within the narrow confines of her parents’ beliefs, and working as a midwife and junkyard assistant from a young age. Westover tutored herself in secret to gain admission to Brigham Young University, against her family’s wishes. Her studies eventually took her to Harvard and Cambridge. All the while, Westover struggled to reconcile her upbringing with life beyond her family’s limited worldview.

This memoir addresses many issues of importance to First-in-Family college students, as well as themes of culture shock, personal growth, and grit. All students will recognize elements of their own experience as they enter college and encounter people who are different from themselves.

For access to an accessible version of the text please login here or email April Wynn.


Continue the Common Read Discussion – Dr. Sonja Ardoin Presents Keynote and Workshops on Supporting First-Generation Students and Limiting Barriers – Thursday, Sept. 26 and Friday, Sept. 27

This year’s Common Read of Educated – A Memoir by Tara Westover was a great start to the academic year. Keep the discussion going by attending a keynote address on Thursday, September 26. UMW welcomes Dr. Sonja Ardoin as she presents The Relationship Between Rurality, Social Class Identity, and College Access & Affordability at 7:00 pm in the Hurley Convergence Center Digital Auditorium.

In addition to the keynote, Dr. Sonja Ardoin will be presenting two workshops (one focused on the classroom and one focused on supports beyond the classroom) that touch on supporting first-generation students and limiting barriers. A lunch with students is planned for Friday, September 27, from 11:30 to 1:30 (come and go) in the UC Magnolia Room.

Keynote Address – open to the UMW and Fredericksburg community

 The Relationship Between Rurality, Social Class Identity, and College Access & Affordability – Thursday, September 26 @ 7:00 pm in HCC Digital Auditorium

This session will explore how a working class, rural environment influences opportunities to pursue higher education and engage in the college choice process for rural, first-generation college students. Based on data from her book College Aspirations and Access in Working Class Rural Communities: The Mixed Signals, Challenges, and New Language First-Generation Students Encounter, Dr. Ardoin will share insights from rural students and their high school counselors about the relationship between rurality, social class, and first-generation college student status. Strategies on how to reduce barriers will also be offered.

For access to a video recording of the keynote please login here or email April Wynn.

Workshops – open to UMW faculty and staff

 Setting a First-Gen Foundation: Preparing Our Classrooms & Curriculum to Welcome Learners New to Higher Education Systems – Thursday, September 26 @ 3:30 to 4:45 pm in Lee Hall 412

This session will invite educators to explore how to prepare learning environments and curricular content with first-generation college students in mind. Educators are encouraged to bring syllabi or computers with them to engage in activities and analyze the costs, representation, and jargon associated with their course, training, or program.

How Can Your Campus Become More First-Generation College Student Ready – Friday, September 27 @ 9:30 to 11:00 am in Lee Hall 412

This session will offer a five-step process that individuals and campuses can use to become ready to welcome first-generation college students and support them to graduation. Educators will be invited to explore the complexity of defining first generation college students, the systemic barriers that exist for this population, and ideas for implementing support structures.

More information about Dr. Ardoin can be found at her website: