UMW Common Experience


The UMW Common Experience is a year-long program designed to cultivate a shared intellectual discussion among students, faculty, staff, and members of the local community.  The program begins with a pre-semester gathering of first-year students to provide an opportunity to interact with their peers and other UMW community members at the start of the educational journey.

The Common Experience should:

  • bring the UMW community together to participate in intellectual exchange and critical thinking
  • build community amongst new students and current UMW affiliates
  • encourage students to consider the world around them
  • reflect and engage in meaningful dialogue
  • invite new students to consider an academic work from a variety of perspectives

2018–2019 Common ExperienceDear Evan Hansen


A letter that was never meant to be seen, a lie that was never meant to be told, a life he never dreamed could be his. Evan Hansen is about to get the one thing he’s always wanted: a chance to belong. Deeply personal and profoundly universal, Dear Evan Hansen is a groundbreaking American musical about truth, fiction, and the price we’re willing to pay for the possibility to connect.

Featuring a high school student with a social anxiety disorder who struggles to make social connections, Dear Evan Hansen is a 2015 stage musical with music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, and a book written by Steven Levenson. The musical premiered in Washington, D.C. in 2015 and opened on Broadway in 2016. Dear Evan Hansen’s original broadway cast recording entered the Billboard 200 at number eight in February 2017.


UMW created a video of UMW community members singing “You Will be Found” from the Dear Evan Hansen soundtrack:


Common Experience Events


History of the UMW Common Experience

In June 2014, all incoming Honors Scholars received a copy of The Devil in the White City.  In August, during Welcome Week, the scholars discussed the book in groups with faculty and upper-class Honors Scholars.  The program introduced UMW Honors Scholars to academic engagement and discussions.  Honors Scholars further explored ideas from the text through a guided tour by Dr. Andi Smith of the architecture of Washington D.C.

The following year, the program was expanded to include all incoming first-year students in the experience.  Books are distributed at June First-year Student Orientation.  As part of the new student arrival in August, all first-year students join their classmates, upper-class students, faculty, staff, and community members in an engaging discussion of the book.  Throughout the year, various programs and events carry through themes emerging from the reading and the program is capped with a lecture and campus visit by the author or other notable speakers.

A committee of faculty and staff select the text for the Common Experience.  During the 2017-18 academic year, UMW wants to engage a larger audience in the selection and the type of academic work discussed by the community.  As an institution of liberal arts and sciences, we would like to consider other means of communication beyond a simple Common Read.  Please consider works that involve written, spoken, or performed word that meet the expectations for a shared Common Experience and nominate those works using the form on this website.