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UW Common Book

Undergraduate Academic Affairs


About UW Common Book

About the UW Common Book

Undergraduate Academic Affairs initiated the UW Common Book in 2006. This project is a catalyst for new undergraduates to make discovery, innovation, scholarship, and community engagement an integral part of their UW experience. A goal of the project is to introduce and engage these students in the University’s intellectual community and experiential learning. During summer orientation, incoming University of Washington students receive a common text with the expectation that they read it before fall quarter begins.

Centered in Undergraduate Academic Affairs at the UW Seattle campus, UW Bothell and Tacoma may also choose to incorporate the book into their campus curriculum. UW Bothell included Mountains Beyond Mountains, the inaugural selection, in its curriculum and plans to include Field Notes from a Catastrophe in it freshmen experience as well.

The UW Common Book is implemented with the partnership and support of First Year Programs, the University Libraries, University Book Store, and UW Alumni Association.

Disability Resources for Students

The University of Washington is committed to providing equal access and reasonable accommodation in its services, programs, activities, education, and employment for individuals with disabilities. If you are a student with a documented disability that would impact your ability to read the common book without reasonable accommodation, please contact Disability Resources for Students to request the common book in alternate format e.g. audiotape, large-print, electronic text, Braille.

Disability Resources for Students is located in 448 Schmitz Hall, 206-543-8924 (V/TTY), 206-685-8379 (fax), uwdss@u.washington.edu (email).

2007 UW Common Book Selection Criteria

The selection committee used the following criteria to choose the UW Common Book.

  • The book is accessible to freshmen.
  • The book is readable.
  • The book is inclusive.
  • The book is "talk-about-able" and stimulates good discussion.
  • The book stimulates personal reflection and is intellectually engaging.
  • The book is conducive to teaching and learning and can be integrated into the academic programs.
  • The book is well-written.
  • The book is a critical reading of society.
  • The book has the potential to build a community by sharing in the common experience of reading and discussing the book.

2007 UW Common Book Selection Committee

Thank you to these individuals who volunteered hours of their time to recommend the UW Common Book:


  • Jill McKinstry, Director, Odegaard Undergraduate Library, Libraries
  • Ed Taylor, Dean and Vice Provost, Undergraduate Academic Affairs

Committee Members

  • Ken Etzkorn, Director, Curriculum Planning and Special Programs, Undergraduate Academic Affairs
  • Geneva Gay, Professor, Curriculum and Instruction
  • Lauren Hanson, Student, University of Washington
  • Alex Kim, Senior, Anthropology, Association of Students at University of Washington
  • Gray Kochhar-Lindgren, Interim Coordinator, Center for University Studies and Programs, UW Bothell
  • Kaye Kovacs, Student, Association of Students at University of Washington
  • Wolfram Latsch, Professor, Jackson School of International Studies
  • Laura Little, Senior Lecturer, Assistant Chair, Psychology
  • Carol Niccolls, Special Counsel to the President, Office of the President
  • Janice Nikulin, Program Assistant, Odegaard Undergraduate Library
  • Betty Schmitz, Director, Center for Curriculum Transformation
  • Professor Kate Stovel, Sociology
  • John Webster, Professor, English and Director, Writing Council
  • Debbie Wiegand, Director, Gateway Center and Assistant Dean Undergraduate Academic Affairs

Special thanks to:

Selection history

2006: Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World by Tracy Kidder. The web site for the 2006 UW Common Book is archived here.

2007: Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change by Elizabeth Kolbert.


Elizabeth Kolbert
Elizabeth Kolbert