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Projects: Common Book

The Center for Curriculum Transformation collaborates with Undergraduate Academic Affairs, the sponsor of the UW Common Book.  The Common Book initiative introduces freshmen to the college-level process of academic inquiry. Through a common text, students begin to discuss and examine a particular theme, issue, or topic, using the book as a common point of entry. All entering freshmen receive a copy of the book.
When the Common Book has a significant emphasis on diversity, the Center for Curriculum Transformation enlists faculty members with expertise specific to the book to develop study notes.
Learn more about UW Common Book activities at the Undergraduate Academic Affairs web site at

2012 Common Book:
Respect: An Exploration by Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot


Respect tells the stories of six remarkable but ordinary people and the central role that the value of respect plays in their lives and work. The accounts span the human experience, from birth to death and across a wide range of professions including midwife, pediatrician, teacher, professor, artist, and therapist, each revealing a dimension or “window” into the nature of respect. Several stories also describe the experiences of students.
“Not only is respect a UW value,” says Ed Taylor, vice provost and dean of Undergraduate Academic Affairs. “But the book itself is a wonderful introduction to a particular form of scholarship practiced by our faculty. This is work of deep inquiry. It is an example of questioning and the kind of discovery and insight that come from careful observation, analysis, and thought.”

2009 Common Book:
Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama

Dreams from my FatherThe 2009 selection, Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama, is an eloquent description of a young man’s search for identity and the meaning of the American dream. All UW freshmen share the common experience of race and advancement in our America. This book prompted students to intellectually, critically, and emotionally reflect on their experiences and roles in society.
Freshman seminars, Freshman Interest Groups, writing classes and faculty from across campus incorporated the book into their curriculum in myriad ways and outside events underscored the book’s themes.

2008 Common Book:
The Devil’s Highway by Luis Alberto Urrea

Devil's Highway coverIn a widely praised piece of investigative reporting, award-winning author Luis Alberto Urrea follows 26 men who, in May 2001, attempted to cross the Mexican border into the desert of southern Arizona. Their path took them through the deadly region known as the Devil’s Highway, some of the most remote and undeveloped desert in the United States. Only 12 of the men made it out. The Devil’s Highway: A True Story reminds us that immigration is a pressing moral as well as socioeconomic and political issue.
Resources for teaching The Devil’s Highway »

2006 Common Book:
Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder

Mountains Beyond Mountains coverDuring the 2006-2007 school year, students read the UW Common Book selection Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World. Explore study notes on topics raised by the book by clicking on the following link.
Resources for teaching Mountains Beyond Mountains »