What is the Common Book Program?
The Common Book Program is one of the largest initiatives in University College. Building upon the nationally recognized Summer Reading program, the new initiative expands the previous program into a university-wide initiative focused on welcoming our first-year students into the vibrant intellectual culture of VCU. The Common Book is intended to create the opportunity to explore complex social issues through an interdisciplinary lens. In addition to integrating the book into the Focused Inquiry curriculum of UNIV 111 and UNIV 112, faculty in University College foster partnerships across both campuses and within the broader Richmond community. Students are provided opportunities to explore the real-world application and problem-solving each fall.
How can I get involved?
Each year, a selection committee of faculty, staff, students, and administrators read and review nominated books. A book that is unique to the entering class is chosen and given to each first-year student at New Student Orientation.
The entering class of 2025 will receive copies of Rising by Elizabeth Rush. During Welcome Week, students will be assigned to a discussion group and will attend events designed specifically for them. Students will also engage with the book in their UNIV courses and have the opportunity to hear the author in the fall semester! University College works with other units on campus and in the community to create events that increase the scope and depth of our understanding of the issues raised by the book. If you’d like to see the kinds of programming we often create, see pages from previous years. This fall watch the TelegRAM, the Common Book website, and follow us on twitter @VCUCommonBook to see the events programming. We invite you to join us as we read together this fall.
Felecia Williams is the associate dean of the University College and director of the Common Book Program. She is also an assistant professor in the Focused Inquiry Department. Prior to her current appointment, she was an associate professor of Political Science and Public Administration at Virginia Union University. She has taught courses in American Government, research methods, comparative politics, urban and metropolitan politics. She earned the PhD in Public Policy and Administration from Virginia Commonwealth University and the MPA from the University of Virginia. Dr. Williams feels that using an interdisciplinary lens that matches her background is crucial to relating to students engaging with the Common Book. She particularly enjoys the students’ interaction with the authors. Dr. Williams and the entire Common Book Team welcome your input and support.
Elizabeth Fagan holds appointments as the Common Book Program Coordinator, and as an assistant professor in the Department of Focused Inquiry. She is an archaeologist, a historian, and first and foremost, a teacher. She enjoys introducing students to material culture analysis, and helping her students wrestle with the challenging social issues that the Common Book always raises.
Anitra (Herron) Johnson is the Academic Coordinator for University College and apart of the Common Book Team aiding in the logistics of helping with Common Book Discussion Groups, distribution of the book to students who attend Student Orientation,campus partners, off campus partners, and provides support for the university wide In-Author Resident speaking event that is open to students and public. As a previous student at VCU her common book was "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks"! She thoroughly enjoyed her class’ common book and participation in activities provided by the Common Book Program. She believes that having had the experience of participating in the common book program her 1st yr helped her with the transition at VCU and have a better and more successful college career.
Rebecca Smith earned her BS in psychology from the University of Mary Washington and her MSW with a concentration in clinical social work from VCU. She worked in the fields of mental health and criminal justice before returning to VCU in 2017 to pursue her PhD in developmental psychology. Her research focuses on understanding the genetic and environmental influences on mental health, substance use, and recovery in young adults. She began working with the VCU Common Book Program in 2017. Her favorite common book to date is a tie between Just Mercy and Evicted.
Carley Harrison is the undergraduate Communications Assistant for the Common Book and has been working for the program since the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year. She is a sophomore studying Psychology and Biology here at VCU. Her year’s Common Book was Evicted by Matthew Desmond and is still her favorite to date. She believes that the Common Book is an amazing way to engage with the Richmond/ VCU community and that the book allows students to discuss social issues in an inviting environment with their classmates.