2019-2020 Common Theme: Citizenship 

Every year, St. Edward’s chooses a Common Theme that creates a conversation across campus and guides programming for the coming year. We also choose a book that elaborates on this theme. All first-year students read the book over the summer and discuss it in their classes in the fall. We're excited to announce that our incoming students will read Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen by Jose Antonio Vargas and our Common Theme is Citizenship. 

Dear America, Notes from an Undocumented Citizen


My name is Jose Antonio Vargas. I was born in the Philippines. When I was twelve, my mother sent me to the United States to live with her parents. While applying for a driver’s permit, I found out my papers were fake. More than two decades later, I am still here illegally, with no clear path to American citizenship…. I am only one of an estimated 11 million human beings whose uncertain fate is under threat in a country I call my home.

This is not a book about the politics of immigration. This book—at its core—is not about immigration at all. This book is about homelessness, not in a traditional sense, but about the unsettled, unmoored psychological state in which undocumented immigrants like me find ourselves. This book is about lying and being forced to lie to get by; about passing as an American and as a contributing citizen; about families, keeping them together, and having to make new ones when you can’t. This book is about what it means to not have a home. (www.amazon.com)

At St. Edward’s, one of our goals is to confront critical issues in society and seek justice and peace, per the institutional mission. We look forward to confronting this year's critical issue with you next fall in class, at events related to the theme, and through service. For example, watch Jose Antonio Vargas discuss what it means to be a citizen to him. 

Learn more about how the Common Theme is integrated into the first year experience.

All freshmen are required to attend the Common Theme speaker on the evening of October 10th. More information to come.

How to Read the Common Text

One of the most important things we hope to do as a university is create a love of learning in our students, and the first part of that happens with the Freshman Seminar common text, a book we ask you all to read over the summer. Our committee of faculty, staff, and students has chosen Dear America as this year’s common text. 

As you read the common text this summer, don't read as if it is a textbook. There's no need to memorize any facts. Instead, think about the issues Dear America raises. Make notes in the margins, mark passages that stand out to you, and write down questions you have. That way you will be well prepared to write about the book in class this fall and to participate in discussions. You will also have opportunities outside of classes to think about the book and the common theme by attending screenings of documentaries, hearing lectures by experts, and going on field trips.

Email alexb [at] stedwards.edu with any questions about the common text or Freshman Seminar. And again, welcome to St. Edward's.  

Alex Barron
Associate Professor, University Studies
Director of Freshman Seminar

Fall 2019 Common Theme Events

Fall 2019 events

Sept 12 @ 12:00 in Mabee A: Citizenship 101
Lecture by David Thomason, Assistant Professor of Political Science
Who should be an American citizen and what should the concept of American citizenship encompass?  What does the United States Constitution have to say about citizenship? This discussion will investigate the legal, ethical, and spiritual dimensions of what it means to be an American citizen.

Sept 16 @ 6:00 in Carter: What Is Citizenship? A Panel Discussion
What does citizenship mean through the lens of different disciplines? Is citizenship the same thing to an artist and to a chemist for example? What about to a political scientist and a social worker? Come hear St. Ed's faculty from a variety of fields discuss how they understand citizenship.

September 24 @ 6pm in Carter Auditorium
Documentary: Documented 
In 2011, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas outed himself as an undocumented immigrant in an essay published in the New York Times Magazine. Documented chronicles his journey to America from the Philippines as a child; his journey through America as an immigration reform activist; and his journey inward as he re-connects with his mother, whom he hasn't seen in person in over 20 years.

Oct 2 @ 5:00 in Mabee A and B: Trivia Night
Test your knowledge of our Common Text—Dear America—and our Common Theme—Citizenship—in this trivia battle to the death. Win prizes and impress your friends.

October 10 @ 7pm in the Recreation & Convocation Center:
Speaker & Author Jose Antonio Vargas
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas will be speaking about his life as an undocumented immigrant, his work as an activist for immigrant rights, and his book Dear America. Book-signing to follow after the lecture.

Oct 31 @ 12:30 in Fleck 305: Reproducing Violence: Dehumanization & Incarceration of Immigrants Seeking Refuge in the US
Join us for a panel discussion exploring contemporary policies and practices that contribute to the dehumanization and incarceration of immigrants seeking protection in the United States.

Nov 6 @ 5:00 in Mabee Ballrooms: Careers in Advocacy/Reform
Are you interested in a career as an advocate? Come to this event hosted by the Office of Career & Professional Development

Nov 13 @ 12:30 in Fleck 305: FUSION discussion of Marisol
All students, faculty, and staff are welcome to come learn about the Mary Moody Northen Theatre’s upcoming production of Marisol by playwright José Rivera. Lunch will be provided. RSVP required.

Nov 14-24 in MMNT: Marisol
The Mary Moody Northen Theatre presents the Obie-award winning play by José Rivera. Marisol chronicles the journey of a young Latinx woman in an apocalyptic New York City.

Nov. 19 @ 7:00 in Fleck 305: Migration, Detention and Activism in Central Texas: Film Screening and Discussion with Attorney Barbara Hines
Screening of the short documentary The Least of These (2009) about the Hutto detention center followed by a discussion with former director of the UT Law School Immigration Clinic. Hines will talk about how immigration policy has changed and about opportunities for activism.

Nov 20 @ 6:00 in Carter: Screening of Children of Men
Screening of the critically-acclaimed film by Alfonso Cuarón set in a dystopian England where immigrants are rounded up and put in cages. The screening will be followed by discussion.

Past Common Themes

2018-2019: Identity
Book: Born a Crime
by Trevor Noah
Speaker: Eli Kimaro

2017- 2018: Immigrant Voices
Book: Detained & Deported: Stories of Immigrant Families Under Fire
by Margaret Regan
Speaker: Erika Andiola

2016-2017: Food Justice
Book: Where Am I Eating?
by Kelsey Timmerman
​Speaker: Kelsey Timmerman
Trip: Costa Rica
Read about three freshmen who explored food justice in their communities.

2015-2016: Justice
Book: Just Mercy
by Bryan Stevenson
Speaker: Bryan Stevenson
Trip: 28 students and three faculty members  travelled to South Africa to explore justice, mercy and how these issues relate to race.

2014-2015: Hearts and Minds: Changing the Conversation about Mental Health
Book: Brain on Fire
by Susannah Cahalan
Speaker: Susannah Cahalan
Trip: London 

2013-2014: Expanding Human Rights
Book: Half the Sky
by Nicolas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
Speaker: Jackson Katz
Trip: Learn how three students built on their Common Theme trip to Bangladesh by continuing to stand up for human rights.

2012-2013: How to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse: Dystopias and Sustainability
Book: World War Z
by Max Brooks
Speaker: Max Brooks