2014-2015 Common Experience: Exploring Democracy's Promise
The 2014-2015 Common Experience theme is inspired by the 50th anniversary of the desegregation of Texas State University, known in 1963 as Southwest Texas State College. In January of 1963 Judge Ben H. Rice ruled that SWT could not deny admission to an African-American student based solely on race. After the ruling, in the fall of 1963, 18-year-old Dana Jean Smith, a graduate of Anderson High School in Austin, Texas, enrolled at SWT. The registrar personally assisted Smith in registering along with four other African American students — Georgia Hoodye, Gloria Odoms, Mabeleen Washington, and Helen Jackson.
This Common Experience theme explores the trials of segregation and the impact of integration, raising the question of how we internalize change in this a 50-year celebration of the desegregation of Texas State. A closer exploration of desegregation reveals a long and difficult struggle to achieve one of modern democracy's great promises, equal access to a quality education. Specifically, we use this 50-year anniversary of the desegregation of our institution as an opportunity to examine issues related to equal access to higher education and the role of laws, litigation, and civil rights movements in helping students obtain higher education. This theme also makes a connection to the 2008-2009 Common Experience theme, "Civic Responsibility and the Legacy of LBJ," celebrating our most famous alumnus, Lyndon Baines Johnson. Bringing LBJ into the conversation emphasizes the role he played in making these changes happen and helps build pride in Texas State and its graduates.
The Book: Coming of Age in Mississippi
The common reading exploring the issues of segration and integration will be Coming of Age in Mississippi by Anne Moody.
'The Common Experience brings students together to read and engage with a powerful text, explore related themes in University Seminar classes, write responses and reactions to the text in writing courses, participate in related symposia with scholarly panels, hear renowned and respected speakers address the topic, see films related to the Common Experience theme, explore the experience by way of the fine arts, engage in informal discussions in residence halls and coffee shops, and extend the exploration via the avenues of their own choosing.'