Next Common Experience theme based on university’s integration

News Reporter

The Common Experience theme for the 2014-2015 academic year will honor the 50th anniversary of the university’s desegregation.

Five black women were integrated into the Southwest Texas State College in 1963. The university will celebrate their integration and reflect upon other situations that have “come into play since then,” said Pam Wuestenberg, Common Experience co-chair. The Common Experience will address the progress Texas State has made as a society and culture, she said.

An event held May 1 will bring back the five women who integrated into the university, Wuestenberg said. The university will host a discussion panel with the women about their experiences and what has happened to them since attending the university. The group will be honored with an award as part of the event.

Art exhibits and philosophy dialogues will be held along with events similar to previous years’ Common Experiences, Wuestenberg said.

Billi London-Gray, curator of the gallery celebrating the Common Experience, said she and a group of student volunteers will design a related theme for the art exhibition in both the fall and spring semesters.

Located in Lampasas, the exhibitions vary throughout the semesters, but always touch on the designated Common Experience theme, London-Gray said.

“There is a kind of unofficial group of faculty and staff who are involved in representing different departments and units within the university,” London-Gray said.

Other events relating to the Common Experience vary by department, including the University Seminar classes and their participation with the theme, London-Gray said.

Attendance of the LBJ Distinguished Lecture Series, which features a Common Experience themed speaker each year, is “heavily promoted” to all University Seminar classes, London-Gray said.

“One thing that is really great about the Common Experience is that it allows for a lot of flexibility for departments to design things that one, suit their subject matter, but also allows them to open their doors to the rest of the university,” London-Gray said.

Amelie Cabaza, criminal justice junior, said she has attended numerous Common Experience events, including a discussion with CNN reporter Soledad O’Brien her freshman year.

“I feel like the university always chooses relevant themes for the Common Experience,” Cabaza said. “I look forward to the events that correspond with the theme each year.”

The Common Experience intends for all disciplines and programs to look at the integration theme in their unique perspectives, Wuestenberg said.

Integration-themed events will provide students with pieces of history that continue to affect us today, said Karla Cardenas, public relations junior.

“The anniversary of our university’s integration is something we should take time to honor,” Cardenas said. “I am glad it will be recognized as a Common Experience.”

University Seminar officials, who are responsible for choosing the book that accompanies the Common Experience theme, selected Coming of Age in Mississippi by Anne Moody.