This year’s Common Experience, titled “A Global Odyssey: Exploring our Connections with the Changing World,” will aim to make students, faculty and staff aware of the ties between Texas State and a larger, global society.
Pam Wuestenburg, co-chair of the university seminar program, said the Common Experience theme is chosen each year from proposals submitted by faculty.
“The world isn’t small anymore,” Wuestenburg said. “Our students will be spending more time interacting with other countries than ever before just because of the immediate access through the Internet.”
Keynote speakers are Kelsey Timmerman, author of the required text “Where am I Wearing?” and Ethan Zuckerman of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, an activist and scholar whose work focuses on the role of the media in shaping communities worldwide.
In his book, Timmerman explores where and how garments are made. He visited sweatshops around the world as part of his research process.
“I hope that what people get out of reading my book is they see how closely we’re all connected, see the hopes and dreams of those people and that they actually care about those people,” Timmerman said.
The surprising complexity of issues like child labor is something Timmerman said he hopes can influence students to think in new ways.
“I visited a dump in Cambodia and I saw this 11-year-old girl collecting recyclables for 25 cents and had a thought I’d never had in my life: ‘maybe she’s better off working in a garment factory,’” Timmerman said. “For students moving forward, the non black-and-whiteness of it will help them in the rest of their studies to not fully accept something that always seems like a given.”
Tibetan monks will visit the Texas State campus for a week to create an intricate piece of sand art and then dismantle it, symbolizing the impermanence of life. The date of their visit is to be announced, Wuestenburg said.
History professor Dennis Dunn, said Texas State is making strides toward global outreach, with projects including water quality improvement in Cambodia and English-Spanish language teaching in Honduras.
“I think it’s the most critical higher education objective for the immediate future,” Dunn said. “I’ve traveled quite a bit and see the desire of people to improve their lives. It’s very heartening.”
Dunn said though the subject matter of this year’s Common Experience theme may be daunting, or an outright downer to some students, understanding the suffering of others is a way to spurn efforts toward change.
“We want to prepare ourselves for our world and its challenges, which range from disease to suffering to war in the hopes that we can find solutions to make this a better world,” Dunn said. “If you come to understand the pains of others, particularly children, you begin to appreciate what you have and how important it is to work internationally to alleviate those problems.”