Freshman Connections

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Freshman Common Reader?  
The Freshman Common Reader is a book selected each year for incoming students. The book, along with support materials, is given free to students each summer during their orientation session. The book and related fall programs are part of the Freshman Connections program.

Why did Ball State begin this program for its new students? 
The goal of Freshman Connections is to integrate new members of Ball State University into our learning community as quickly as possible. Learning is about ideas and how ideas are discussed. New students with shared ideas on the first day of classes are able to participate immediately in discussing ideas and forming viewpoints based on their reading, writing, and discussions.

Why is the visit by the author essential for this program? 
Having the author of the Freshman Common Reader visit campus for both a large public lecture and small group discussions with new students helps to enforce the principle that ideas take life when they are discussed among readers. Often this is the first time new students have had the chance to meet with and directly question a book's author about the ideas they have read.

What are the Common Reader discussion groups? 
On the Sunday before fall classes begin, new students are officially welcomed to campus at the Freshman Convocation, a traditional opening of the year featuring a procession of faculty and administrators in academic regalia, and welcoming addresses by the university president, student leaders, and guest speakers. After convocation, 100 community leaders, administrators, staff, faculty, and graduate students volunteer to discuss the Freshman Common Reader with small groups of 20-25 new students. These volunteers make clear their dedication to learning, as well as their determination to assist these new students with integrating into our academic community.

How else is the book used during the students' first year? 
All students will complete the Common Writing Experience through the Ball State University InQsit online testing system. Many faculty members of University Core Curriculum (UCC) classes (and some non-UCC classes) take advantage of the fact that students come to class having read the book and integrate it into their own classes (the decision to do so lies solely in the hands of the faculty). A series of panels and lectures related to the book are also planned for each fall semester to highlight ideas related to the book itself. Students are sometimes required to attend these programs (which are open to the entire university community), though those decisions are again made solely by faculty members.

What books have been selected in the past? 

Since its beginning in 1998, the following books have been selected as Common Readers:

  • 2015: Funny in Farsi by Firoozeh Dumas
  • 2014: The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore
  • 2013: Little Princes by Conor Grennan
  • 2012: Where Am I Wearing? by Kesley Timmerman
  • 2011: The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
  • 2010: Gimp by Mark Zupan
  • 2009: A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah
  • 2008: Field Notes from a Catastrophe by Elizabeth Kolbert
  • 2007: The Color of Water by James McBride
  • 2006: First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung
  • 2005: The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
  • 2004: Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser
  • 2003: Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich
  • 2002: A Woman in Amber by Agate Nesaule
  • 2001: Hunting for Hope by Scott Russell Sanders
  • 2000: Night by Elie Weisel
  • 1999: Life on the Color Line by Gregory Howard Williams
  • 1998: Life on the Color Line by Gregory Howard William

What criteria are used to select a book as a Freshman Common Reader?

  • The topic of the book needs to be related to the program theme for the year (selection committee may identify the theme as book titles are discussed).
  • The book needs to be accessible to high-school graduates just beginning their college years (e.g., around 250 pages, with appropriate reading level, topic, relevance).
  • The book needs to be affordable (typically paperback).
  • The book should be applicable to many disciplines.
  • The author should be living and available for a campus visit. 
  • The overall program reflects a diversity of authors and disciplines.
  • If possible, the book will motivate a large enough volunteer group of discussion leaders.

What selection process is used to determine each year's book?

  • Each year, volunteers to serve on the selection committee are solicited from past committee members, past discussion group leaders, past Freshmen Connections team members, and the university community as a whole.
  • The director of Freshman Connections solicits titles from the university community through two e-mails to all Ball State students and employees in September.
  • The suggested titles are compiled into a list.
  • This list is compared to the selection criteria.
  • A reduced list along with a synopsis and links to reviews for each book is presented to the committee for review.
  • The committee members identify their top picks.
  • The top picks are compiled into a list. The number of finalists depends on the committee, the list, and where natural breaks in the voting occur.
  • This list is researched to confirm author availability, affordability, and book price/availability. Sometimes titles are removed at this point because they no longer meet the criteria. 
  •  This further reduced list now represents the books to be read. Three books are assigned to each member for a thorough reading. Copies of all books are made available to everyone on the committee. The committee is asked to read the first part of all books so they are familiar with each of the candidates.
  • Sometimes committee members have already read a number of the books, so they are assigned to read unfamiliar titles.
  • After all reading is completed, the committee gathers to select the final books. This may take any number of rounds as people discuss the pros and cons of each book.
  • The committee then selects three titles with alternates to send to the Freshman Connections Coordinating Council. This list of three is posted on the discussion board for comment by the university community.
  • The Freshman Connections Coordinating Council now makes a more official contact with the agents of all of the books to work out the potential logistics of each visit. Again, books may be dropped at this point because dates or contract amounts cannot be negotiated.
  • The council makes the final selection. The book is announced to the university community early in the new year.





Freshman Connections
Melinda M. Messineo Department of Sociology
Ball State University
Muncie, Indiana 47306

Phone: 765-285-5530
Fax: 765-285-5920
View E-mail Address