Common Ground Reading Initiative

Shadow Factor coverCommon Ground is the College of Liberal Arts’ freshman-year reading program. The purpose of the program is to give the 900 plus incoming freshmen an opportunity to create a learning community based on a shared reading experience. Books are provided to freshmen at their summer new student conference.  They are encouraged to read the book and be prepared to participate in Common Ground discussions and events throughout their freshman year.

2014 Reading Selection

The Shadow Factory:  The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America by James Bamford

Mr. Bamford, a former investigative producer for ABC’s World News Tonight with Peter Jennings and a distinguished visiting professor at the University of California at Berkeley, also authored Body of Secrets, The Puzzle Palace, and A Pretext for War.  He has written about the NSA and national security for The Washington Post Magazine and the Los Angeles Times Magazine, and won the 2006 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his Rolling Stone article, “The Man Who Sold the War.”

Mr. Bamford will speak on Monday, October 13, 2014 at 7 pm, at the Annenberg Presidential Conference Center.  A book signing and reception will follow. The event is free and open to the public.


    • Why did we create Common Ground?

      Research on student learning in higher education has emphasized several themes that are addressed by a program such as Common Ground: the importance of first-year experiences; the engagement of students in their undergraduate education; the effectiveness of integrating in-class and out-of-class experiences; the significance of intellectual challenge. The College of Liberal Arts believes that Common Ground provides opportunities for all of these important learning experiences in enriching undergraduate learning, especially for the first year.

    • Do other universities have programs like Common Ground?

      Yes, many other universities have had a common reading program for several years and have successfully documented these efforts as educationally sound ways to enhance undergraduate education. 


  • What do we hope to accomplish with Common Ground?

    The College of Liberal Arts seeks to create a community that fosters intellectual and social development within the context of our large and diverse university campus.  Through Common Ground, students can expect to become sharper readers; to have a greater understanding of diversity; to experience the camaraderie that comes with a shared reading experience; to gain a greater appetite for intellectual challenge; to participate in a national educational movement; and to experience first-hand the excitement of hearing a nationally-recognized author of a book they have studied.