Big Ideas@TU: A Common Read Program - Oklahoma Center for the Humanities
Close Menu

Big Ideas@TU: A Common Read Program

The Oklahoma Center for the Humanities, in partnership with the Office of the President, is proud to announce Big Ideas@TU: a new program that will welcome incoming students to our spirited intellectual community.  This campus-wide experience will provide a free copy of a specially selected book to all new students and support a diverse array of lectures, performances, exhibitions, and more.  The common read initiative will be integrated into orientation and the First Year Experience while also providing the basis for community-wide conversation and debate throughout the academic year.

Each year, the book will be aligned with the OCH’s annual theme and selected by a representative group of students, staff, and faculty based on nominations submitted by the entire TU community.


2024-25 Selection: Exhalation by Ted Chiang

In these nine stunningly original, provocative, and poignant stories, Ted Chiang tackles some of humanity’s oldest questions along with new quandaries only he could imagine.

In “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate,” a portal through time forces a fabric seller in ancient Baghdad to grapple with past mistakes and second chances. In “Exhalation,” an alien scientist makes a shocking discovery with ramifications that are literally universal. In “Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom,” the ability to glimpse into alternate universes necessitates a radically new examination of the concepts of choice and free will.

Including stories being published for the first time as well as some of his rare and classic uncollected work, Exhalation is Ted Chiang at his best: profound, sympathetic—revelatory.

More information coming soon!



  • Why Introduce a Common Read?

    TU’s goal is to foster community building through academic dialogue and discussion. Additionally, the program seeks to make this an enduring sense of community, one that emphasizes TU’s commitment to the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

    No one book can speak to everyone, but the common reading program will account for the different perspectives, backgrounds, identities, and experiences that make up the TU community. In addition, to ensure that each student has access to the common reading experience, TU will be purchasing and distributing the chosen text to all incoming freshmen.

    The common read will be integrated across campus in curricular and co-curricular capacities.The program structures early conversations at TU’s new student orientation and establishes our core of liberal arts learning as students acclimatize to campus. These rigorous modes of intellectual inquiry will be inherently interdisciplinary, applicable to students in the Arts and Sciences, STEM fields, performing arts, etc.

    Common Read will also serve a foundational role in TU’s first-year experience (FYE) course. OCH will host a series of events that will complement students’ common read discussions.

  • Selection Criteria

    Intellectually stimulating.  The common read program seeks to provide students with a sense of how different kinds of scholars approach complex issues, problems, or ideas. The book should therefore be engaged with complex, provocative issues open to multiple modes of inquiry and debate.

    Accessible to First-Year Students.  This program seems to provide incoming first-year students with their initial opportunity to encounter, analyze, and debate complex intellectual ideas in a university setting. The selected book should thus be written in accessible prose and engage readers without relying on specialized knowledge or technical expertise.  To further aid accessibility, the book should be available in paper/ebook formats at a reasonable price and should generally be no more than 200-250 pages in length.  

    Timely.  The program seeks to help students understand how intellectual work of all kinds connects directly to their educations, lives, communities, and careers. The selected book should be of notable quality, widely acknowledged importance, and written by a living author who can come to campus for a Presidential Lecture.   

    Engaged with diversity, equity, and inclusion. The common read program seeks both to generate a long-lasting sense of community by emphasizing that TU’s mission rests on the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion.  

    Aligned with OCH Theme. Each year, the common read will feed into a variety of campus and community programming linked to the OCH theme.  Research suggests that the read has deeper impact, stronger uptake, and better supports retention/engagement if integrated into multi-layer programming rather than a “one-and-done” campus event. Linking to the OCH theme will thus make sure that the topic remains an active area of inquiry on campus throughout the academic year.  

  • Committee

    The OCH committee is comprised of the following individuals:


    • Jeff Alderman, Associate Professor of Community Medicine
    • Kathryn Aung, Undergraduate
    • Nicole Bauer, Assistant Professor of History
    • Patricia DeBolt, Dean of Admissions
    • Dontae Doughty, Assistant Dean of Assessments and Strategic Partnership in the Collins College of Business
    • Scott Holmstrom, Professor of Physics and Engineering Physics
    • Alex Isaak, Special Projects Coordinator of Oklahoma Center for the Humanities
    • Sean Latham, Director of Oklahoma Center for the Humanities
    • Bob Pickering, Dean of McFarlin Library
    • Sarah Wheeler, Coordinator of New Student Programs
  • Frequently Asked Questions

    Will the Common Read book be fiction?

    Not necessarily. The book can be any genre. It depends on what recommendations we receive from the campus community, as well as deliberations by the Common Read selecting committee.


    What will we be doing with the book? Will coursework be involved? 

    The common read will tie into freshmen orientation and the First Year Experience course during the 2022 fall semester. Primarily, we expect common read interactions to be discussion-based. Beyond that, specific coursework will be left to each instructor’s discretion.


    Will copies of the book be provided, or will I have to buy my own?

    Copies of the book will be purchased and distributed by TU without charge to all incoming students.


    By when should I have read the book?

    Please have the book read prior to your first day at orientation.


    Will there be alternative books/choices for the common reading program?

    We are not planning for alternative books.


    Please feel free to send any additional questions to