Every year, UCLA has a week-plus of events to welcome the new Bruins to campus. Since 2008, one of the programs has been the Common Book, which is intended to build community by inviting all new students to read the same book and participate in guided conversations about the themes and questions raised in it. The experience allows students to share different perspectives and explore their roles in creating a just society and identify steps to address their shared experience.

This year, UCLA’s First Year Experience office is changing things by switching the book to a podcast, and renaming the program, the “Common Experience.” UCLA Newsroom interviewed Simone Jackson, First Year Experience coordinator, about the change and the reasons behind it.

Why has there been a change from a book to a podcast?

The Common Experience committee consists of a variety of faculty, staff and students. This year we opened our nominations to more than just a book as long as they met our 2019–2020 theme: Los Angeles: Past, Present and Future, which was chosen in acknowledgement of UCLA’s Centennial celebration. Although many books, movies, and TV shows were nominated, ultimately the committee chose to go with a podcast for 20192020.

Will the choice of a podcast instead of a book change the programs?

With choosing a podcast this year, we thought it would be fitting to re-brand the program name from the Common Book program to the Common Experience program at UCLA. However, the choice of the podcast does not change the purpose of the program. If anything it allows the program to expand to other mediums that the UCLA community can connect to. We are extremely excited for what’s to come with the Common Experience program at UCLA!

What is the title chosen for this year and why was it chosen?

This year our committee has chosen “There Goes the Neighborhood: Los Angeles,” a podcast about gentrification in Los Angeles. Season 2 of the podcast is a collaboration between WNYC and KCRW, with a focus on Los Angeles. “There Goes the Neighborhood: Los Angeles” was chosen because it lends itself to several important and timely conversations about the city, the arts, racial and ethnic demographics, small business development and urban America, among other themes. There are a number of ways to ignite campus-wide discussions and inspire action among our students to increase their awareness of the city, particularly with intentional partnerships with faculty, staff and UCLA alumni.

What programs and events will occur during the year and what is their purpose?

Programming for the Common Experience will begin in the winter quarter with our signature “Meet the Author” event on The Hill. This year students, faculty and staff will be able to meet the producers of “There Goes the Neighborhood” including the show host, Saul Gonzalez, a UCLA alum! This event will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 11, at 6 p.m. in Covel Grand Horizon and again on main campus on Wednesday, Feb. 12, location and time TBD. All other events can be found on the First Year Experience website.

How are the titles selected and what makes a good option?

The selection process is a year-long process that begins during Spring quarter. After collecting nominations throughout the year from the UCLA community, the First Year Experience team convenes a selection committee made up of students, staff and faculty, to meet to discuss the nominations. At this meeting, the committee reviews the nominations, weighing in their thoughts and opinions using the following selection criteria:

  • Connection to Common Experience goals, which are allowing students to share and understand diverse perspectives, build community and consider their roles in creating a just society
  • Readability
  • Relatability to incoming freshman and transfer students and the greater UCLA community
  • Encourages student engagement via programming and discussions
  • Reasonable length
  • Can potentially be integrated into classroom curriculum