Leading the Way
The Nation's #1 Initiative of Its Kind
Texas State University presents an academic theme each year with events for everyone. This is our Common Experience.
We proudly offer our students more themed academic event opportunities than any other university in the nation. Many peer institutions include a common reading book and activities to bring together new students in a first-year experience (FYE). At Texas State, our thematic approach and remarkable collaborations enable much more.
While many of our approaches may be tailored specifically for first-year students, most events are intended for all students — undergraduates and graduates — as well as faculty, staff, and community members. Our Common Experience truly is for everyone.
239 events last year
84% first-year student participation
in fall 2020
18% attended additional events
in Fall 2020
1,200+ 3 events set records
in Fall 2020
5,331 new social media followers
5,667% above average Twitter
Summer + Fall 2020
2x above average Instagram
Summer + fall 2020
“Early on, the vision was to connect entering students to a shared conversation, but it quickly grew to include upper-level classes, student support services, campus activities, performing arts, and the San Marcos schools and community. The intentional connecting of many facets of university life is the kind of project that a small private liberal arts college might take on, but we cannot find evidence of a large public university ever having undertaken something so ambitious and encompassing.”
—Dr. Denise Trauth,
President of Texas State University
6,600 Common Reading books
87% readership in Fall 2020
❤️ reading creates community
❤️ events create community
¹ The Common Experience at Texas State presented 102 events during the fall 2020 semester, when all events were presented online (live, streaming, or via social media) except for art exhibitions featured with physical-distancing protocol in gallery spaces. We offered 239 events during the 2019-2020 academic year, all of which were academically aligned. In total, 268 events were planned, but the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic required the postponement or cancellation of numerous events in March and April 2020. The 239 events tied the university's all-time record for most activities in a single academic year, set one year earlier (2018-2019). Over the past four academic years, we have averaged 211 events per year — more than any other university in the nation. In terms of academic events tied to students' first-year experience or a campus-wide common experience, Texas State may no longer have any near peers in this category. The Ohio State University presented 99 academic events in fall 2016 (program for fall semester only), the last year for which we found data. Ohio State also presents roughly 300 student-success events each year, but those events are not typically related directly to academic affairs. The next-closest peer for which we have figures is the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which offered 50-75 academic events each year (as of 2019).
Sources: peer program websites, along with personal phone calls and email correspondence with peer-institution program directors, February 2019.
First-Year Student Participation
² While no comprehensive studies exist for comparing participation rates at peer institutions' first-year experience (FYE) events, Texas State's thematic model for academic events is uncommon, and our records demonstrate remarkable levels of student activity. Among peer institutions for which we have data — recorded or anecdotal — the Common Experience at Texas State claims the nation's highest participation rate for an FYE initiative offering multiple/numerous academic events and activities. During the fall 2020 semester, 84.3% of our first-year students reported participating in Common Experience activities.
³ Faculty members teaching University Seminar require students to attend either one or two Common Experience events during a semester; however, 11.58% of students reported attending three events in fall 2020, and another 6.27% reported attending more than three — thus, at least 17.85% of University Seminar students attended more events than required.
Sources: Texas State US 1100 course evaluation results (fall semesters, 2015-2020).
Online Viewer Records
⁴ During the fall 2020 semester, three Common Experience events drew live online audiences of more than 1,200 viewers, making them the three most-viewed live online academic events in Texas State's history. Those events were the Common Experience Insight Series event featuring U.S. Olympic gymnast Laurie Hernandez (2,095 live viewers on Oct. 20, 2020); The State of Black Design panel discussion event (2,071 live viewers on Sept. 18, 2020); and the LBJ Distinguished Lecture featuring John Quiñones, ABC News veteran and host of What Would You Do? (1,289 live viewers on Nov. 9, 2020). All three events also made the all-time Top 10 for Common Experience event attendance, overall, whether in-person or live online.
In addition, every ticketed Common Experience event since 2017 has sold out, but no students have been turned away. By comparison, one peer institution reported in 2016 that while roughly 90% of its first-year students attended convocation, only 2% to 4% would attend another FYE event.
Sources: YouTube Live analytics (fall 2020) and a report shared by a peer program at the Annual Conference on the First-Year Experience, 2016.
Social Media Engagement
Engagement rate is defined by the number of interactions (likes, favorites, reactions, comments, retweets, and/or shares) divided by the audience size per post (impressions, reach, or views). Twitter and Instagram are our top platforms for reaching current students; Facebook and LinkedIn reach primarily older audiences.
⁵ In terms of new followers on social media, the Common Experience saw its largest-ever growth for a single year. During the 2020 calendar year, the @TXSTCE Instagram account gained 2,457 new followers, while Twitter gained 1,417. Our accounts on LinkedIn (+842), Facebook (+473), and YouTube (+142) grew as well. Combined, these accounts added 5,331 new followers in 2020.
⁶ On Twitter, the industry average engagement rate for higher education accounts is 0.09%. The @TXSTCE Twitter account averaged 5.1% engagement — 5,667% (56.7x) above the industry average — on more than 1.3 million impressions over summer and fall 2020. The account averaged 7.0% engagement (7,778% above average) over the winter break.
⁷ On Instagram, the average engagement rate for higher education accounts is 4.14%. The @TXSTCE Instagram account averaged 8.35% engagement — 202% (2x) above the industry average — on a reach of more than 205,000 over summer and fall 2020. The account averaged 14.2% engagement (343% above average) over the winter break.
On Facebook, the average engagement rate for higher education accounts is 0.27%. Our Facebook account averaged 7.8% engagement (2,889% above average) in fall 2020.
We are currently updating analytics for the Common Experience account on LinkedIn, which has 1,000+ followers. The average engagement in fall 2020 was 8.5%. Currently, there is no national industry average for higher education accounts on LinkedIn.
Sources: RivalIQ's 2020 Higher Ed Social Media Engagement Report and @TXSTCE account analytics on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
Common Reading Books
⁸ The Common Experience at Texas State distributes copies of each year's Common Reading book to first-year students, as well as other students, faculty, staff, and other campus and community partners. The COVID-19 pandemic and physical-distancing protocol led to the selection of an eBook for 2020-2021, which was distributed electronically in August 2020. There were 6,100 eBooks, along with 500 paperback copies available by special request — 6,600 total.
These are the universities that distribute more books for common-read initiatives each year, by totals: University of Wisconsin-Madison (12,000), Michigan State University (11,000), The Ohio State University (10,212), University of California-Los Angeles (10,000), and University of California-Berkeley (8,500 digital copies). Comparison numbers courtesy of publisher Penguin Random House, February 2019.
⁹ In fall 2020, more than 86.5% of Texas State’s first-year students reported reading part or all of the Common Reading eBook, American Like Me. Additionally, 41.1% reported reading ¾ to all of it, despite many (or most) University Seminar faculty members assigning only chapters/portions of the book.
For comparison, a leading peer institution reported in 2016 that roughly half of its students did not read their book at all. At the same time, outside research by then-doctoral student Kali Morgan (University of South Florida) determined that more Texas State students read ¾-to-all of their book (35.1%) than read less than ¼ (33.6%). Additional sources: Texas State course evaluations for University Seminar (US 1100) classes, fall semesters 2015-2020, and a report shared by a peer program at the Annual Conference on the First-Year Experience, 2016.
ⁱ⁰ Among first-year students, only 10.83% reported that reading and discussing the Common Reading book did not help them feel like they were part of a community. A sense of community and connection was an especially critical contributor to students' academic success during the physical-distancing protocol of the COVID-19 pandemic.
¹¹ Only 10.03% of first-year students reported that participating in Common Experience events did not help them feel like they were part of a community.
Source: Texas State US 1100 course evaluation results, fall 2020.