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
93% first-year student participation
4,000% above average social media
“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
8,200 Common Reading books
The Common Experience at Texas State offered 239 events during the 2019-2020 academic year, all of which were academically aligned. In all, 268 events were planned, but the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic and physical-distancing protocol 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 210 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's closest peer is The Ohio State University, which 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 offers 50-75 academic events each year. Sources: program websites, along with personal phone calls and email correspondence with peer-institution program directors, February 2019.
First-Year Student Participation
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 2019 semester, 93.5% of our first-year students reported participating in Common Experience activities (reported on a Likert scale), and since 2017, the lowest reported participation rate for a fall semester has been 88.6% (fall 2018). In addition, every ticketed event since 2017 has sold out, but no students have been turned away. By comparison, one peer institution reported in 2016 that roughly 90% of its first-year students attended convocation, but only 2% to 4% would attend another FYE event. Sources: Texas State US 1100 course evaluation results (fall semesters, 2015-2019) 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).
On Twitter, the industry average engagement rate for higher education accounts is 0.09%; the @TXSTCE Twitter account averaged 3.6% engagement — 4,000% higher than average — on more than 1.5 million impressions from June 3, 2019 to May 1, 2020.
On Facebook, the average engagement rate for higher education accounts is 0.27%; the @TXSTCE Facebook account averaged 5.1% engagement (1,889% higher) from October 1 through mid-November 2020, the account's busiest months.
On Instagram, the average engagement rate for higher education accounts is 4.14%. We are currently updating analytics for the @TXSTCE Instagram account for 2019-2020; however, the account averaged 12.4% engagement (300% higher) during the entire 2018 calendar year.
We are currently updating analytics for the Common Experience account on LinkedIn, which has 1,000+ followers. The average engagement over the past year has been around 5%. 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
The Common Experience at Texas State distributes 8,200 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. 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.
In fall 2019, more than 85.8% of Texas State’s first-year students reported reading part or all of the Common Reading book (reported on a Likert scale). 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 2015-2019, and a report shared by a peer program at the Annual Conference on the First-Year Experience, 2016.