September 24, 2021

Common Experience Encourages Critical Thinking, Connections

“We don’t need most of the fast-thinking system processes that were used thousands of years ago to survive,” said first-year student Bridget Zagrobelny (right), who learned from the PBS episode that autopilot thinking in modern life often results in mistakes and poor decisions. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

“We don’t need most of the fast-thinking system processes that were used thousands of years ago to survive,” said first-year student Bridget Zagrobelny (right), who learned from the PBS episode that autopilot thinking in modern life often results in mistakes and poor decisions. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

Bridget Zagrobelny has heard that first impressions matter. But the University of Mary Washington freshman decided on a different strategy for making friends in college.

“We’re prone to judging others too quickly,” she said, “so it’s important to tap the brakes in our brains when we meet new people.”

She gained that insight after watching Living on Autopilot, an episode from the PBS Hacking Your Mind series exploring the mental processes at play in rational versus quick decision making, as part of this year’s Common Experience. Launched in 2015, this shared academic milestone gives incoming UMW first-year students the chance to engage in critical thinking and college-level discussions with professors, staff and peers as soon as they arrive on campus.

“We hope to challenge them to think about the material in new ways, learn about themselves and connect with their classmates,” said Assistant Professor of Biology April Wynn. As the First-Year Experience director, she oversees a variety of initiatives, including first-year seminars, living and learning communities, and peer mentorships, all designed to help freshmen successfully transition to life at Mary Washington. Read more.

Join the discussion: Become a 2021 Common Experience facilitator

Dear Colleagues:

The UMW Common Experience is one of the first opportunities for incoming first-year students to interact with members of the greater UMW community. The Common Experience is both academic and social in that incoming students have the opportunity to engage in dialogue with each other, returning students, faculty, staff and community members. The Common Experience 2021 is built around Living on Auto-Pilot, an episode from PBS’s Hacking Your Mind series. This documentary illustrates the many ways our “auto-pilot” mental processes can cause us to respond automatically or with bias, and offers suggestions for engaging our “slow-thinking” system to make more reasoned, less biased decisions. We rely on our auto-pilot systems to make quick decisions, but these systems can be duped by advertisers. And, auto-pilot thinking is influenced by implicit biases, which can lead to biased actions. We’ll use this documentary and implicit bias tests to launch a discussion with students about these critical topics.

First-year students will kick off their academic experiences in FSEM sections along with one or two community members in the Common Experience 2021 discussion. Please join the Common Experience discussion with our incoming students during New Student Arrival. Question prompts, additional information, and training will be provided in advance to help guide discussion. Date and format is still to be determined but we are hopeful for an in-person experience on Friday morning, August 20.

If you would like to volunteer to guide a discussion group as a co-facilitator, please click here to indicate your interest. Questions can be sent to awynn@umw.edu.

Thank you,

April Wynn – Faculty Director of the First Year Experience

The Common Experience 2021 Committee

 

If the hyperlink above does not work, please copy this address into your browser to volunteer: https://forms.office.com/pages/responsepage.aspx?id=E8mlZpm3iEqGBkHQQRdiZ9IPgJO2Z_5Mkib29wrbetNUQ1ZCU1ZLSkQ4UU5TQ1lISE5HUjM4REIyQS4u

Podcasts on UMW Activism Spell ‘Good Trouble’ for Students

As part of this year’s Common Experience, first-year students are listening to “Good Trouble: UMW,” an 18-episode podcast that chronicles the long history of student activism at Mary Washington. Logo by Peter Morelewicz at Print Jazz.

As part of this year’s Common Experience, first-year students are listening to “Good Trouble: UMW,” an 18-episode podcast that chronicles the long history of student activism at Mary Washington. Logo by Peter Morelewicz at Print Jazz.

Eliza Vegas marched in her first protest this summer for Black Lives Matter. The University of Mary Washington is inspiring her to do more.

“An overwhelming sense of home and community brought me here,” said Vegas, a Mary Washington first-year student who learned of the University’s long history of student activism when she listened to a new podcast on the topic. “Now I have a deeper appreciation for my new school.”

Since 2015, incoming students have read and discussed written works with the UMW community as part of the Common Experience. This year, instead of a book, they’re exploring four timely and topical podcasts about COVID-19 and civil rights, connecting events of the past to the present. They’re also listening to “Good Trouble: UMW,” a new podcast named for the late Congressman John Lewis’ lifelong philosophy, which he shared in his 2011 Commencement address at Mary Washington.

The 18-episode podcast series chronicles Mary Washington student activism throughout the decades, relating back to Lewis’ directive to get in “good trouble, necessary trouble.” Read more.