The Common Read Experience

Building a Bearcat perspective together

Binghamton University is excited to continue the common read experience for all incoming first-year students. Students will gain perspectives over the most important issues of our days embracing diversity, striving for unity and seeking justice for all. The common read will enable students to build connections to the campus community through talks over the summer and programming, activities, and events when they arrive on campus. 

Zoom discussion sessions with Collegiate Professors will take place in July and August, providing an introduction to the program. The bulk of common read programming will take place in person during B-Welcome Week and throughout the fall semester, providing a chance for all new students to participate. Moreover, many first-year students’ courses will be integrating the book into their curricula. While we hope everyone joins us, this program is highly recommended but not mandatory.

Conditional Citizens: On Belonging in America by Laila Lalami

In Conditional Citizens, award-winning Moroccan-born novelist Laila Lalami explores what it means to be an American, by reflecting upon her own life story and immigration to the United States. Her personal and individual story has great resonance for anyone who has embarked on a migration far from home, whether across the globe or across the state, and has sought to find a sense of belonging. 

This common read brings to light pressing issues regarding social and economic inequality, border politics, gender discrimination, religious prejudice and other concerns sure to inspire important, lively, and engaging discussions and debates across the University.

After considering almost 100 options, including many that were suggested by Binghamton students, faculty and staff, a special committee selected Conditional Citizens by Lalami, a Pulitzer Prize finalist. This book was selected because it speaks powerfully about some of the key concerns of the present day — inequality, diversity, and belonging. Laila Lalami takes a fresh and unexplored angle on these issues, by looking across the dimensions of race, class, gender, religion and national origin. Conditional Citizens is challenging in its treatment of America and its complex history, while also being readable and fully connected to the richness of the human experience. 

This book will inspire many different responses and undoubtedly spark disagreement and debate about these important, yet contentious issues. Indeed, this book is intended as a starting point for a continuing conversation about the most pressing problems that our society faces. It is our hope that Binghamton’s next generation of students will be ready to take on these persistent concerns with graciousness, compassion, intelligence and fairness. And we hope that all students will want to read it as new members of a University with the motto: "From breadth, to depth, to perspective."

For more information and to listen to an excerpt read by Laila Lalami, visit the Penguin/Random House website. 

For students

  • Step 1: Your journey begins as all students will hear from the Collegiate Professor (CP) of their residential community by the beginning of July to set up their first discussion meetings and what to expect. 
  • Step 2: Students should receive their own copy of Lalami’s book by the beginning of July through the mail. Both print copies and e-books are also available for the campus community through the University Libraries. Visit the Libraries website to access the ebook and Bartle Library Reader Services Desk to check out a hard copy for a three-day loan. All students need to log on with their PODS username and password to access the e-book.
  • Step 3: Meetings led by collegiate professors will be scheduled and held via Zoom from July through early August. 
  • Step 4: Be on the lookout for additional programming provided and announced over the coming months!

Upcoming Events


Contact information

Students with questions should email their collegiate professors:

Common Read Experience steering committee:

Kelli K. Smith, assistant vice president for student success

Stephen Ortiz, CIW collegiate professor and associate professor of history

Nancy Um, professor of art history and associate dean for faculty development and inclusion in Harpur College of Arts and Sciences

Jill Dixon, associate University librarian for public services and collections

Pete Nardone, general manager of The Union

Betsy Staff, associate director of New Student Programs

Nicole Sirju-Johnson, assistant vice president for diversity

Submit a question

Accommodations: Students wishing to request accommodations to ensure their equitable access and participation in the common read experience should contact the Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) Office. The office is located in the University Union room 119, and they can be contacted at 607-777-2686.