SSU Common Read Initiative

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, episodes of racial intolerance and violence have become increasingly frequent and overt. From George Floyd and Breonna Taylor’s murders to the incidents of anti-Asian and anti-Semitic violence, the racial tensions that have marked our country’s history since its inception seem no closer to resolution than they did prior to the Civil Rights movements. Still, awareness is greater now, in part due to 24/7 news coverage and remote working conditions that made tv news more immediately accessible. More conversations are happening, and as uncomfortable as they might be, the willingness to understand and listen is hopeful.

One of these conversations began last year between Professors Suzanne Toczyski (French) and Anthony Rizzuto (English), and continued to a point where they wanted to share the discussion with others on campus. In partnership with Academic Affairs, they put together a series of spring 2022 lectures and workshops for faculty to discuss strategies for teaching race in the classroom. Now, in collaboration with Academic Affairs and the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, they are leading SSU’s first university-wide Common Read Initiative, to be focused on the question, what is race?, as viewed through the lens of Ijeoma Oluo’s book, So You Want To Talk About Race.

During the 2022-2023 academic year, Seawolves from across campus will come together as a community to discuss and explore Oluo’s work and related issues. This exploration will unfold across all disciplines and university schools to engage students, faculty, staff, and administrators in classes, talks, public readings, events, performances, and even this very webpage. The Common Read is a year-long, immersive experience intended to be inclusive and engaging for all members of the campus community. Among our goals is the hope that we will grow stronger as a community by increasing our understanding, empathy, and respect for one another.

The centerpiece of this experience will be the brave and heartfelt work, So You Want To Talk About Race. In the book, Oluo guides us through some of the more complex topics in social discourse today. She does not take the easy road through these subjects, but she navigates the discussion with kindness, generosity, and healthy self-awareness. The author will also visit our campus as a guest speaker at the Green Music Center (GMC) as part of The H. Andréa Neves and Barton Evans Social Justice Lecture Series on Tuesday, April 4, 2023 at 7:30pm. 

SSU Common Read Initiative Outcomes

  • Build community through a shared lived and intellectual experience;
  • Empower students, faculty, staff and administrators to address complex and difficult issues about race;
  • Invigorate curriculum with vital issues and community conversation about race;
  • Engage with the university’s core values of diversity, equity, and social justice for a transformative impact.

Spring 2023 Common Read Events

We are excited to share the programs and events in support of this year's Common Read initiative! The Common Read initiative committee was mindful that the conversation about race is not the sole purview of Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) in this country and we wanted to see that reflected in our speaker selection. See below for a list of our spring semester speakers.

  • Wednesday, February 15, 2023, 12:00 - 1:00pm, Student Center Ballroom B​ | Black Student Voices Project

    • The HUB Cultural Center and the SSU Common Read committee will host a reception to honor and uplift the voices of our Black students. We will feature 10 Black student responses to the question “What has been your experience being Black at SSU? Feel free to give voice to your experience in any way that works for you: personal narrative, creative writing, spoken word or even poetry. With your permission, submissions will be respectfully curated, commemorated, and displayed at the event. Students are encouraged to submit your responses here by Wednesday, February 8, 2023 at 5pm. Light refreshments will be provided. For more information about this event email

  • Wednesday, March 15, 2023, 12:00 - 1:00pm, Student Center Ballrooms B, C, D

    • "Engaging the Indigenous Americas: Stories, Languages, and Discourse of Race in the Americas." | Professor Silvia Soto, (Chicano and Latino Studies, Native American Studies)

  • Tuesday, April 4, 2023, 7:30 - 9:00pm, Green Music Center - Weill Hall | Purchase a Ticket | 

    • The H. Andréa Neves and Barton Evans Social Justice Lecture Series | Ijeoma Oluo

Canvas Teaching Resources for Faculty 

The resources on the SSU Canvas website are curated to supplement and complement the reading of "So you want to talk about race". This page assists faculty in their curricular and co-curricular engagements, and offers a list of pedagogical tips for success. If you have not already done so, we invite faculty to explore the Racial Justice Curriculum Resources Canvas Collection to learn about and bring anti-racist curricular tools into your classrooms. If you have not received an invitation to join the Canvas course, please reach out to

Where can I get my copy of “So you want to talk about race”?

Academic Affairs purchased enough copies of the book for all first time first year students. Students can pick up their copy from the HUB Cultural Center (located on the 2nd floor of the Student Center). The Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion purchased 25 books for checkout at the SSU Library for all employees. There is also a digital version available for checkout at the library as well.

Additional Resources 

For questions, comments, and feedback regarding Sonoma State's Common Read Initiative email