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First-Year Common Reading

The First-Year Common Reading Program is an essential part of your First-Year Experience at the University of Houston-Downtown. 

This year all incoming freshmen are required to read Ernest J. Gaines's A Less Before Dying, write a 500-word essay due August 15, and attend UHD’s Freshman Convocation Saturday, August 23.


Cash Prizes for the Best Essays: 1st - $750, 2nd - $550, 3rd - $450, 4th - $350, 5th - $250, Plus Ten Honorable Mentions at $100 each!

The goals of UHD’s First-Year Common Reading Program are:


      • to offer college freshmen an introduction to UHD’s atmosphere of academic inquiry
      • to provide a common academic experience to all first-year students, including opportunities to engage in intellectual discussions with peers and professors both inside and outside the classroom
      • to communicate the expectation that college demands an active engagement with  reading that involves the  discussion of  complex ideas
      • to engage in a university-wide conversation about the dynamics of success

Picture of Cover of the book Lesson Before Dying

Email Your 500-Word Essay to:

Write a 500-word essay that answers the following question:

Tante Lou, Miss Emma, and Vivian are used to taking care of themselves and others. Explain the role of women in the novel. What was their function in this society? Was their contribution and sacrifice recognized? Discuss how a strong woman has had a major influence on your life.


To submit your essay:

  1. Log-in to your Gator email account.

    1a. If you are using Gatormail, make sure that you set up Gatormail to save all your sent emails. See page 7 of the GatorMail How-To for specific instructions.
    If you are having problems using GatorMail, you may use your personal email to submit your essay. Be sure to include your full name in the subject line of the email. Help is available by phone (713-221-8031) if you are experiencing problems using GatorMail.

  2. Submit your essay as a typed email message or as an attachment. Note: Word, Wordpad, or Notepad are acceptable attachment formats.

  3. Send your 500-word essay email to

WRC (Writing & Reading Center) tutors are available to help you with your first college essay assignment, from invention through editing. The WRC also offers college-level reading strategies. Hours are M - TH, 9 am - 5 pm, until August 8th.

See the WRoCk website for appointments!

Click here for information about Freshman Convocation

PDF Click here to read A Lesson Before Dying
topics we will discuss at convocation!





Page maintained by Technology Teaching and Learning Center

Last updated or reviewed on 5/30/14

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