Introducing the 2015-2016 Common Reading Experience

The 2015-2016 academic year marks the seventh annual Common Reading Experience. The University of Kentucky continuously examines its efforts to improve new students' transition to campus and engage students in meaningful and purposeful educational activities. The Common Reading Experience supports these efforts through campus-wide curricular integration and co-curricular programming. The book selected for this year's program is Picking Cotton by Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton. Click here or watch the video below to see President Capilouto talk about the 2015-2016 Common Reading Experience.

If you are a new student, please go to our For Students tab to receive more information on your QLC Assignment, contests, and more.

A Note from the Common Reading Experience Program about Picking Cotton:

The University of Kentucky and the Common Reading Experience program recognize Picking Cotton needs to be read and utilized on campus with great sensitivity due to the issues it raises, such as sexual assault and racial dynamics.

The book carries a trigger warning. By law, if students are survivors of sexual assault, they are entitled to appropriate academic accommodations. These students may elect to only read Ronald Cotton's chapters of Picking Cotton (except pages 127 and 131) or contact the Office of New Student and Family Programs/Common Reading Experience to discuss other alternatives.

It is important to note that under federal Title IX regulations, if a student discloses a sexual assault to a UK affiliate (staff, faculty, and some student leaders, such as RA's, UK 101 Peer Instructors, and Teaching Assistants, etc.), it will be reported to the Office of Institutional Equity and Equal Opportunity. If a student does not wish to report the assault, the individual may utilize the support and anonymity of the Counseling Center and/or Violence Intervention and Prevention Center (VIP). Please refer to the campus and national resource page here or at the front of Picking Cotton for more information.

If a UK student, faculty, or staff is a target or victim of racial discrimination, harassment, or bias, the individual may file a complaint or report with the Office of Institutional Equity and Equal Opportunity or refer to the Office for Institutional Diversity. Please refer to the campus and national resource page here or at the front of Picking Cotton for more information.

Students will receive the above message and handout during "see blue." U Orientation sessions throughout the summer. Additionally, students will receive a CRE Reader's Guide in their orientation folders, which overview the purpose of the CRE program, statics and facts related to the book, reflection questions, and a copy of their CRE assignment. A downloadable copy of the CRE Reader's Guide can be found here.

If you have any questions, please contact the Office of New Student and Family Programs/Common Reading Experience at (859) 257-6597.

About the Book Picking Cotton:

Please note that the following book carries a trigger warning: The content deals with an account of a sexual assault and may be triggering to some people.

Jennifer Thompson was raped at knifepoint by a man who broke into her apartment while she slept. She was able to escape and eventually positively identified Ronald Cotton as her attacker. Ronald insisted that she was mistaken-- but Jennifer's positive identification was the compelling evidence that put him behind bars. After eleven years, Ronald was allowed to take a DNA test that proved his innocence. He was released after serving more than a decade in prison for a crime he never committed. Two years later, Jennifer and Ronald met face-to-face-- and forged an unlikely friendship that changed both of their lives.

In their own words, Jennifer and Ronald unfold the harrowing details of their tragedy, and they challenge our ideas of memory and judgment while demonstrating the profound nature of human grace and the healing power of forgiveness.


About the Authors:

Jennifer Thompson-Cannino lives in North Carolina with her family. She speaks frequently about the need for judicial reform and is a member of the North Carolina Actual Innocence Commission, the advisory committee for Active Voices, and the Constitution Project. Her op-eds have appeared in the New York Times, the Durham-Herald Sun, and the Tallahassee Democrat.

Ronald Cotton lives with his wife and daughter in North Carolina. He has spoken at various schools and conferences including Washington and Lee University, University of Nevada Las Vegas, Georgetown Law School, and the Community March for Justice for Troy Anthony Davis in Savannah, GA.

Erin Torneo is a Los Angeles-based writer. She was a 2007 New York Foundation for the Arts Nonfiction Fellow.


Praise for Picking Cotton:

"Few stories of wrongful convictions have happy endings, but the one told by Ronald Cotton and Jennifer Thompson-Cannino is far different. It is the powerful account of violence, rage, redemption, and, ultimately, forgiveness."
-John Grisham

"The story of Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton, as told in first-person voices in this gripping, well-written book, is exceptional."
-St. Petersburg Times

"Even the most cynical reader will be impressed with Cotton's resilience and grace."
-The Washington Post

"Picking Cotton is the nonfiction title you must not overlook this year. It is as compelling as any fiction, yet the truth at its core will move you to tears."
-The Louisville Courier-Journal

"Picking Cotton is ultimately an uplifting story of hope."
-The Charlotte Observer

Connect with Picking Cotton:

For more information on Picking Cotton and the authors, visit the website,

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