First-Year Experience

Welcome New V-Hawks!

What to expect at Viterbo University

You have a lot to look forward to in your first year of college, so we designed a program to help you navigate these exciting new times. Our goal is to support your transition to college life and all the opportunities that come with it, including helping you adjust to our academic expectations and providing you with ways to connect with others and establish lifelong friendships. We hope you enjoy your First-Year Experience (FYE).

V-Hawk Orientation Days

Destination: Viterbo

Your journey at Viterbo is just beginning, and it continues with V-Hawk New Student Orientation Days. Held prior to the beginning of the fall and spring semesters, Ooientation is designed to ease your transition to Viterbo and is a great time to discover everything Viterbo has to offer. Whether you’re a new first-year student coming from high school or you're transferring from another institution, orientation programming will help you learn about your new home away from home, from what classes will be like to what there is to do on the weekends.

First-Year Common Read

Each year, our common read selection introduces new V-Hawks to intellectual life at Viterbo University.  As part of your first-year seminar, you will engage with one common book in which an author shares their personal story of struggle, turmoil, and success as they grapple with broader social issues of their time.  You also attend one common read event with the author, which allows you to participate in a whole-campus conversation.  Mark your calendar for this year’s conversation with common read author Douglas Abrams on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2023, sponsored by the D.B. Reinhart Institute for Ethics in Leadership.

2023-24: The Book of Hope: A Survival Guide for Trying Times by Jane Goodall and Douglas Abrams

Book of Hope.jpeg

Looking at the headlines—the worsening climate crisis, a global pandemic, loss of biodiversity, political upheaval—it can be hard to feel optimistic. And yet hope has never been more desperately needed.

In this urgent book, Jane Goodall, the world's most famous living naturalist, and Douglas Abrams, the internationally bestselling co-author of The Book of Joy, explore through intimate and thought-provoking dialogue one of the most sought after and least understood elements of human nature: hope. In The Book of Hope, Jane focuses on her "Four Reasons for Hope": The Amazing Human Intellect, The Resilience of Nature, The Power of Young People, and The Indomitable Human Spirit.

Drawing on decades of work that has helped expand our understanding of what it means to be human and what we all need to do to help build a better world, The Book of Hope touches on vital questions, including: How do we stay hopeful when everything seems hopeless? How do we cultivate hope in our children? What is the relationship between hope and action? Filled with moving and inspirational stories and photographs from Jane’s remarkable career, The Book of Hope is a deeply personal conversation with one of the most beloved figures in the world today.

While discussing the experiences that shaped her discoveries and beliefs, Jane tells the story of how she became a messenger of hope, from living through World War II to her years in Gombe to realizing she had to leave the forest to travel the world in her role as an advocate for environmental justice. And for the first time, she shares her profound revelations about her next, and perhaps final, adventure.

The second book in the Global Icons Series—which launched with the instant classic The Book of Joy with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu—The Book of Hope is a rare and intimate look not only at the nature of hope but also into the heart and mind of a woman who revolutionized how we view the world around us and has spent a lifetime fighting for our future.

There is still hope, and this book will help guide us to it. (
MacMillan Publishers)

2022-23: I Take My Coffee Black by Tyler Merritt


In the wake of his deeply powerful viral videos ("Before You Call the Cops" and "Walking While Black"), Tyler Merritt shares his experiences as a black man in America with truth, humor, and poignancy.

Tyler Merritt's video "Before You Call the Cops" has been viewed millions of times. He's appeared on Jimmy Kimmel and Sports Illustrated and has been profiled in the New York Times. The viral video's main point—the more you know someone, the more empathy, understanding, and compassion you have for that person—is the springboard for this book. By sharing his highs and exposing his lows, Tyler welcomes us into his world in order to help bridge the divides that seem to grow wider every day.

In I Take My Coffee Black, Tyler tells hilarious stories from his own life as a black man in America. He talks about growing up in a multi-cultural community and realizing that he wasn't always welcome, how he quit sports for musical theater (that's where the girls were) to how Jesus barged in uninvited and changed his life forever (it all started with a Triple F.A.T. Goose jacket) to how he ended up at a small Bible college in Santa Cruz because he thought they had a great theater program (they didn't). Throughout his stories, he also seamlessly weaves in lessons about privilege, the legacy of lynching and sharecropping and why you don't cross black mamas. He teaches readers about the history of encoded racism that still undergirds our society today.

By turns witty, insightful, touching, and laugh-out-loud funny, I Take My Coffee Black paints a portrait of black manhood in America and enlightens, illuminates, and entertains—ultimately building the kind of empathy that might just be the antidote against the racial injustice in our society. (
Hachette Book Group)

2021-2022: Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality by Danielle Allen
Our Declaration Book Cover

Featured on the front page of the New York TimesOur Declaration is already regarded as a seminal work that reinterprets the promise of American democracy through its founding text. Combining a personal account of teaching the Declaration with a vivid evocation of the colonial world between 1774 and 1777, Allen, a political philosopher renowned for her work on justice and citizenship, reveals America's founding text to be an animating force that not only changed the world more than two-hundred years ago, but also still can. Challenging conventional wisdom, she boldly makes the case that the Declaration is a document as much about political equality as about individual liberty. The contradictions between ideals and reality in a document that perpetuated slavery are also brilliantly tackled by Allen, whose cogently written and beautifully designed book “is must-reading for all who care about the future as well as the origins of America’s democracy” (David Kennedy).

The LibGuide for this book will be available later this summer and will be cross-posted on this site.

2020-2021: When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka
When the Emperor Was Divine.jpg

A day after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Julie Otsuka’s grandfather was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation on suspicion of being a Japanese spy. Her mother, grandmother, and uncle were subsequently interned at a camp in Topaz, Utah. Otsuka draws on both research and personal experience, as well as her background as a visual artist, to craft this crystalline, semi-autobiographical debut novel, winner of the American Library Association's Alex Award and the Asian American Literary Award. The internment experience in the novel is recounted through the varying perspectives of a mother, father, daughter, and son as they survive in the camp and then return home after two years to their old neighborhood that is neither familiar nor hospitable. This is “a gem of a book and one of the most vivid history lessons you’ll ever learn” (USA Today).

The LibGuide for this book can be found at

2019-2020: Educated by Tara Westover
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Tara Westover is an American historian and writer known for her unique and courageous education journey. She was born to Mormon survivalist parents opposed to public education. Westover never attended school. She spent her days working in her father's junkyard or stewing herbs for her mother, a self-taught herbalist and midwife. Taught to read by an older brother, her education was erratic and incomplete. She was 17 the first time she set foot in a classroom. After that first encounter with education, she pursued learning for a decade, graduating magna cum laude from Brigham Young University in 2008 and subsequently winning a Gates Cambridge Scholarship. She earned an M.Phil. from Trinity College, Cambridge in 2009, and in 2010 was a visiting fellow at Harvard University. She returned to Cambridge, where she earned a Ph.D. in history in 2014.

Her book, Educated, is an account of the struggle for self-invention. It is a story that gets to the heart of what education is and what it offers: the perspective to see one’s life through new eyes, and the will to change it. Westover argues that education is not just about job training, but a powerful tool of self-invention. Educated was long-listed for the 2019 Andrew Carnegie Medal of Excellence and spent 32 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller list. Former U.S. President Barack Obama named Educated as one of the books on his summer reading list of 2018.

Viterbo University was honored to host Dr. Westover’s presentation on Thursday, September 12, 2019, at 7:00 p.m. in the Fine Arts Center Main Theatre.  The event was part of the D.B. Reinhart Institute for Ethics Lecture Series.

The LibGuide for this book can be found at

2018-2019: The Late Homecomer by Kao Kalia Yang
The Late Homecomer Cover.jpg

Kao Kalia Yang is a Hmong-American author, film-maker, and teacher; she is also a co-founder of Words Wanted, a company dedicated to helping immigrants with writing, translating, and business services. Her writing and speaking is passionate and eloquent as she seeks to deepen the understanding of the human condition in order to garner more compassion in the world.

Kalia was born in Ban Vinai Refugee Camp in 1980; she and her family came to Minnesota as refugees in the summer of 1987, and her first book, The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir, reflects upon this move. It is a firsthand account of the journey that many Hmong people had to make from place to place in order to find home. A review by Publishers Weekly praises Kalia, “Yang tells her family's story with grace; she narrates their struggles, beautifully weaving in Hmong folklore and culture.” It is the first Hmong-authored book to gain national distribution from a literary press, the only book to have ever garnered two Minnesota Book Awards, the best-selling book in Coffee House Press History, and earned a NEA Big Read title.

Viterbo University was honored to host Kao Kalia Yang’s presentation on Thursday, September 13, 2018, at 7:00 p.m. in the Fine Arts Center Main Theatre.  The event was part of the D.B. Reinhart Institute for Ethics Lecture Series.

The LibGuide for this book can be found at





First-Year Seminar

Franciscan Values and Traditions

The first of four seminars that introduce students to the mission of the university, Franciscan Values and Traditions is a discussion-based course designed to meet your specific needs as a first-year student.  In this course, we introduce you to Viterbo’s five core values, and we encourage you to reflect on and develop your own set of core values as you become acquainted with resources on campus that support your personal growth.  We also challenge you to become an engaged learner both in and out of the classroom by incorporating a number of cross-campus experiences, including participation in the common read.

V-Hawk Orientation Summer Newsletters

We recognize that the transition to college is a significant one and that there are lots of new things to learn! In the weeks leading up to Orientation weekend, new first-year students will receive e-newsletters that will:

  • connect you with key resources and information that will help you be successful in your first weeks and months at college,
  • share what we love about Viterbo and La Crosse, and
  • introduce you to the 30 or so upper-class Orientation Leaders who are looking forward to getting to know you and making your transition to Viterbo as smooth (and fun!) as possible.

Be checking your Viterbo student email after STAR to make sure you don't miss these newsletters!