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, Orientation 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 freshman 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. Click here to learn more about V-Hawk Orientation Days!

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.

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, which allows you to participate in a whole-campus conversation.

2020-2021: When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka
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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
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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 Retreat experience (FYRe)

While this experience has been canceled for January 2021 due to COVID-19,  we look forward to holding our inaugural First-Year Retreat in January 2022, which will provide you with time for both personal reflection and group friendship-building.  Check back in late 2021 for updates and details!

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!