Great Michigan Read at WMU

A conversation with Dr. Mona at WMu

Join the Kalamazoo area Great Michigan Read regional partners for an interactive conversation with Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha on Wednesday, March 25. The discussion will be focused on Dr. Mona's account of the Flint water crisis as chronicled in her book, "What the Eyes Don't See." Kristin Totten, an ACLU attorney representing the schoolchildren of Flint, will facilitate the discussion. Free and open to the public. 

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha

Conversation with Dr. Mona
6 to 8 p.m.
Wednesday, March 25
WMU Bernhard Center East Ballroom

  • Free parking in Parking Structure 1--Lot 80, located on west Michigan Ave. east of Ellsworth Hall. Access the Bernhard Center by crossing the street and passing through the Ellsworth Hall lobby. Enter Bernhard Center and follow event signage.

Thank you to our regional partners: Half A Century Book Group, Merze Tate Explorers, Portage District Library and Public Media Network.


Read and discuss ‘What the Eyes Don’t See’

Campus and community members are invited during the spring 2020 semester to join in reading and discussing “What the Eyes Don’t See,” Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha’s account of her discovery that Flint’s children were being poisoned by lead leaching into the city’s drinking water.

The book is Michigan Humanities’ choice for the 2019-20 Great Michigan Read. Western Michigan University’s Office of Government Relations is collaborating with Michigan Humanities to distribute free books and facilitate group discussions. Additionally, Hanna-Attisha will make a regional stop at WMU on Wednesday, March 25 that will be open to GMR participants and the public. Campus co-sponsors for the Great Michigan Read at WMU include the Office of the Provost, College of Arts and Sciences, College of Health and Human Services and the Lee Honors College.

Kara Wood, WMU associate vice president for community partnerships, says she hopes the book discussion groups will provide campus and community members with opportunities for civil discourse on topics ranging from water quality and environmental injustice to the intersection of humanities and science. “Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha’s willingness to fight for children and tirelessly advocate for change in and beyond Michigan will have readers cheering as she follows the science and her young patients’ experiences to uncover one of the state’s worst public health catastrophes,” Wood said.

About Dr. Mona 

Hanna-Attisha is the founder and director of the Michigan State University and Hurley Children’s Hospital Pediatric Public Health Initiative, an innovative and model public health program in Flint. Currently an associate professor of pediatrics and human development at the MSU College of Human Medicine, she has been named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World for her role in uncovering the Flint water crisis and leading recovery efforts. She was one of the first to question if lead was leaching from the city’s water pipes after an emergency manager switched the city’s water supply to the Flint River in 2014. She also is committed to increasing literacy in Flint and elsewhere.

“From the resistance of the Flint sit-down strikers to the reign of demagogue Charles Coughlin, Michigan’s DNA is full of history—some good and some bad and some shared and some hidden—which we must understand in order to address our present-day challenges,” Dr. Mona said. “Like so many Michiganders, my story is an immigrant story. It was critical to share this part of the story in this memoir because it informs how I see the world and the work that I am privileged to do.”

Reading/discussion groups

What the Eyes Don't See book coverCurrently, there are three groups formed that are open to campus and the public—one based on an anthropological perspective that will meet just once on March 11, a second group that will focus on bioethical and public health administration perspectives over three meetings, and a two-meeting group hosted by WMU's Ethics Center. See details below.

Registrants will receive a free copy of the book (limited supplies, register) and a reading guide, which will be available for pickup beginning Monday, January 6 from the reception desk of the Administration wing on the 3rd floor of the Seibert Administration Building.

Professor Michelle Hrivnyak will be the co-leader of a reading group that will look at the book from an anthropological perspective. “The subject matter and events presented in the book are applicable to several areas of anthropological and environmental focus,” Hrivnyak said. “In particular, we feel our session will provide an opportunity for those with similar and complimentary interests to engage with others on a range of timely issues relevant to the wider community.

Bioethical/public health administration perspective 

Tuesdays, 5:30 to 7 p.m.
January 14, February 11 and March 10
Multicultural Center
1003 Adrian Trimpe Building

Bioethicists work with the healthcare and research communities in investigating the ethical problems that arise in medicine and science. Public health administrators, like Dr. Mona, play an integral role in identifying trends in diagnoses that could be indicators of public health concerns. This group will investigate the book through these lenses. David Paul, chair, Department of Philosophy, and Margaret von Steinen, executive assistant senior, Government Relations, will moderate these sessions.

Anthropological perspective

Wednesday, March 11
4 to 5:30 p.m.
Room 3077 Waldo Library

Anthropologists consider social, environmental, and cultural aspects of everyday life, including the impacts of government decisions and policies on a given community. This group will explore Dr. Mona’s book through the lens of a vulnerable populations’ response to issues of inequality, protection of the environment, and the empowerment of local communities. This session aims to foster additional consideration of how similar populations could be impacted, and how they might be better served from a combined anthropological-environmental perspective. Reflective guideline questions will be provided prior to the session meeting. Professor Michelle Hrivnyak, Department of Anthropology, and Deirdre Courtney, doctoral assistant, will moderate this session for the WMU Institute for Intercultural and Anthropological Studies.

WMU Ethics Center

Wednesday, March 11 and 18
5:30 to 7 p.m.
2072 Moore Hall

Dr. Elissa Allen from the Bronson School of Nursing will lead this discussion. Register.

General questions may be sent to

Thank you to our regional GMR Partners:

                                           Half A Century Book Group