Inaugural Thematic Year at CSU to focus on health in 2022-23, with ‘What the Eyes Don’t See’ as Rams Read book

What The Eyes Don't SeeBeginning next fall, Colorado State University is expanding its existing Rams Read program into an inclusive, university-wide Thematic Year aligned with Courageous Strategic Transformation. The theme for 2022-23 will be health, and the university is bringing Flint, Michigan pediatrician Mona Hanna-Attisha back to Fort Collins as the Rams Read author and as a visiting scholar with an expertise in health.

In What the Eyes Don’t See: a Story of Crisis, Resistance, and Hope in an American City, Hanna-Attisha tells the story of her own role in exposing the Flint water crisis, as well as the roles played by many Flint parents and activists and by whistleblowers in local and federal government. The book will be distributed free to all incoming CSU students at New Student Orientation in June and at Ram Welcome in August. It will also be available for purchase at the CSU Bookstore and for loan from the CSU Libraries.

Hanna-Attisha will come to campus as a visiting scholar Wednesday, Sept. 21.  She will spend time in conversation with students, visit a class, and participate in a live, in-person public conversation with President Joyce McConnell. More information about her visit will be forthcoming.

As an expansion of the current Rams Read program, the thematic year will accomplish several exciting goals. “Establishing a thematic year makes it possible for everyone at CSU—as well as many members of the larger community — to engage with the theme, through events and programs that will take place on campus, virtually and around the state throughout the academic year,” said Marissa Dienstag, the leadership fellow organizing the planning and implementation of the project. “And it will be an amazing platform for us to highlight a Courageous Strategic Transformation priority every year, in a collaborative, inclusive way.”

In planning for the year of health, the Office of the President asked for input from hundreds of leaders across CSU. They sought ideas and feedback that included everything from what resources would be most valuable, the ways units and departments would prefer to get involved, to which specific definitions of health resonated most. As the result of this initial input, the CSU year of health will focus specifically on animal health, human physical and mental health and public health, with an emphasis on health disparities.

Faculty, staff, students and community members will be invited to participate directly in the year of health not just by attending events but by organizing events themselves, adding relevant events to the yearlong calendar on the year of health website, highlighting the expertise of their team throughout the year and engaging with the theme on social media and other platforms. Dienstag said that more information about how to get involved will be forthcoming this spring, including how to add events and programs to the calendar and how to apply for funding to support health-themed initiatives in 2022-2023. Anyone interested in joining the steering committee for or otherwise contributing to the year of health should email

Meanwhile, the CSU community is invited to read What the Eyes Don’t See in preparation for the year of health, and anyone interested in curricular support for using the book should email for more information.  The Rams Read will remain a cornerstone of CSU’s thematic year, according to Ann Claycomb, chief of staff and director of communications in the Office of the President, who was initially charged with launching the Rams Read and is working with Dienstag on the year of health.

“As the past two years have proven, a powerful book like the ones we’ve chosen for our Rams Read can excite and engage many people, even under incredibly challenging circumstances,” Claycomb said. “We have been fortunate to have a passionately engaged committee selecting books for us that both illuminate our Principles of Community and invite us to explore complex issues, from race and racism in America with Citizen to food justice and farming in The Color of Food. What the Eyes Don’t See is a similarly engaging and similarly rigorous book that will spark many conversations around health—and especially public health disparities—in our country.”

While the year of health website is under construction, the Rams Read website offers extensive curricular and other resources related to both the 2019-20 Rams Read (Citizen by Claudia Rankine) and the 2020-21 Rams Read (The Color of Food by Natasha Bowens Blair.)