Flint Water Crisis Investigator to Address Aug. 22 Virtual MTSU Convocation


Pediatrician, professor and public health advocate Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha entered the national spotlight five years ago when her research exposed the Flint, Michigan, water crisis — children subjected to dangerous levels of lead in the city’s water.

Hanna-Attisha, who wrote “What the Eyes Don’t See,” is the 2020 MTSU Summer Reading Program book author and guest speaker for Convocation, a special event for new students to mark the official start of a new academic year. It will be held virtually this year for the first time because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Convocation is an annual rite of fall at MTSU, designed to bring new students into the learning community and to immediately engage them in the learning process, said Deb Sells, vice president of Student Affairs and vice provost for Enrollment and Academic Services.

Convocation can be viewed at 5 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 22, on True Blue TV and MTSU’s Facebook and YouTube Channels.

“Convocation is always one of the most important events we have on campus,” Sells said. “This year’s Convocation will be a bit different than usual because we are going to be doing it online, to make sure we are keeping our students safe as we begin our new school year with the coronavirus still active in Rutherford County.”

Sells and MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee will share a few words for the new students, their families and others.

Following Hanna-Attisha’s keynote address, she will participate in a question-and-answer session with MTSU’s Beverly Keel, the dean of the College of Media and Entertainment. Audience members will provide many of the questions.

Regarding Hanna-Attisha’s book, Sells said it has been well received.

“It’s a particularly timely book,” she said. “Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha was one of the principle investigators who brought that to the public’s attention.”

“And given right now that we are living through a pandemic of a different type, it’s timely to be looking at and understanding how medical and public health professionals look at a crisis that impacts a large swath of citizens and understand what their thinking is as they go in trying to understand and address the scope of a health crisis,” Sells added.

Sells said each of the academic departments will be hosting separate Zoom rooms or breakout sessions for their students.

“Students usually don’t have the chance to have that follow-up conversation in their academic major,” she said.

Hanna-Attisha is 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. She is associate professor of pediatrics and human development and a C.S. Mott endowed professor of public health at MSU, where she earned her medical degree.

She has testified three times before the U.S. Congress, awarded the Freedom of Expression Courage Award by PEN America and named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World for her role in the Flint water crisis, and leading recovery efforts.

MTSU will begin its 2020-21 academic year on Monday, Aug. 24, with the first day of fall 2020 classes. The semester will be a mix of remote-learning, online, in-person and hybrid courses, and classes will end Nov. 25. Masks will be required in all indoor public settings.