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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Campus Council on Community and Diversity announces 2014-15 Campus Community Book Project

“Thinking in Pictures: My Life with Autism” by Temple Grandin has been announced as the 2014-15 Campus Community Book Project.

Created in 2002 as a response to the Sept. 11 attacks, the Campus Community Book Project aims to strengthen the UC Davis community through community discussion and the promotion of diversity. Events are planned throughout the year that relate to the chosen book, including lectures, films and discussions.

The process of choosing a book for the year begins when the Campus Council on Community and Diversity chooses a theme for the Campus Community Book Project. Books that fall under that topic are then nominated. A volunteer committee made up of faculty, staff and students reviews all of the nominated books before making a decision.

This year, the Campus Council on Community and Diversity chose the theme of disability. Grandin’s “Thinking in Pictures: My Life with Autism” was chosen from 46 nominated books.

“We look for books that draw from a range of disciplines and that will engage our campus community as a whole,” said Jill Van Zenten, a member of the book selection committee. “Grandin’s book certainly does this. Whether you are interested in psychology, agriculture, medicine, educational theory, art, engineering, neuroscience or disability issues, you will find something in this book that will make you think differently and ask new questions.”

Grandin’s book allows readers to explore her life with autism as well as understand her visual thinking process.

“In her book, Grandin explains how her autism puts her on a continuum that we all live on, not in some separate category of humanity,” Van Zenten said. “She may be on the far end of the continuum, well into what she herself calls the “abnormal” range, but with that “abnormality” comes genius as well.”

Grandin’s autism has helped her create world-famous inventions in agricultural engineering.

“The flip side of her autism is her unique ability as a visual thinker and designer — for example, in her words, her ability to take a “cow’s eye view” when designing systems for handling livestock,” Van Zenten said. “Today, one-third of cattle and hogs in the U.S. are managed in humane processing systems invented and designed by Dr. Grandin.”

As a professor of animal science at Colorado State University, Grandin has spoken at UC Davis previously. In 2007 the UC Davis MIND Institute held her talk, “My Experience with Autism.”

“It is especially compelling that the author of the book is someone who has autism, is a prominent figure in the autism community and is also a scholar,” said Mikael Villalobos, the administrator of Diversity Education and chair of the Campus Community Book Project. “It gives the opportunity to see how we define disability and look at the limitations regarding these labels.”

The Campus Community Book Project committee hopes that the UC Davis community will gain a greater understanding of autism.

“It touches so many people’s lives,” Villalobos said. “Autism is something that has been covered a lot in the news. This can provide a resource in more autism understanding … It’s one of the topics that really has a lot of interest in regard to having a dialogue of greater understanding.”

The committee also hopes that the book will help the UC Davis community understand disabilities on a larger scale.

“I always hope that the community will gain empathy not for one specific condition, but for a point of view that you hadn’t had access to before,” said Sharon Knox, a member of the selection committee.

In May, a committee will begin planning campus events that relate to “Thinking in Pictures: My Life with Autism” for the 2014-15 academic year.

Additionally, Grandin will come to speak on Feb. 10, 2015 in Jackson Hall at the Mondavi Center.

ALYSSA VANDENBERG can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.

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