The Paul A. Olson Seminars in Great Plains Studies offer an opportunity for interested scholars, students, and members of the community to come together to examine various topics related to the Great Plains. The seminars, offered monthly during the academic year, are free and open to the public. If you need an accommodation, please call 402-472-3964. Seminars are at 3:30 p.m. at the Great Plains Art Museum, 1155 Q St.

Fall 2013

William Farr


Topic: Blackfoot redemption

Speaker: William Farr, Emeritus Professor, History, University of Montana, senior fellow and founding director of the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West, winner of the Great Plains Distinguished Book Prize for his book "Blackfoot Redemption: A Blood Indian's Story of Murder, Confinement, and Imperfect Justice."

Leon Higley


Topic: Climate Change and the Insects of the Great Plains

Speaker: Leon Higley, insect ecologist, professor, School of Natural Resources, UNL

Prof. Higley will talk about how climate change affects native insects and how those changes can affect the landscape.

Recording of the talk

Spring 2014

Timothy Schaffert


Topic: Summer Souvenirs and "The Swan Gondola": Reinventing the World's Fair 
Timothy Schaffert, UNL English

The Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition of 1898 (Omaha's World's Fair) consisted of palaces and gardens and also a midway of dirt roads and collapsible shacks, reflecting the split personality of Omaha. Schaffert will speak about the Expo and his book at this lecture.

Derek Hoff


Title: A Prophet without Honor?: Malthus on the Great Plains 

Derek Hoff, history department, Kansas State University, author of The State and the Stork: The Population Debate and Policy Making in U.S. History (University of Chicago Press, 2012), and, with John Fliter, Fighting Foreclosure: The Blaisdell Case, the Contract Clause, and the Great Depression (University Press of Kansas, 2012).

From late nineteenth-century Bonanza farming to President Roosevelt's assurances to Great Plains farmers that they could "Maintain Themselves on the Land" (despite his administration's other efforts to retire "submarginal" farmland and relocate farmers) to the uproar over the Buffalo Commons proposal, Great Plains residents and boosters have often welcomed and promoted population growth in particular locales. And yet the pessimistic ideas of British pastor Thomas Malthus -- who famously argued at the turn of the nineteenth century that population growth would eventually overwhelm natural resources -- have resonated to a surprising degree on the Great Plains. This lecture offers a first draft of the history of population thought in the region. 

Press release >

Miguel Carranza


Title: Potholes and Sinkholes on the Road to Immigration Reform

Miguel Carranza 

Professor of Latina/Latino Studies & Sociology, Director, Latina/Latino Studies Program, University of Missouri-Kansas City

"The arrival of 'newcomers' from other countries has happened since the earliest days of settling the United States. These newcomers – immigrants – have come to flee persecution and poverty in their own countries in hopes of making something of themselves and something for their families. Immigrants have frequently had the challenge of entering the lowest rung of the socio-economic ladder and having to prove their worth in order to achieve the 'American Dream' and become an integral part of our society. 

My presentation focuses on how the climate has changed over time for immigrants and their perceived value to our society. This climate has an impact, not only on our national borders and shores but throughout the U.S., including the Midwest and Great Plains regions. Furthermore, the factors that influence this environmental shift have a great deal to do with any success in achieving immigration reform."

Can't make the lecture? We're live-streaming it here.

Previous lectures

Spring 2013

Tom Lynch


Artifacts and Illuminations: Critical Essays on Loren Eiseley

Thomas Lynch, Associate Professor of English, UNL

Susan N. Maher, Dean, College of Liberal Arts, University of Minnesota Duluth

Priscilla Grew


Engaging Lifelong Learners in Natural History: The Land-Grant Mission of the University of Nebraska State Museum

Speaker: Priscilla Grew, Director, University of Nebraska State Museum and Professor, Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, UNL

Listen to the recording

Allan McCutcheon


Welcome to the Elections from the Inside: Exit Polls and Election Projections for the Great Plains

Speaker: Allan McCutcheon, UNL professor, Survey Research & Methodology/Gallup, Statistics, Sociology, Mathematics

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