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Western Kentucky University

Honors College at WKU

Alexander Olson, Ph.D.

Alex Olson




Assistant Professor

My Role in the Honors College

I teach Honors 251: Citizen and Self and other interdisciplinary courses. I also advise capstone projects and teach History 622: Borderlands and U.S. West.

Educational Background

After attending Seattle Public Schools, I received my B.A. with honors from Stanford University, where I won the James Birdsall Weter prize for best thesis in the History Department. I later received an M.A. in History from University of Washington, taught Native American history at Shoreline Community College, and went on to receive my Ph.D. in American Culture from the University of Michigan in 2013.


Seattle, Washington

Academic Interests

I am interested in the cultural, intellectual, and social history of the North American West as well as broader theoretical questions about how knowledge is created, legitimized, and connected to specific places and spaces. My current manuscript examines the struggle for democratic education in California among labor groups, public intellectuals, and education reformers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. I am also co-authoring a textbook, American Studies: A User's Guide, with Philip J. Deloria for University of California Press. I have published in Western Historical Quarterly, Southwest Review, Pacific Northwest Quarterly, and Boom. One of my articles won the Bert Fireman Award from the Western History Association in 2009, and I was recognized with the K. Patricia Cross Future Leaders Award from the Association of American Colleges & Universities in 2012.

Hobbies and Interests

I enjoy cooking, running, good coffee, and curling. I am the proud owner of a rescue dog named Doc, and I speak Latvian.

What Brought Me to the HC

I was drawn to the emphasis of the Honors College on student engagement. I believe students and faculty should be partners in the learning process and that undergraduate research is the bedrock of a successful college education. I see Honors 251 as a new type of introductory course in the humanities and social sciences, preparing students for a lifetime of learning as citizen scholars and civic professionals.

A Little About Myself

I have driven through 47 out of 50 states and hope to eventually check off Alaska, Maine, and Oklahoma from the list.



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 Last Modified 1/5/15