Mancur Olson Scholars Reading Groups

Explore new ideas through peer discussion.


The Mancur Olson Scholars program brings together diverse students to study an important topic of our time. By sharing their own views and hearing the perspectives of their peers, scholars experience the value of free expression and develop scholarly skills. 

Each reading group focuses on a central topic with books pre-selected by the faculty facilitator. The small group size (usually about 10 students) allows scholars to build relationships, speak freely, and examine the issues in-depth. 

Reading groups enhance the university experience by helping students explore important ideas, engage in civil discussion, and develop new skills. 

Scholars are invited to think critically and engage in robust discussion of ideas. Civil disagreement with one another and the text is not only accepted, but actively encouraged. All students who complete the reading group receive a scholarship. In addition, students are given opportunities to network with guest speakers and attend exclusive events. 


To be eligible for the Mancur Olson Scholars program, a student must meet all of the following:

  • NDSU student
  • Open to all majors and minors
  • Minimum 3.0 GPA

*Additional requirements may be needed for upper-level reading groups. 


Students who are selected must meet the following expectations:

  • Scholars must attend all scheduled reading group meetings.
  • Scholars must read the assigned texts before each meeting and come prepared to participate in group discussions.
  • Scholars must be willing to explore new ideas and join rigorous debate without engaging in personal attacks. 
  • Scholars must treat the reading group moderator and all other scholars with respect and civility.
Selection Process

Students are selected through a competitive application process. Applicants are evaluated on their written and oral responses from the online application and an in-person interview. Successful scholars come with an inquisitive mind, an interesting perspective, and a willingness to engage in civil dialogue about potentially controversial issues. 

Upcoming Reading Groups

The Rise and Fall of Dictatorships

Scholars will explore the rise and decline of dictatorships in the 20th century. Students will learn about some of the world's most infamous dictators, their motives and strategies, and the institutional factors that led them to power. Each participant will receive a $500 scholarship. 

Challenges in Higher Education

Scholars will explore modern challenges to the higher education system. This reading group examines arguments related to grades, cheating, the cost of education, and how college and the workforce are changing. Students will discuss how to get the most from the college experience. Each participant will receive a $500 scholarship.

Current Reading Groups

There are no current reading groups. 


The Mancur Olson Scholars program launched in fall 2017. Since then, 100 scholars have participated in reading groups.

See reading groups archives.



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