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 readings pre-selected by the faculty facilitator. The small group size (usually 12-16 students) allows scholars to examine the issues in-depth while building relationships and engaging in civil discourse.

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. 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

Bowling Alone: Revised and Updated

Fall 2023 Reading Group
Tuesdays 4:00-5:00 p.m.

Social capital is needed for economic growth and a flourishing society. In this reading group, scholars will explore the concept of social capital and the reasons it has declined in the U.S. Students will discuss the role that declining social capital has had on rural communities and manufacturing communities throughout the rustbelt.  Each participant will receive a $500 scholarship. 

Judgment and Decision Making

Fall 2023 Reading Group
Thursdays 5:00-6:00 p.m.

In this reading group we discuss how people make judgments and decisions, and explore different mechanisms that aim to improve the quality of people’s choices. Finally, we engage in a debate to provide other perspectives on the policy implications of behavioral economics. Each participant will receive a $500 scholarship. 

The Digital Revolution

Fall 2023 Reading Group
Wednesdays 5:00-6:00 p.m.

How is technology reshaping our world and what does this mean for our future? I this reading group, scholars will explore these questions and topics relating to: artificial intelligence, virtual reality and the Internet of Things. Group discussion will deepen our understanding of how these innovations are transforming industries and changing how we live, work, and communicate. Each participant will receive a $500 scholarship.


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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