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

Why (Some) Nations Fail

Scholars will explore the classic puzzle of why some countries are rich and others poor. In this reading group, students will examine institutions that foster stability and economic growth and factors that lead to poverty, conflict and stagnation. Each participant will receive a $500 scholarship.

Entrepreneurship: From Ancient Mesopotamia to Modern Times

Scholars will explore the history of entrepreneurship from diverse regions, cultures and times. In this reading group, students will learn about the entrepreneurs who built our world and draw upon these lessons to understand successful entrepreneurship today. Each participant will receive a $500 scholarship.

Current Reading Groups

There are no current reading groups. This section will be updated in fall 2021. 


The Mancur Olson Scholars program launched in fall 2017. Since then, more than 75 scholars have participated in reading groups. See all past reading groups and participants.



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