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. Books and meals, when applicable, are provided by PCPE. 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.
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
Scholars will explore the great debate between the competing economic systems of socialism and free market capitalism. We will discuss the merits and criticisms of each system and their path forward in America in 2020. Each participant will receive a $500 scholarship.
Scholars will explore how human societies around the world interact with their environments and examine the conditions necessary to maintain the delicate balance between using the environment for immediate benefits and preserving it for future use. Each participant will receive a $500 scholarship.
Current Reading Groups
In this introductory reading group, students will explore the relationship between literature and the human condition by discussing classic and modern novels and other great reads.
In this advanced reading group, students will explore U.S. foreign policy and its impact on domestic freedoms.
The Mancur Olson Scholars program launched in fall 2017. Since then, more than 40 scholars have participated in reading groups.
Fall 2019 Scholars
Driving and Sustaining Change in Life and Business
Read: The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg; Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance
Explore: How entrepreneurship relates to social life and value creation.
Back row: Dr. James Caton, Riley Giauque, Derek Phelps, Michael Straus, Emmy Smith, Eve Hanson, Nadia Mitchell
Front row: Siddhant Khemani, Lindsey Prestholdt, Matthew Friedmann
Entrepreneurship and Human Action
Read: Homer Economicus: The Simpsons and Economics by Joshua Hall; Human Action: A Treatise on Economics by Ludwig von Mises; Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance
Explore: Entrepreneurship through the lens of economics - from 20th century philosophy to the popular sitcom The Simpsons.
Back row: Noah Carlson, Jordan Thielman, Cory Brodeur, Colby Warzecha
Front row: Dr. James Caton, Corbin Clark, James Slagle, Shay Radhakrishnan, Chrystian Ulrich, Elysia Taniguchi, Khadeeja Mahmood
Spring 2019 Scholars
Regulating Food and Vice
Read: The Food Police: A Well-Fed Manifesto About the Politics of Your Plate by Jayson Lusk; Regulating Vice: Misguided Prohibitions and Realistic Controls by Jim Leitzel
Explore: How food and vices are regulated and the effectiveness of these regulations at achieving their goals.
Student quotes: "I am learning a lot that I wouldn't have learned in class."
"This has been such an enriching experience for my education."
"It's definitely a fun opportunity to talk about issues - and hey, it's scholarship money too!"
Back row: Dr. Jayson Lusk (author), Dr. Raymond March, Reed Petersen, Calvin Benson, Colby Warzecha, Jordan Thielman
Front row: Turner Gunderson, Matthew Friedman, Kole Nichols, Praj Warang, Jasmin Kaempfer, Dr. Jeremy Jackson
Not pictured: Gwen Scheresky
Humanomics: Putting Humanity Back Into Economics
Read: Humanomics: Moral Sentiments and the Wealth of Nations for the Twenty-First Century by Bart Wilson and Vernon Smith
Explore: How Adam Smith's model of sociality can re-humanize twenty-first century economics.
Upper division reading group: This reading group was open to students with previous reading group experience or advanced knowledge of economics. In addition to reading group meetings, participants planned to join students from more than four campuses for a weekend colloquium hosted by Creighton University in Omaha, NE. Due to weather conditions, the students were unable to attend.
Pictured: Kole Nichols, Dr. Jeremy Jackson, Menah Khodair, Calvin Benson
Fall 2018 Scholars
Evolution in Entrepreneurship
Read: Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure by Tim Harford; Understanding the Process of Economic Change by Douglass C. North
Explore: A new and inspiring approach to solving the most pressing problems in our lives.
Student quotes: "I think the most important thing I've learned so far is that entrepreneurship is forever changing."
"This is a great way of exploring a topic."
"I feel like I'm learning so much from them. It's really cool!"
Back row: Jordan Thielman, April Berntson, Allison Lelivelt
Middle row: Alexa Pemble, Kole Nichols, Mijwok Ajang, Menah Khodair, Allison Giesler, Jasmin Kaempfer
Front row: Dr. James Caton, Michael Straus
Not pictured: Calvin Benson, Gwen Scheresky
Spring 2018 Scholars
The Failure of Foreign Aid
Read: The White Man's Burden by William Easterly
Explore: Why the West's efforts to aid the rest of the world have done so much ill and so little good
Student quotes: "My favorite part has been the people: you learn from them, make friends, and hear different perspectives."
"It's a great way to become a more well-rounded individual."
"It helped me share my opinion... We're leading the conversations so it's really student-focused."
Back row: Michael Straus, Jasmin Kaempfer, Nils Hagen, John Horton, Gwen Scheresky, Calvin Benson
Front row: Casondra Rutschke, Mark Simonson, Guo Chen, Dr. James Caton
Not pictured: Nicholas Becker
Fall 2017 Scholars
Entrepreneurship and Social Orders
Read: Organizing Entrepreneurial Judgment: A New Approach to the Firm by Nicolai J. Foss and Peter G. Klein; Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
Explore: Topics related to economics, philosophy, sociology and entrepreneurship
Student quotes: "It's a good opportunity for students to push themselves out of their comfort zone and just learn something new and do something different."
"It's interesting to see the diversity within the group."
"I highly recommend the reading group to all students."
Back row: William Schaefer, Jared Rudolph, Daniel Justesen, Guo Chen, Dr. James Caton
Front row: Austin Jordahl, Mark Simonson, John Horton, Jose Manuel Espinosa Gonzalez