Thomas D. Isern

Professor of History & University Distinguished Professor
PhD 1977, Oklahoma State University
Minard Hall 422H / 701-799-2942

Areas of interest and specialization: Great Plains history & folklore; agricultural history; Australia & New Zealand

Personal Homepage - Condensed CV

Who Is This Guy?

The senior teaching faculty member in the College of Arts, Humanities, & Social Sciences, Prof. Isern has served NDSU since 1992 and has taught college history since 1974. A farm boy from western Kansas, and an active partner in a vital family farm, he comes by his rural and regional historical interests honestly. Besides teaching NDSU students from freshman to PhD candidates, and pursuing a research agenda that crosses oceans and continents, Isern is heard weekly via public radio and globally via podcast of his weekly feature, Plains Folk. Plus, every Friday night he streams Great Plains folksong live with the Willow Creek Folk School. He is married to Dr. Suzzanne Kelley, editor and publisher of North Dakota State University Press.

Why History? And Why College?

Good history is fundamental to good government and a good life. It is our only basis for judgment on matters public or personal. It grounds our identity and situates us in relation to the rest of the world. Prof. Isern is here to tell you, history matters. And college matters, too. Public higher education, delivered by the Morrill Act of 1862 (the authorization for all such universities as NDSU), has enabled the aspirations of all Americans, won the Cold War, established the enviable American standard of living, and nourished democracy in the American republic. Get yourself a college degree and be a part of all this.

Study with Prof. Isern

Prof. Isern teaches a lot of classes and a lot of students and lives an exceedingly public life; he’s hard to miss. He tells a good story and has been known to get pretty wound up while lecturing a big class. He is conversant with technologies of remote instruction and is a social media hound, but what he likes best is old-fashioned teaching and learning that builds relationships. This includes elbow-to-elbow workshopping of student research and writing and real conversations about history and life lubricated by a cup of coffee. He wants to invite you into a learning community. He welcomes you into his introductory courses in American history, his offerings on the Great Plains, his course on Australia & New Zealand, his research and writing course for the major, and his graduate seminars.

If you want to read his work, check out his memoir, Pacing Dakota (North Dakota State University Press). His next book (in press) will be a history of the Canadian prairies, and he’s writing an intellectual autobiography tentatively titled, Doing History in Grassy Places.


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