The northern Great Plains became the home of Augustana University in 1881 when Norwegian-American pioneers moved west to Iowa and then, in 1883, across the Big Sioux River into Dakota Territory. This region, which we call the Northern Plains, is comprised of South and North Dakota, Nebraska, and parts of Minnesota, Iowa, Wyoming, and Montana. Today, more than 90% of Augie students call the Plains home, and the majority of graduates remain in or eventually return to the region, yet few of them have actually studied this part of the United States. Augustana University and the Center for Western Studies offer Northern Plains studies programming and resources for the benefit of students and the greater community.
Students with an interest in learning about the northern Great Plains are particularly encouraged to take one or more courses that relate directly to the region. In fact, Augustana offers an interdisciplinary minor in Northern Plains Studies which was initiated by the Center for Western Studies in 2003. Course descriptions and requirements for the Northern Plains Studies minor are available in the Undergraduate Catalog. Many of these courses also fulfill requirements for the major/minor in American Studies.
The minor in Northern Plains Studies was first proposed by Dr. Harry F. Thompson in "Fulfilling Its Mission: Northern Plains Studies at Augustana College," Thompson's report to the Granskou Award Committee in 2003. He saw the minor as a way to combine courses already being offered at Augustana, along with the programs of the Archeology Lab and the Center for Western Studies, into a definable field of study. Beginning in the fall of 2006, a group of interested faculty and administrators, called the Northern Plains Studies Planning Committee, met to discuss the details of how the proposed minor could be implemented. Dr. Michael Mullin, Professor of History and NEH Chair in Regional Studies, worked with the college’s Curriculum Committee to obtain approval of the minor in October 2007. Since then, several courses have been developed to support the minor in Northern Plains Studies and the major in Anthropology.
In addition to proposing the Northern Plains Studies minor, Dr. Thompson's report provides a history of Augustana’s engagement with the region.