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New chair arrives on campus

Dr. Olsen joins History and Government starting this week

*Originally printed in the July 16th Issue of The Lasso*

After 35 years and 17 awfully cold winters, Dr. Jonathan Olsen has returned to Texas to take up residence as History and Government’s new Department Chair.

One would never know from his Wisconsin accent that he grew up in Fort Worth, Texas. Previously teaching at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, he decided to look for a new career direction while coming back to Texas.

Taking on his new position, he plans to meet with the faculty to create a collective five- to ten-year vision for the department. He also hopes to grow the department not just through student and faculty, but by expanding in theoretical and geographic political science.

“We want students to broaden their intellectual horizons,” Olsen said. “Not only set them on a path to job success, but help them find a passion. I know when I went to college, it opened up a very different world I hadn’t thought of before.”

Olsen received his Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from the University of Texas in 1983. In 1988, he earned his Master of Arts in Soviet and East European Studies from Kansas University. After spending two years studying in Germany, he received his Ph.D. in 1997, his dissertation being “Nature and Nationalism. Right-Wing Ecology and the Politics of identity in Contemporary Germany.”

As an undergraduate, Olsen took German as a foreign language, beginning his long-lasting association with the country. Travelling to Germany as a Fulbright Scholar, he spent time at two different universities. His second year there, he witnessed history in the making when the Berlin Wall came down.

Today, he tries to visit Germany every other year, having not only taught at a couple of different universities, but he also lived in the country for extended periods of time four times. He has developed a lot of contacts there as well as a second home outside of the U.S., hoping to revisit next year.

On a more personal note, Olsen is no stranger to the music scene. Since high school, he has held an on and off relationship with music, beginning with clubs and parties in high school before quitting and coming back to it multiple times.

“The coolest gig I ever played was at Buddy Guy’s (Blues) in Chicago,” he recalled. “We weren’t the only ones on stage because there were a lot of bands that night, but that was the most memorable.”

Over the course of his years here, Olsen hopes to internationalize the department and university, help students find their passion and better serve the world.

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