Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor


The Center for Great Plains Studies, officially sanctioned at Emporia State University by the Kansas board of regents in 1977, was conceived by history professor Patrick O'Brien some three years earlier. The center, established with the assistance of a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, has a three-part mandate: to offer academic programs, to promote public service activities, and to foster and support research on all aspects of the people, culture, and land of the Great Plains, from Texas to Canada. The ultimate goal of this mandate is to increase awareness, understanding, and appreciation of the Great Plains.

From the beginning, pedagogy has been a major function of the center. Courses on Great Plains topics from a variety of disciplines in the arts, humanities, and sciences were developed and continue to be offered, both on campus and on location. Particular emphasis has been on literature and folklore, history and the social sciences, geology, and the biological sciences. The most innovative course offering was the Great Plains Semester, during which students devoted an entire semester to study of the history, anthropology, and literature of the Great Plains, combining classroom instruction with field trips to six Plains states. Offering seminars and summer courses on Plains topics for elementary and secondary teachers is an ongoing activity of the center. The center publishes and distributes Tales out of School, which contains pedagogical topics and suggestions for public school teachers.

In the area of public service the Center for Great Plains Studies has hosted presentations by scholars from around the nation and as far away as Australia. It also cooperates with local arts agencies in sponsoring exhibits and performances by Plains artists. "Plains Talk," a series of public service announcements, is made available to radio stations in the Great Plains, and the center has produced national award–winning programs for local-access cable television. The center also supports a Friends of the Plains organization, comprised of both academics and community members.

In addition to Tales out of School and the Great Plains Newsletter, the Center for Great Plains Studies publishes a multidisciplinary scholarly journal, Heritage of the Great Plains, whose contents range from ethnobotany, to original historical source materials, to literary criticism, to comparative studies of grasslands in other parts of the world.

Emporia Center for Great Plains Studies website.

James Hoy Emporia State University

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