Biographical Sketch of Tom Isern
Isern's academic specialty is the history and folklore of the Great Plains of North America, his research and teaching comprising both the American plains and the Canadian prairies. He is the author or co-author of six books, including, most recently, Dakota Circle: Excursions on the True Plains, published by the NDSU Institute for Regional Studies. His particular interest is the story of farming, ranching, and rural life on the plains. He explores this interest in frequent lectures and concerts for public and professional audiences throughout the region. He also writes about it in the weekly (since 1983) newspaper column, Plains Folk.
In 1991 Isern, as a Fulbright Scholar, devoted six months to research in New Zealand, investigating the agricultural history of the tussock grasslands; in 1996 he returned for further work in New Zealand under a Programme Development Grant from the N.Z.-U.S. Educational Foundation, and he maintains an ongoing program of research in New Zealand grassland studies.
In 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, and for the fifth time in 2008, he directed a Summer Seminar for School Teachers, "The Great Plains from Texas to Saskatchewan," funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and hosted by North Dakota State University.
As founding director of NDSU's Center for Heritage Renewal, Isern conducts applied research and performs public service in the areas of historic preservation and heritage tourism.
In 1998 Isern received the first annual Outstanding Educator Award of NDSU's College of Arts, Humanities, & Social Sciences. In 1999 he received NDSU's Peltier Award for Innovative Teaching. In 2000 he was named NDSU's Fargo Chamber of Commerce Distinguished Professor. In 2007 he was named both Dale Hogoboom Presidential Professor and University Distinguished Professor.