Photo of Laura Olson

Laura R. Olson has been named the J. Strom Thurmond Professor of Political Science at Clemson University.

CLEMSON — Laura R. Olson has been named the J. Strom Thurmond Professor of Political Science at Clemson University.

The professorship, established in 1991 in honor of Clemson alumnus and long-time U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond, is given to a political science scholar who is making substantial contributions to the intellectual life of the university.

Olson is one of the nation’s foremost scholars in the interdisciplinary, scientific study of religion and politics. Her teaching and research focus on contemporary religion, civic engagement and American politics.

“Dr. Olson is an excellent choice to become the next J. Strom Thurmond Professor of Political Science,” said Jeffrey Peake, chair of Clemson’s political science department. “In more than two decades at Clemson, she has been a national leader in scholarship related to religion and politics and her research has impacted the national conversation on those topics. She is most deserving of this honor.”

Olson’s research has appeared in leading scholarly journals, including Political Research Quarterly, Social Science Quarterly and the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. She is the author, co-author or co-editor of nine books, including “Religion and Politics in America: Faith, Culture, and Strategic Choices.” She has served as editor-in-chief of the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion and an editorial board member of five other national journals.

A frequent source for various media outlets, she has been interviewed on CNN, National Public Radio, and BBC Radio and quoted in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, and USA Today. She also has served on the board of directors of the Public Religion Research Institute.

A Clemson faculty member since 1996, Olson has earned many awards during her career, including the American Political Science Association and Pi Sigma Alpha Award for Outstanding Teaching in Political Science. She has also been the recipient of several awards at Clemson: the campus-wide Fluor Daniel Student Government Excellence in Teaching Award, the Board of Trustees Award for Faculty Excellence and the Centennial Professorship, given for demonstrated excellence in teaching, research and service.

A native of Racine, Wisconsin, Olson earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Northwestern University and a master’s and Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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