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Western Kentucky University


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Honors College

Nathan Phelps, Ed.D.

Nathan Phelps





Assistant Professor of Honors and Interdisciplinary Studies

My Role in the Honors College

I teach several courses in the College, including HON 300, and most recently, HON 380, “Trends Shaping our Future: Local and Global Perspectives.” I will start teaching a version of this course through the Institute for Citizenship and Social Responsibility (ICSR), in the Spring, 2015. This course will have the same title, but a new prefix: ICSR 380. Honors sections of ICSR 380 will be available every term. I am really excited about this new upper division seminar course as it provides an interesting opportunity to explore a broad range of ideas and topics related to both the kind of future we currently are making, and the kind of future we want to create. I also teach HON 402, a course designed to help students develop their thesis projects and proposals.

In addition to teaching, I also help students with their research, serve on thesis committees, a variety of college and university committees, and conduct my own research.

Educational Background

I have been through two different doctoral programs: one in American History at the University of Texas at Austin; the other in Higher Education Leadership at Western Kentucky University. I did my undergraduate work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. My first passion as a student was for Mesoamerican and Southwestern US archaeology and American Indian history. As an undergraduate, I conducted field work in southern California and in the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico. At the University of Texas, my main area of research was in American Indian identity in New England and New Mexico during the 17th century. In particular, I examined the interaction between Christian missionaries and Indians in these two regions and the way these groups’ identities were affected by these interactions. At WKU, my research focused on key trends that will likely shape society over the next few decades and the challenges and opportunities that they present for leaders in postsecondary education.


I grew up in Madison, Wisconsin. (Yes, I love cheese.)

Academic Interests

My current research focuses on the most important trends that will likely shape our world over the next several decades. I am particularly interested in the role higher education will play in preparing students and society for the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century. More specifically, I am interested in how the way we perceive the future affects our behavior in the present and the role that education plays in shaping these perceptions. I am very interested in exploring these perceptions in cross-cultural and international contexts. I am involved in a series of research projects related to these questions. I have led study abroad trips exploring these topics, and I am currently planning more adventures . . . .

Hobbies and Interests

When I’m not engaged in “university business,” I enjoy spending time with my family, running, reading, mountain biking, hanging out with friends, playing guitar, seeing and listening to music, cooking, and working in my yard and garden. I love to travel and I’m generally up for trying new things. I am a sports fan—especially soccer.

What Brought Me to the HC

I came to the Honors College after gradually becoming interested in themes and questions that transcend the conventional topical and chronological boundaries that define the discipline of history. My background as a historian and archaeologist trained me to think in terms of change over time, the interplay between individuals and society, and to appreciate the complex and varied forces that shape the context in which people live out and understand their lives. In the fall of 2008, I decided to offer an Honors Colloquium exploring many of these same issues, but with a future orientation instead of an historical one. That course, and others that followed, were so much fun, and working with Honors students was so rewarding, that I eventually moved into the Honors College full time. I am delighted to be able to pursue these kinds of interdisciplinary questions with students who bring such a wide range of interests and background knowledge to bear on the subject.

A Little About Myself

I have two kids in college and a dog named Milo. My wife is a psychologist and runs a consulting business. I enjoy working in the community and am involved in helping to build a greenways system for bicycles and pedestrians here in Bowling Green and Warren County. If you want to know more about how you can help, or where you can run or ride here in town, let me know!

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 Last Modified 9/25/14