The legacy of Dr. Joel Olson


Dr. Joel Olson was an assistant professor in the Department of Politics and International Affairs at Northern Arizona University, where he specialized in political theory, racial politics, and social movements and extremism

Joel Olson was well-loved, a mentor to many and a social activist and advocate for the oppressed. He was a well-known figure in the anti-racist and pro-immigrant movements in Arizona, and authored the book The Abolition of White Democracy. He was passionate about teaching, equipping his students to think their way out of times of crisis.

He was also passionate about changing the world through his activism. Joel Olson was an enemy of the status quo. He vocally opposed SB1070, Arizona’s anti-illegal immigration law, criticized racial inequality, and questioned authority. He sought out truth and justice with ferocity. Joel Olson was active with grassroots groups like the Repeal Coalition, an organization that seeks the repeal of laws that target immigrants and uses the slogan "Fight for freedom to live, love, and work anywhere you please."

During the first week of his classes, Dr. Joel Olson would hand out a pink sheet of paper outlining his theory of education. “Education is uncomfortable,” he said. “It makes you think about new things, challenges old beliefs, forces you to reevaluate the world, and makes you do work you wouldn’t ordinarily do. But remember, there is a payoff. You are learning how to think, read, write, and speak critically. You are on your way to leading the examined life.”

Are you ready to learn how to think, read, write and speak critically? Are you ready to lead an examined life? Are you ready to enter a world of ideas and think big? Are you passionate about social justice and social activism? If so, this is the place for you. Please apply today to be a member of the 2014-2015 Olson Scholars Institute and Learning Community. We look forward to receiving your application soon.