Richard Edwards has been named director of the Center for Great Plains Studies, a universitywide interdisciplinary research center. The announcement was made Nov. 18 by David Manderscheid, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.
Edwards is a fellow of the center, professor of economics and former Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs. He replaces James Stubbendieck, who served as director for 12 years and recently retired as professor of agronomy.
“I am extremely enthusiastic about the center and its future. Jim Stubbendieck has been an excellent director and created the foundation for an even stronger and more influential center,” said Edwards. “Joining the Big Ten opens new opportunities for the center to gain a more prominent national presence through collaborations and leadership in Great Plains research.”
Edwards received his Ph.D. from Harvard University. Before coming to UNL, he served as chair of the economics department at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and dean of Arts and Sciences at the University of Kentucky.
Edwards co-chairs the upcoming symposium, “1862-2012: The Making of the Great Plains,” a collaboration between the center and the National Park Service's Homestead National Monument of America. The symposium will take place March 28-30.
In recent years, Edwards’ research has focused on aiding global efforts to preserve and restore the world’s endangered grasslands, including those in the Great Plains. He has worked with the Grassland Foundation and others to develop more effective policies for conserving bio-diversity, especially policies that connect the health of natural ecologies to economic prosperity in nearby human communities. A recent article (with Eric Thompson) on this topic in Great Plains Research won the Leslie Hewes Award.
A second focus of Edwards’ research has been to re-examine and refresh the settlement history of the Great Plains, including in particular the role of homesteading. He edited a reissued book, “Nebraska 1875: Its Advantages, Resources, and Drawbacks” by Edwin Curley (2006), for which he wrote the introduction. He is a primary leader in the “Homestead Records Project,” a consortium formed to digitize, preserve and make accessible approximately two million original homestead land-entry files. The consortium includes the University of Nebraska, Homestead National Monument, the National Archives and Records Administration, FamilySearch and Fold3.com.
The center's mission is to foster the study of people and the environment in the Great Plains and it includes fellows from UNL, UNO and UNK who contribute research and assist in policy-setting by serving on the board of governors or its committees.