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Welcome to NICRS

Kathleen Norris, author of Dakota: A Spiritual Geography, was a guest of Northwestern College in April 2008. In reflecting on her home church at the time she wrote her book, she says the following: “Upward mobility is a virtue in this [American] society; and if we must keep moving on, leaving any place that doesn’t pay off, it’s better to pretend that place doesn’t matter. But Hope Church, south of Keldron, is a real place, a holy place; you know that when you first see it, one small building in a vast land” (p. 169).

We agree with Norris: place matters. It matters for all sorts of reasons, but undergirding them all, place matters because in Christ, God took place.

NICRS is an initiative that takes inspiration from Norris’ visit to Northwestern. Her visit was part of a special week. “Minding Place” was the theme (find the archived web site here), and the occasion was Northwestern’s 125th anniversary. Humanities Iowa provided grant monies that helped fund the week’s events. Other special guests included writer Jim Heynen and oral historian Charles Morrissey. Concluding the week was a gathering that brought together alumni, community members, and others to brainstorm about the region of northwest Iowa and a study center.

From the Minding Place brainstorming day comes the NICRS initiative.

NICRS stands for the Northwest Iowa Center for Regional Studies. What do we mean by northwest Iowa? Boundaries are always arguable and certainly permeable, but the most practical borders are those encompassing the tallgrass prairie on the north with the Iowa-Minnesota state borders, on the south with U.S. Highway 20, on the east with the Little Sioux River valley, and on the west with the Big Sioux River valley.

What is the mission of NICRS? To understand and care about the people, land, and communities of northwest Iowa.

We are committed to an interdisciplinary and integrative approach to this regional understanding and caring. Further, we recognize that understanding and caring about other places can help us in and for northwest Iowa.

At present, NICRS exits in the imagination and in a virtual, digital form. (See the links to our e-journal and to various resources.) We hope that it will not be long until NICRS can take a more physical and institutional shape. Meanwhile, we want to hear from you! What are your favorite sites in northwest Iowa? What are your reflections about the region’s people, land, and/or communities? What events and/or resources about this place do you cherish? Or what else about understanding and caring about northwest Iowa do you have on your mind?

Doug Anderson, Professor Emeritus of History
Keith Fynaardt, Professor of English
Greta Grond, Director, DeWitt Library
Jill Haarsma, Executive Assistant to the President

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