The Mellema Program in Western American Studies (MPWAS) is an interdisciplinary program with interests across academic fields and cultural activities. “Western American” means US territory west of the Mississippi River. But the program includes broader comparative study of the Canadian West, Northern Mexico, Alaska and Hawaii, and the region’s relations with the larger Pacific Rim.

Contact us

Mellema Program in Western American Studies
History Department
Calvin University
1845 Knollcrest Circle SE
Grand Rapids, MI


The Mellema Program sponsors a variety of courses taught regularly. William Katerberg teaches HIST-358, an advanced topics course that in the past has focused on comparative frontiers and on the history of violence and power in the American West. Currently, HIST-358 is being taught as Native American History.

Other departments also have taught courses sponsored by the Mellema Program, which has provided course development grants. In recent years during the May Interim, Gerald Van Kooten and Ralph Stearley have taught GEOL-153, “Big Sky Geology: Montana Field Experience,” an off-campus version of Geology 151, “Introduction to Geology.” In addition, Jamie Skillen teaches environmental studies courses that included significant coverage of the American West.

In Fall 2013, William Katerberg taught ENST-302, "Environment and Society." The course examines a variety of themes, looking at cultural attitudes, government policies, economic development, and scientific questions. In teaching the course, Katerberg uses case studies and examples set in the North American West.

Library Collection

Calvin University's library now holds one of the largest collections of Western American studies material in Michigan. In addition to recent scholarship on the American West, the library includes a significant amount of work on the Canadian West and North. It also includes runs of major journals that focus on the West, notably the Western History Quarterly, Pacific Historical Review, Journal of the West, and Montana: Magazine of Western History.

The library is also rich in primary sources from the nineteenth century, notably significant portions of material from microfilm collections such as Western Americana, History of the Pacific Northwest, The Plains and Rockies, Travels in the West and Southwest, and History of the Canadian Northwest. Descriptions of this material on microfilm can be found at the library website.


Explore the Mellema Program

January Series 2016

The Mellema Program helped to sponsor a January Series lecture this year from Jere Krakow.