Skip to Content

  • Homepage
  • Directory
  • Sociology Faculty
  • Olson, Paul

Paul Olson

Associate Professor of Sociology and Chair, Division of Social & Behavioral Sciences

Sociology and Criminal Justice Department

Heelan 363

Started at Briar Cliff:



  • Ph.D., 2006, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
  • M.A., 1999, University of Kansas
  • B.A., 1997, University of Northern Iowa


Dr. Paul Olson is the Chair of the Division of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Briar Cliff and leads the university's Center for Justice.  His research focuses on religion, social change, and inequality in American society, with a particular emphasis on the period from the 1950s to the present.  A mixed-methods researcher, Dr. Olson's work has been published in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Innovative Higher Education, Journal of Religion and Society, Journal of Popular Culture, and the American Sociological Association teaching guides Scaffolding for Student Success in Learning:  Best Practices in Using Instructional Strategies and Teaching about Ethnoviolence and Hate Crimes: A Resource Guide.  Additionally, Dr. Olson currently serves as the book review editor for Review of Religious Research.

Dr. Olson and his wife, Teresa, have three daughters, Phoebe, Siddha, and Daphne.  In their spare time, they like to keep an eye out for sasquatches around Stone State Park and Adams Nature Preserve for the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization.  They have not found one . . . yet.  (Fun Fact:  According to Wave I of the Baylor Religion Survey, 18% of Americans believe that creatures like Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster will one day be discovered by scientists; 49% believe that ghosts either "absolutely" or "probably" exist.) 

Classes Taught:

SOCY 124 — Principles of Sociology
SOCY 235 — Sociology of Marriages and Families
SOCY 240 — Racial, Ethnic and Gender Inequality
SOCY 341 — Statistical Analysis
SOCY 430 — Sociology of Religion
SOCY 439 — Sociological Theory