Brent Nelsen received his Ph.D. in political science from the University of Wisconsin in 1989 and began teaching at Furman in January 1990.

Nelsen’s teaching and scholarship focus on Europe and the European Union. His first book, entitled The State Offshore: Petroleum, Politics, and State Intervention on the British and Norwegian Continental Shelves (Praeger), explored oil policy in the North Sea. A subsequent edited volume—Norway and the European Community: The Political Economy of Integration (Praeger)—examined the troubled relationship between Norway and an integrating Europe. Nelsen has teamed up with one of his former students (Alexander Stubb, now Prime Minister of Finland) to publish a textbook on the European Union called The European Union: Readings on the Theory and Practice of European Integration (Lynne Rienner Publishers). The fourth edition was published in May 2014.

Since 2001 Dr. Nelsen has shifted his research interests to the study of religion and politics in Europe. He has published several articles on how religion shapes the attitudes of Europeans toward the EU. His newest book, Religion and the Struggle for European Union: Confessional Culture and the Limits of Integration, co-authored with colleague James L. Guth, will be published by Georgetown University Press in Winter 2015.

In 2010 Nelsen ran unsuccessfully for State Superintendent of Education. South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley later appointed him chair of the Educational Television Commission. She appointed him to a second six-year term in 2014. President Obama nominated him to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting Board of Directors. His nomination was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in August 2013. His term runs until 2016.

Dr. Nelsen married his wife Lori in 1981. They have three children.

The Nelsen family helped start Redeemer Presbyterian Church in 2001. He loves to read, run, hike, garden, ski—and take students on travel-study tours to all of his favorite places in Europe!


Name Title Description


Battlestar Galactica Politics

Miniseries Battlestar Galactica (2003-2009) provides the launching point to explore the world of politics. The series introduces students to ancient political questions such as: What is political community? What is justice? What is power? Who rules? It also confronts students with questions of immediate relevance: Should religion influence politics? When is armed revolt just? Is democracy always the best form of government?


Politics of European Union

Study of the institutions, policies and processes of the European Union and the major theories of regional integration.


Senior Research Seminar

Guided research and writing on a topic in any field of political science proposed by the student and approved by the instructor.


Introduction to World Politics

Examination of similarities and differences between the institutions, processes and policies of selected nations, in the context of globalization and the evolution of international politics.


Politics of European Union

Study of the institutions, policies and processes of the European Union and the major theories of regional integration.


Political Parties

Examination of political parties as they appear in established and emerging democracies. Special emphasis on U.S. political parties in comparative perspective.


Intl Political Economy

The relationship between politics and economics on the national and international levels, focusing on the impact of political forces on the functioning of the international economic system.

  • The European Union: Readings on the Theory and Practice of European Integration, eds. Brent F. Nelsen and Alexander C-G. Stubb (Boulder, Col.: Lynne Rienner Publishers). First Edition, 1994, Second Edition, 1998, Third Edition, 2003, Fourth Edition, 2014.
  • Norway and the European Community: The Political Economy of Integration, ed. Brent F. Nelsen (Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 1993).
  • The State Offshore: Petroleum, Politics, and State Intervention on the British and Norwegian Continental Shelves (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1991).
  • Furman Studies, Special Issue, Furman University's Religious Identity, ed. Brent F. Nelsen, 39(1)(1997).
  • "Does Religion Still Matter? Religion and Public Attitudes toward Integration in Europe" (with James L. Guth and Brian Highsmith), Politics and Religion, 4(1)(April 2011): 1-26 (published online 1 November 2010).
  • "The Political Activity of Evangelical Clergy in the Election of 2000: A Case Study of Five Denominations," Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 42(4)(December 2003): 501-514, (Co-authors: James L. Guth, Linda Beail, Greg Crow, Beverly Gaddy, Steve Montreal, James Penning and Jeff Walz).
  • "Religion and Youth Support for the European Union," with James L. Guth, Journal of Common Market Studies, 41(1)(March 2003): 89-112.
  • "Does Religion Matter? Christianity and Public Support for the European Union," with James L. Guth and Cleveland R. Fraser, European Union Politics, 2(2)(Spring 2001): 191-217.
  • "Exploring the Gender Gap: Women, Men, and Public Attitudes toward European Integration," with James L. Guth, European Union Politics, 1(3)(Fall 2000): 267-91..
  • "Explaining Petroleum Policy in Britain and Norway, 1962-1990," Scandinavian Political Studies, 15(4)(1992): 307-28.
  • "Is the European Union a Christian Club?," An Uncertain Road: Muslims and the Future of Europe, Report for the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, December 2004,
  • "Presbyterian Church in America," with Beverly A. Gaddy, in Pulpit and Politics: Clergy in American Politics at the Advent of the Millennium (Waco, Texas: Baylor University Press, 2004), pp. 141-152.
  • "The Nordic Countries," in Research Guide to U.S. and International Interest G! roups, e d. Clive S. Thomas (Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2004), pp. 311-314.
  • "The European Economic Area," in Encyclopedia of the European Union, ed. Desmond Dinan (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1998).
  • Fulbright Fellowship, 1987
  • President, South Carolina Political Science Association 2009-2010
University of Wisconsin-Madison
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Wheaton College

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