CORVALLIS, Ore. - Oregon State University history Professor Christopher McKnight Nichols has been elected to life membership on the prestigious Council on Foreign Relations.

Nichols is an assistant professor in the School of History, Philosophy, and Religion in OSU's College of Liberal Arts. He is an expert on U.S. history and its relationship to the rest of the world, particularly in the areas of isolationism, internationalism and globalization. Nichols is the author of numerous works, including "Promise and Peril: America at the Dawn of a Global Age," which traces the origins of modern American isolationism and internationalism.

The Council on Foreign Relations, founded in 1921, is an independent, nonpartisan organization that helps government, civic and religious leaders, business executives, educators and students better understand the world and foreign policy issues. It includes government officials, scholars, business executives, journalists, lawyers and nonprofit professionals.

"This comes as a surprise and is a humbling honor," Nichols said. "Outside of the government, this is the highest level of conversation and access that you can have about foreign policy."

Membership in the council offers the opportunity to meet shapers of foreign relations from the U.S. and around the world; contribute to discussions on contemporary topics by providing historical perspective and sparking new questions; and participate in task forces and other activities.

Nichols said he also hopes to identify ways to connect some of today's most pressing subjects and policies, and the people who influence them, with his students and the OSU community.

"When I'm able to Skype with or bring in a visiting scholar or diplomat, it makes the issues more real and relevant to the students," Nichols said. "When they're able to speak with people who have been on the ground in a country where genocide occurred, it brings those concerns home to provoke new ways of thinking and relating past events with the present as well as the future."

Nichols said this work will also influence the "Citizenship and Crisis" initiative he began at OSU in 2014. The project, launched to mark the 100th anniversary of World War I, set out to examine how the concept of citizenship has changed over time and in moments of crisis through a series of lectures and other events. It's now centered on domestic and global aspects of citizenship, and is expected to continue in the 2015-16 academic year and beyond.

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Christopher McKnight Nichols, 541-737-8910,