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Wisconsin’s Amish communities to be focus of Oct. 8 online lecture

| Linda Tollefsrud and Diane Walkoff

Photo caption: An Amish buggy travels on U.S. Highway 61. (Photo credit: Corey Coyle, Wikimedia Commons)

One of America’s most familiar yet widely misunderstood religious groups will be the focus of the Oct. 8 “Thursdays from the U” online lecture, hosted by UW-Eau Claire – Barron County.

Dr. Mark Louden

Dr. Mark Louden

Dr. Mark Louden, the Alfred L. Shoemaker, J. William Frey and Don Yoder professor of Germanic linguistics and director of the Max Kade Institute for German-American Studies at UW-Madison, will provide an overview of the Old Order Amish community during his presentation, “Who are the Amish?” which be livestreamed from 12:30-1:30 p.m.

Louden will describe central aspects of Amish life and the Christian faith that anchors it. There will be a special emphasis on Amish communities in Wisconsin, which has the fourth-largest population of any U.S. state.

A majority of Louden’s published research and public outreach center on Pennsylvania Dutch, varieties of German spoken in Europe and North America, and Yiddish. In addition to his teaching and research, Louden serves as an interpreter and cultural mediator for Amish and Old Order Mennonite groups in the legal and health care systems.

“Many years ago when I was receiving my graduate education in linguistics, I never thought my career would expand beyond teaching and research to include outreach to Plain communities, especially in the medical field,” Louden says. “I am grateful for the opportunity to advance the Wisconsin Idea in diverse and personally rewarding ways.”

Louden is the author of “Pennsylvania Dutch: The Story of an American Language,” which received the 2017 Dale W. Brown Book Award for Outstanding Scholarship in Anabaptist and Pietist Studies. He holds bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in Germanic linguistics from Cornell University.

Due to COVID-19, the fall 2020 series will be held entirely online. To access the livestreamed presentations, visit the “Thursdays from the U” webpage at least 5-10 minutes prior to the start of the event. There you will find instructions for joining the live session, as well as the complete fall schedule and archived recordings.

The series, which is free and open to all, is sponsored by the UW-Eau Claire – Barron County Foundation.

For more information about the weekly series, contact Dr. Linda Tollefsrud, professor emeritus of psychology, UW Colleges, at or 715-788-6216.