WHA Executive Office

Elaine Marie Nelson, Executive Director

In July 2017 Dr. Nelson became the Executive Director of the Western History Association after it moved to the History Department at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. She is the first woman to hold this position. At UNO she teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on the North American West, women and gender, and Native American and Indigenous history. She also serves as the department's coordinator for undergraduate and graduate students who take credits in the History Intern Program.

Dr. Nelson is a U.S. historian specializing in the North American West. She received her Ph.D. in history from the University of New Mexico, an M.A. from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and a B.A.E. from the University of Nebraska at Kearney. Nelson's scholarship takes into consideration the complicated relationships that formed between the diverse people and places in the Intermountain West and Great Plains. Her first full-length monograph, titled “Dreams and Dust in the Black Hills: Tourism, Landscape, and the American West in National Memory,” is under contract with the University of Oklahoma Press. The book examines the complex history of the Black Hills and the role that travel and myth played in America's invasion and occupation into the region. This set the stage for an aggressive booster campaign which resulted in settler expansion into the Black Hills and created tourism businesses that exploited Native American cultures and land. However, Indigenous people used tourism venues to assert their legal rights to the land and resist the erasure of their Black Hills histories. Social, political, and economic factors contributed to these tensions throughout the twentieth century.

Dr. Nelson's publications on the west, Native American history, and western women's history appear in the Great Plains Quarterly, a National Park Service ethnographic assessment, and in a forthcoming anthology work-shopped through the Clements Center for Southwest Studies (titled Indian Cities: Histories of Indigenous Urbanism, forthcoming in 2020). Additionally, Nelson's catalog on her award-winning exhibit on the historical persistence of women in Omaha will appear in print in 2019. Dr. Nelson has presented her work at numerous academic conferences including the Western History Association, Native American and Indigenous Studies Association, Northern Great Plains History Conference, Organization of American Historians, and the American Historical Association. Her research has been recognized and supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, American Philosophical Society Phillips Fund Grant, Charles Redd Center for Western Studies, Center for Great Plains Studies, University Committee for Research and Creative Activity (UNO), Nebraska State Historical Society, and the Imagine Fund Annual Faculty Award from the McKnight Foundation at the University of Minnesota. She held resident fellowships at the Newberry Library, Huntington Library, Cody Institute for Western American Studies, and American Heritage Center, and received the Western Association of Women Historians Founders’ Dissertation Award, AHA Albert J. Beveridge Research Grant, John Higham Travel Grant (OAH/IEHS), and the George P. Hammond Prize Graduate Student Paper Award from Phi Alpha Theta. In 2019 she received the Alice Smith Public History Prize from the Midwestern History Association for her co-curated exhibit "Women in Omaha" (which opened at The Durham Museum in 2018).

Dr. Nelson's commitment to western history extends beyond her research and teaching. She has always been interested in engaging in the historical profession through various administrative positions. Over the past several years, in addition to the WHA, she maintains active roles in the Coalition for Western Women's History, Mari Sandoz Society Board of Directors, Northern Great Plains History Conference Council, and other local and regional organizations.

Leah Cargin, Executive Assistant

Leah Cargin is a new transplant to Nebraska. In August 2017 Cargin became the Executive Assistant of the Western History Association and moved from her home state of Minnesota to Omaha, Nebraska. Since joining the WHA Executive team Cargin has volunteered her time organizing and assisting with events on the University of Nebraska at Omaha campus. She enjoyed organizing the Trudell Lecture featuring Adam Beach with Dr. Kent Blansett.

Cargin received B.A.’s in both History and Spanish and a Master’s Degree in History from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Cargin filled her spare time in Mankato by playing collegiate rugby and the alto saxophone in a community symphony.  

Cargin enjoyed her time spent in Mankato studying under Dr. Chad McCutchen. Cargin’s scholarly focus is Modern Latin America. The subject of her graduate research was Sendero Luminoso with an emphasis on feminism and westernization in rural Peru. Cargin was the recipient of multiple travel grants at Mankato which afforded her the opportunity to present her research at the University of Pennsylvania. Cargin has since presented her research as an independent scholar at the Missouri Valley History Conference and Missouri Conference on History. She will be on a panel about career diversity at the 2019 WHA Conference. 

Cargin spends her free time eating sushi, painting (with the assistance of Bob Ross and wine!), attending music events, and traveling. She has spent much of her time traveling in Mexico to visit family, eat tostadas de tinga, and shop for goodies at mercados. In the near future she hopes to travel more and to attend grad school to earn her PhD in History. She is always looking forward to new adventures!

Justin Pratt, Graduate Assistant

Justin Pratt is a graduate student at the University of Nebraska-Omaha studying Native American history and the North American West. In May 2019, he accepted a position as a Graduate Assistant for the Western History Association (WHA). Born in Sioux Falls, Pratt moved to Nebraska with his family when he was a child. He and his wife, Anna, celebrated their ten-year wedding anniversary in July, and they share their home with a beautiful six-year-old daughter named Charlotte and an out of control golden retriever puppy named Cooper.

Pratt graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in history from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2008. In 2011, he graduated from the Nebraska College of Law, and in 2018, he returned to school to pursue a master’s in history at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. 2019 will be his second WHA. Pratt joined a crew of UNO Masters students in traveling to San Antonio to work as Graduate Staff at the WHA. He had a great time and is looking forward to attending again! Pratt loves to watch and participate in sports, relax at home with his family, and enjoys grilling and cooking for friends and relatives.

Kaitlin Sundberg, Project Assistant

Sundberg was born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska and attended the University of Nebraska at Omaha. She graduated in 2015 with her undergraduate degree in History with a dual minor in Native American Studies and Religious Studies and will complete her M.A. in History with a graduate minor in Native American Studies in summer 2019. In May she successfully defended her thesis, “Native American Performance at Cheyenne Frontier Days, 1897-1960.”

In 2018-2019 Sundberg served as the University of Nebraska Presidential Graduate Fellow and received the 2019 Shuflata Graduate Award for Excellence in History from the UNO History Department. Additionally, she received a UNO Graduate Research and Creative Activity grant, the Wyoming State Historical Society’s Lola Homsher Research Grant, and is the first student not from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to be a Graduate Fellow at the Center for Great Plains Studies. Sundberg served as the graduate student coordinator for the 2017 Missouri Valley History Conference and was a 2017 intern at the Durham Museum in Omaha. 2018 will be her third WHA conference and her second as a graduate assistant to the WHA.

In addition, Sundberg is a soapbox advocate for the amazingness of Nebraska (there are nice things to do and see here, just not all of it is along I-80) and enjoys cross-stitching and taking pictures of her fat, cranky cat, Kitty.

Contact the WHA

The Western History Association is housed in the Arts and Sciences Hall Building on the campus of the University of Nebraska at Omaha. The WHA office, located in the Department of History, handles the day-to-day operations of the organization. Please contact our staff for inquiries regarding membership, sponsors, conference information, advertising, awards, and all other WHA business. For more information about the History program at UNO, please visit the department's website.

 WHA Mailing Address

 Western History Association
 University of Nebraska at Omaha
 Department of History
 6001 Dodge St. 
 Omaha, NE 68182
 Phone: 402-554-5999
 Email: westernhistoryassociation@gmail.com

The WHA is hosted on the campus of the University of Nebraska at Omaha and benefits from the generous support of the College of Arts and Sciences.

Western History Association | University of Nebraska at Omaha | Department of History | 6001 Dodge Street | Omaha, NE 68182 | 

| (402) 554-5999 | westernhistoryassociation@gmail.com

The Western History Association is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.