WHA Executive Office
The WHA Executive Office is hosted by the University of Kansas and the staff officially consists of the WHA Executive Director (half-time), Office and Events Coordinator (1.0 FTE), Outreach and Program Association (1.0 FTE), and a Graduate Assistant (.50 FTE). To contact us, please use the following information:
Attn: Western History Association
University of Kansas
1445 Jayhawk Blvd
3650 Wescoe Hall
Lawrence, KS 66045
WHA 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. In 2020 the WHA Council approved an extended renewal of her contract when she moved to the University of Kansas to join the History Department as an Assistant Professor. The Western History Association moved its executive office from Omaha to Lawrence on July 1, 2020 and resumed staff and program operations throughout this smooth transition.
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. 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, South Dakota History, 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 from the University of Oklahoma Press in 2021). 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). Nelson recently created a catalog on the public history project.
At KU Nelson teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on the North American West, women and gender, and Native American and Indigenous history. 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.
WHA Office and Events Coordinator
Paige Mitchell was born and raised in Burlington, Iowa, a small town on the bank of the Mississippi River. In 2018, she received a Bachelor's degree in History and Art History and a certificate in Museum Studies, from the University of Iowa. In the Spring of 2020, she graduated with her Master’s degree in Heritage Studies and Public History from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.
During her time at the University of Minnesota, Mitchell was involved in numerous projects that emphasized social justice, community engagement, and public memory. Mitchell partnered with Dr. Brenda Child to write a critical history of the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation in St. Paul, lead a project surrounding Indigenous food sovereignty for the Humanities Action Lab, and developed an exhibit for the Minnesota Historical Society, titled “#metoo in Minnesota History,” which won the National Council for Public History’s 2020 Student Project Award. You can read more about her various projects here: https://sites.google.com/view/paigemitchellprofile/home
Mitchell recently moved to the Kansas City metro area, and joined the WHA team in July of 2020. In her free time, she enjoys reading, listening to podcasts, playing video games, drawing, waiting for Halloween and the chance to rewatch all of the Halloweentown movies, and playing with her pet gerbil!
Mitchell hopes to get her PhD in the future, but is VERY happy to take a break for a few years.
WHA Outreach and Program Associate
Kaitlin Sundberg was born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska and attended the University of Nebraska at Omaha. She graduated in 2015 with her B.A. in History with a dual minor in Native American Studies and Religious Studies and then took a gap semester before going to grad school. In the Summer of 2019, she completed her M.A. in History with a graduate minor in Native American Studies after defending her thesis, "'Feature of the Frontier'?: Indigenous Labor and Performance at Cheyenne Frontier Days, 1897-1960."
In 2018-2019 Kaitlin 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. She also was the Grad Student Coordinator for the 2017 Missouri Valley History Conference and was a 2017 intern at the Durham Museum in Omaha.
Kaitlin has worked part-time in the WHA Executive Office since the organization moved to Nebraska in July of 2017. In June 2020, the WHA Council agreed to create a second full-time position on the staff, which she filled. While the Executive Office has moved to Kansas, she continues to work remotely from Omaha. The 2021 conference will be her sixth WHA conference and the 5th WHA conference she has worked as staff.
In addition, she is a soapbox advocate for the beauty of the physical place that is Nebraska and enjoys cross-stitching, driving across the local farmlands, video games, sarcasm, and taking pictures of her sweet, cranky old baby-cat, Kitty because she is the cutest little thing ever. She recently discovered a love of gardening and preserving food and now wants to grow all the things. Her dream is to have a house with a big yard that she can convert into a mega-garden and have some chickens. Definitely a floppy sun hat. Maybe a few sassy goats. We'll see.
WHA Graduate Assistant, 2021-2023
Hayden Nelson was born and raised in New Richmond, Wisconsin, near the Minnesota-Wisconsin border, about 45 minutes from the Twin Cities. Hayden earned his B.A. in 2018 from the University of Wisconsin—Eau Claire, where he majored in History while double minoring in Ancient and American Indian Studies, as well as earning a Certificate from the University’s Ojibwe Language Program. Following his graduation in 2018, Hayden moved to Missoula, Montana, earning his M.A. in History from the University of Montana in Spring 2020. His thesis, “‘A Pressure Not to Be Resisted or Evaded’: Military Occupation, Reform, and the Incorporation of Northern Montana, 1879-1916," examined how the establishment of Fort Assinniboine and the U.S. military’s presence at the fort forced Indigenous groups onto reservations, transforming the region into one amenable for large-scale white agricultural settlement and industrial capitalism.
In August 2020, Hayden moved to Lawrence, Kansas, where he is currently working toward his Ph.D. in History at the University of Kansas. Hayden is broadly interested in the history of the nineteenth-century United States, particularly instances of conflict and cooperation over access to and usage of land, resources, and the environment in borderlands throughout the trans-Mississippi West. Hayden is also interested in public history, especially the broader public’s engagement of historical memory of "The West" through popular culture and the overall creation and evolution of a indelible western identity rooted in settler colonial discourse. You can view Hayden’s current projects, CV, and more here.
In his free time, Hayden loves hiking, camping, and enjoying nature with his partner and their Border Collie, Jazz (follow him on Twitter @Hayden_L_Nelson for periodic #furstorian pics). Hayden also enjoys listening to music, reading, and watching horror movies year-round. An avid sports fan, Hayden closely follows the Milwaukee Brewers and Green Bay Packers.