Elaine Nelson, Executive Director

Dr. Nelson is a U.S. historian specializing in the North American West. Her scholarship takes into consideration the complicated relationships that formed between the people and places in the Intermountain West and Great Plains. Nelson’s first full-length monograph is a revised manuscript of her dissertation, “Dreams and Dust in the Black Hills: Indigenous People, Promised Lands, and National Identity in America, 1868-1968”. This study considers how the role of the tourism industry exploited Indigenous cultures, land, and gender to showcase a myth that celebrated western expansion and national identity.

In July 2017 Nelson will become the next Executive Director of the Western History Association. This organization will relocate to the University of Nebraska at Omaha Department of History where it will continue to thrive in its mission as the "congenial home for the study and teaching of all aspects of North American Wests, frontiers, homelands and borderlands." Nelson has presented her work at numerous academic conferences and is involved with various professional organizations. Her work has been recognized and supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, American Philosophical Society Phillips Fund Grant, Western Association of Women Historians Founders’ Dissertation Award, Charles Redd Center, Center for Great Plains Studies, and the Nebraska State Historical Society. She also resident fellowships at the Newberry Library, Huntington Library, Cody Institute for Western American Studies, and American Heritage Center.

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 terrorism 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 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 play rugby. In the near future she hopes to attend grad school to earn her PhD in History. She is always looking forward to new adventures and especially to the WHA in San Antonio, Texas!


Libby Rea, Graduate Assistant

Libby Rea is a first year graduate student at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. She graduated with her undergraduate degree in history with a minor in Native American studies in May 2018. During that time she was awarded the A. V. Sorenson award for the best undergraduate paper on an urban topic. As well as the George and Virginia Dare Shuflata Award for excellence in undergraduate history. This is Rea’s second time attending the Western History Association’s conference and her first year as a graduate assistant for the WHA. Rea is extremely grateful for her experiences in the WHA so far and had an amazing time in San Diego in 2017. She is looking forward to 2018 and future conferences.

For the past three years Rea has been an active wildlife rehabilitator through Nebraska Wildlife Rehab. She has enjoyed rehabilitating Nebraska’s wildlife, especially turtles, coyotes, opossums, and porcupines. Her other passions lie in conservation of wildlife and the natural world around us. She is also passionate about veganism and occasionally musical theatre. In her free time she also enjoys reading, cycling, and figure skating.  


Kaitlin Sundberg, Graduate 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 is currently finishing up an M.A. in History with a graduate minor in Native American Studies. Her scholarship concentrates on the American West, and her thesis is tentatively titled “Native American Performance at Cheyenne Frontier Days, 1897-1960.”

She has received a 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 receive a graduate fellowship from the Center for Great Plains Studies. Sundberg also 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.



Sponsors and Partners


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.