Western History Association honors new President, President-Elect

Tuesday, November 12, 2019 7:41 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


November 12, 2019

The Western History Association honors new President, President-Elect at

59th Annual Conference

On October 19 at the 2019 Awards Ceremony in Las Vegas, the Western History Association recognized two distinguished scholars as the future leaders of the organization. Dr. David Wrobel assumed the office of the WHA President, and Dr. Maria Montoya was elected as the next WHA President-Elect.

Dr. David Wrobel is Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, David L. Boren Professor (2016-) and Merrick Chair of Western American History (2011-) at the University of Oklahoma (OU). His books include America’s West: A History, 1890-1950 (2017); Global West, American Frontier: Travel, Empire and Exceptionalism from Manifest Destiny to the Great Depression (2013); Promised Lands: Promotion, Memory, and the Creation of the American West (2002); and The End of American Exceptionalism: Frontier Anxiety from the Old West to the New Deal (1993). He is working on a “John Steinbeck’s America: A Cultural History, 1930-1968,” and serves as Visiting Scholar for the National Steinbeck Center (Salinas, CA).  

Wrobel serves as an Organization of American Historians Distinguished Lecturer, was Senior Research Fellow in Western American History at Yale University, and a Visiting Scholar at the Center of the American West, CU-Boulder. He is past president of the American Historical Association’s Pacific Coast Branch, and of Phi Alpha Theta, the National History Honor Society. Wrobel teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on the West, and modern America. A dedicated promoter of partnerships with K-12 educators, he has participated in and directed numerous teacher institutes, workshops, and colloquia across the country. Prior to OU, Wrobel taught at UNLV, Widener University, Hartwick College, and The College of Wooster.

A Southwest Londoner by origin, Wrobel said, “the region—from southern Nevada to central Oklahoma—has been my home for two decades and the WHA has been my primary professional affiliation for a quarter century.” Wrobel holds master’s and doctoral degrees in American Intellectual History from Ohio University and a BA in history/philosophy from the University of Kent, Canterbury, England.

Wrobel has served the WHA as a member of the Council, Nominating Committee, Program Committee, various prize and award committees, and as Chair of Local Arrangements. “My scholarship,” he notes, “has focused on what the West means to its residents, to the nation, and to the world, but it is hard to express fully just how much the WHA has meant to me over the years.” Wrobel will serve as the WHA President until next year’s conference.

The 59th Annual WHA Conference was held October 16-19 at the Westgate Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada. According to Dr. Elaine Nelson, WHA Executive Director, the conference attracted over 975 scholars and educators who attended many of the 149 scheduled sessions on subjects ranging from environmental, borderlands, Latinx, LGBTQ, gender, immigration, and Native American and Indigenous history. Nelson noted that the 2019 conference was the third-largest conference in WHA history (and largest since 1995), which she attributes to the field and the leadership. “Record-setting attendance is often a sign that there is a lot of energy surrounding the field of western history,” she said. “But this also speaks to the enthusiasm that members and presenters have for the future leadership. I am very excited to work with the WHA’s newest President and President-Elect. Their dedication to the study of the West and to the organization is inspiring.”

As Wrobel officially assumed the WHA Presidency at the 2019 Awards Ceremony, the association also celebrated its incoming President-Elect, Dr. Maria E. Montoya. She is the Dean of Arts and Sciences at NYU Shanghai and an Associate Professor of History at NYU New York. She will serve as WHA President- Elect until next October.

Montoya has authored articles on the History of the American West, Environmental, Labor and Latina/o history and of the book, Translating Property: The Maxwell Land Grant and the Conflict over Land in the American West, 1840-1900.  She is the lead author on the U.S. History textbook, Global Americans: A Social and Global History of the United States (2018). Montoya is finishing up a manuscript, Making the Working Man’s Paradise: Progressive Management of Workers and Their Families in the Colorado Coalfields, which focuses on John D. Rockefeller and Josephine Roche, and their roles in defining the spheres of work and home life during the early twentieth century. Montoya teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in western, labor, U.S., and water history. Prior to teaching at NYU, Maria taught at the University of Colorado and for twelve years at the University of Michigan, where she was the Director of the Latina/o Studies Program.

She recalls, “From the first moment I stepped into Howard Lamar’s class as an undergraduate and found out that I could spend my time learning about the place I came from, I was hooked on the History of the American West.” Born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Montoya grew up in Arvada, Colorado, a suburb of Denver. She earned her BA, MA and PhD degrees at Yale University, and in between spent a couple of years at the University of New Mexico working on a master’s degree.

Montoya attended her first WHA meeting in 1988 in Wichita, Kansas, and has rarely missed a meeting since then. “My intellectual journey and my relationship with this organization has led me on a most rewarding career of writing, teaching, and speaking about the place I call home, the American West,” Montoya said. Her service to the WHA includes: Chair of the Membership Committee, the Board of Editors of the Western Historical Quarterly, the Steering Committee for the Coalition of Western Women’s History (CWWH), Chair of the first Jensen-Miller Prize Committee, member of the Hal Rothman Award Committee, and service on the WHA Council. Montoya was also one of the founding members of the Committee on Race in the American West (CRAW), which played a profound role in expanding the WHA’s efforts to be more inclusive in its conference participation, membership, and leadership.

Both Wrobel and Montoya believe the WHA shaped their careers in the historical profession and are honored that the membership selected them to serve in the association’s top leadership roles. “This organization has fostered a deep relationship with scholars and life-long friends who share the same passion,” Montoya said. “I am deeply honored to be chosen as the President-elect of the WHA and I look forward to serving the organization with pride, dedication, and passion for an organization that has been my intellectual home for decades.” Wrobel said, “I am looking forward to this wonderful opportunity to serve…the wonderfully diverse and vibrant constituencies that comprise our shared professional home and family. From K12, community college, small college, and university faculty, both tenure-track and contingent, to graduate and undergraduate students, independent scholars, librarians, archivists, public historians, western writers and artists, and ‘Westerners,’ of all races and ethnicities, genders, and sexual orientations, these are the ‘fit rooms’ of our ‘worthy house’ and I’m honored to call it my home.”

Wrobel will preside over the WHA’s affairs during the next twelve months and spearhead the 2020 WHA Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Together with his Program Committee Co-Chairs, Wrobel authored the 2020 Call for Papers, highlighting the responsibility of western historians: “Our understanding of the West as a set of meeting grounds where diverse peoples have come together and interacted in myriad ways, from the most positive and productive to the most violent and destructive, has to be conveyed beyond the confines of the academy to the larger public.” Held October 14-17, “Migrations, Meeting Grounds, and Memory” is the major theme for the 60th Annual Conference.

Western History Association

UNO History Department

6001 Dodge Street

Omaha, NE 68182   (402) 554-5999


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