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
Department of History
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
Brenna Pritchard is from Lafayette, Louisiana by way of Austin, Texas. She received her B.A. in History with Honors from Metropolitan State University of Denver in 2014, and moved immediately into the History Program at Louisiana State University for her M.A. She successfully defended her thesis in British History, "Boys on Blue Benches: Disfigured Veterans of the First World War" in 2016.
After a brief stint in the private sector, Brenna returned to academia in the History Department at the University of Kansas to pursue research on masculinity and science fiction fandom in the mid-20th century. It didn't take long for her to fall in love with the city of Lawrence, learning her favorite shops, restaurants, and cafes. With her dissertation underway, Brenna chose to permanently relocate to Lawrence with her husband and three dogs in 2021, joining the Executive Staff of the WHA in August 2022.
Putting down roots in Kansas led to a gig at the Kansas City Renaissance Festival, and an internship with the City of Leawood as the Historic Oxford Schoolhouse docent. In 2019 and 2020, Brenna worked with Leawood's Parks and Recreation office to organize an archive and to develop a summer children's program at the Oxford Schoolhouse. She also owns and operates a small business dedicated to indie publishing.
When Brenna isn't working, she's busy writing fiction, hanging out with her dogs and husband, decorating her over-elaborate planner, or tending to her numerous houseplants. An avid fan of bullet journals, dachshunds, and romance novels, she will happily talk your ear off about any of her varied and eccentric interests. Still a student at KU, she plans to defend her dissertation, tentatively titled Futurian Masculinity, as soon as she gets a chance to write it.
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 2022 conference will be her 7th WHA conference and the 6th 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, and being spooky (Halloween is year-round!). 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.