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), Executive Assistant (1.0 FTE), and Graduate Assistant (.50 FTE). An additional Program Coordinator (1.0 FTE) was added in 2019 to assist the office with overflow projects. To contact us, please use the following information:

Email: wha@westernhistory.org


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. 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.

Office and Events Coordinator I

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!

Office and Events Coordinator II

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.

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 deciding to go 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. Kaitlin also was the Graduate Student Coordinator for the 2017 Missouri Valley History Conference and was a 2017 intern at the Durham Museum in Omaha. 2018 was her third WHA conference and her second as a graduate assistant to the WHA. The 2020 conference will be the fourth WHA conference she has worked on as staff.

After moving in late June 2020 to a much larger apartment, Kaitlin will finally get to work at a desk again instead of slumped on the couch, which is VERY exciting for her (and her back). In addition, she is a soapbox advocate for the amazingness and beauty of the physical place that is Nebraska (Not the government. Never the government.) 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.

Graduate Assistant

Michael Hill was born in Washington, D.C., but as an Army brat moved often and grew up primarily in Germany. He returned to the United States for college, attending Adams State University in Colorado, where he majored in English/Communications and minored in History. After serving in the U.S. Army for six years, Michael earned an M.A. in Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary in 2009 and then returned to Adams State to earn an M.A. in U.S. History in 2013, all while working full-time, first as a high school and middle school teacher and then as a U.S. Army contractor. His History M.A. thesis, "A Question of Treason? Confederate Generals and U.S. Army Post Names," is the first scholarly investigation of the oxymoronic phenomena of U.S. Army posts named in honor of Confederate officers.

In 2015, Michael arrived at the University of Kansas to begin work on his Ph.D. in History. His dissertation, which is nearing completion, is titled "The Imperial Drawbridge: Alaska and the U.S. Pacific Empire," and argues that the acquisition of Alaska, the exploitation of its natural resources, and the reordering of the territory's human geography created important pathways for U.S. entry into the Pacific world.

Michael has received recognition from the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations, which awarded him the 2017 Michael J. Hogan Foreign Language Fellowship, as well as the WHA, which awarded him the 2019 Bert M. Fireman and Janet Fireman Award for his Western Historical Quarterly article, "The Myth of Seward's Folly." Michael has also published articles in Diplomatic History and The Journal of America's Military Past. You can view his CV here.

In the little spare time that he has, Michael is an avid supporter of the Manchester United Football Club and enjoys baking delicious breads and sweets.

Western History Association

University of Kansas 

1445 Jayhawk Blvd.

3650 Wescoe Hall

Lawrence, KS 66045  


The WHA is located in the Department of History at the University of Kansas. The WHA is grateful to KU's History Department and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences for their generous support!