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WHA EXECUTIVE OFFICE
The WHA Executive Office is hosted by the History Department in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Kansas. Located in the beautiful town of Lawrence, Kansas, KU is a bustling and energetic college campus that benefits from its location nestled in between the state capital of Topeka and the Kansas City metropolitan area.
The WHA staff consists of the WHA Executive Director, Office and Events Coordinator, Outreach and Program Associate, and Graduate Assistant. Contact us by using the following information.
Attn: Western History Association
Department of History, 3650 Wescoe Hall
University of Kansas
1445 Jayhawk Blvd
Lawrence, KS 66045
WHA EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Elaine Marie Nelson is a historian specializing in the North American West, Indigenous peoples, and U.S. Women and Gender(s). In addition to her position as the WHA Executive Director, she is an Assistant Professor of History in KU's History Department. Read more about her background, publications, research, teaching, and community engagement work at the department's website.
Nelson is the first woman to serve as the WHA Executive Director. She was selected for the position in 2016 and officially assumed the leadership role in 2017. The WHA moved to the History Department at the University of Nebraska at Omaha where it was located until 2020. After receiving an offer to join KU's History Department, the WHA Council approved an extended renewal of her contract and the organization moved its executive office to Lawrence, Kansas. On July 1, 2020, Nelson and her staff resumed its operations and has since contributed to programming and engagement with students, staff, and faculty at KU. She is thrilled to share so many collaborative opportunities with interdisciplinary programs and other western history colleagues at KU. Together with Drew Isenberg, Kent Blansett, Kim Warren, and Tiffany González, Nelson is excited to work with students and offer them countless opportunities to participate in the historical profession as it centers on the history of the North American West.
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.
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 notfrom 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 playing with her two cats who share a single brain cell- brothers Green Bean and Alfalfa. She is painfully midwestern. Kaitlin discovered a love of gardening and preserving food in her 20s 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.
If you attended the 2022 San Antonio Conference, Abigail most likely welcomed you to any of the events. She is beyond grateful to serve the Western History Association in a larger capacity. From Slidell, Louisiana, Abigail moved to Lafayette, Louisiana prior to Hurricane Katrina. Because of Katrina and Hurricane Rita, she lived in a household with her extended, Cajun family. She holds this hectic time close to her heart, as she got to spend her formative years living and growing with her Francophone family.
Abigail received two Bachelor's degrees from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette: one in History and the other in French. She returned to her alma mater where she got her Master's in History. Her thesis, Save a Place for Me: Natchitoches, Nacogdoches, and the Sabine Strip, 1803-1833, explores the relationship between the two frontier towns between the United States and Mexico. In 2021, she entered the Ph.D. program at the University of Kansas. At KU, Abigail studies gender and race in the American West. She is working on her portfolio, but she plans to study the French Empire in the trans-Mississippi West.
Abigail is the proud owner of a sassy little cockatiel named Atticus. She is also an animation connoisseur as she strongly believes that animation can tell certain stories better than live action films. In her free time, she is either watching video essays, bird watching, or walking around listening to podcasts. Abigail loves all things kitschy as well: she collects porcelain clowns, loves casinos, and enjoys the horrible flower patterned apparel at Target.
WHA STAFF PAST AND PRESENT
The WHA has an incredible roster of staff members from its long history. Stay tuned to this section as we work to gather updates and highlights about our staff alumni!