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Welcome from the WLA 2020 Co-Presidents

Thank you for joining us for the 55th annual conference of the Western Literature Association. This is the first time in our association’s history that we will be meeting virtually. While one of the hallmarks of the association has been the collegiality and social connection we have come to enjoy at our yearly meetings, we are hoping to maintain the intellectual exchange that invigorates our scholarship and teaching.

We first started talking about the 2020 conference in the hallways of the Big Sky meeting in 2016 and began our planning in earnest once confirmed as the next WLA Co-Vice Presidents at the Business Meeting. The meeting we had originally planned obviously shifted dramatically and unexpectedly as a result of the COVID pandemic and we are saddened and disappointed that many of the details of our planning that were location specific cannot be translated into a digital context. While the decision to shift to virtual was necessary, we recognize the meeting we are delivering online now is not the one we had initially imagined back in 2016 when we excitedly brainstormed during the WLA banquet about “Graphic Wests.”

While the virtual format is new for our association, we know many of you have been adjusting to the “new normal” of academia that regularly includes video meetings and/or hybrid teaching models that broadcast our classrooms into students’ homes. We also acknowledge that there is a deep uncertainty about the future of academia—what our teaching will look like, support for research, conference format and travel, and further, that these questions about academia are secondary to larger concerns about the pandemic, fires, and the ongoing fight for racial justice. We are deeply grateful to all the presenters who are sharing their research at our virtual event at such a moment—we know that people have work fatigue, compassion fatigue, screen fatigue, and anxiety about daily life and we cannot express enough how glad we are that we can still maintain the intellectual community of the WLA in 2020 despite these significant challenges.

The research shared at the WLA often leads to conversations about how our work can reach outside of the narrow confines of academe, how the work we do can serve a larger audience and be a force for positive change. We hope that the 2020 virtual program will provide the intellectual exchange and inspiration to sustain you all at a moment when the world feels upside down, and we hope, while our digital connections won’t be able to match our in-person conferences, that “seeing” one another virtually will provide some sense of connection that we would lose if we were unable to meet at all. Further, we hope that our foray into virtual programming can inspire continued deliberation about how to make the WLA more accessible and inclusive to students and scholars moving forward.

We look forwarding to “seeing” everyone on WLA—Zoom edition!


Rebecca Lush and Kerry Fine,

2020 Co-Presidents

Rebecca Lush, California State University San Marcos
Kerry Fine, Arizona State University

Welcome Video

Land Acknowledgment

virtual edition

Our virtual meeting means attendees are tuning into our program from around the globe with the majority of attendees accessing this meeting from traditionally indigenous lands. The Western Literature Association requests that all attendees consider whose land they are on during this meeting and the history of how that land has been claimed. You can follow this link to learn more about the land you are on.

Land acknowledgments should do more than just recognize the legacy and ongoing effects of settler colonialism, and the WLA 2020 meeting is donating a portion of all registration fees to the American Indian College Fund as one way to take action to support Native students.

This action is especially important when considering the relationship between native lands and academic institutions. To learn more see Robert Lee and Tristan Ahtone’s article “Land Grab Universities.”

We also want to use this space to acknowledge the Black Lives Matter movement and to direct you to the organization’s BLM statement.

Acknowledgments & Thanks

The 2020 WLA Co-Presidents wish to acknowledge the generous support of the following institutions and offices who have made our conference possible: 

  • College of Humanities, Arts, Behavioral & Social Sciences (CHABSS) at California State University San Marcos 
  • Office of Graduate Studies and Research at California State University San Marcos 
  • Charles Redd Center for Western Studies 
  • Office of Instructional and Information Technology Services (IITS) at California State University San Marcos 

Special thanks go to:

  • Nic Witschi, Executive Secretary, Nancy Cook, Treasurer, and Sabine Barcatta, Director of Operations, Western Literature Association
  • The Executive Council of the WLA
  • The members of the committees for the following awards: Delbert and Edith Wylder Award, the Don D. Walker Award, the Thomas J. Lyon Book Award, the J. Golden Taylor Award, the Dorys Crow Grover Awards, and the Creative Writing Award.
  • Those of you who generously donated to the Louis Owens Award fund and the WLA General Donation fund. Even in this tumultuous time, donations to the Owens are the 3rd highest we ever received during registration.