Shown below is the official history of the WSSA, as of 2008, put together in booklet form as memorabila for the WSSA's 50th anniversary conference.  

A list of meeting sites for each year is appended at the bottom.

This history will be added to at intervals, beginning with an addition updating it to 2018.



             In preparing this paper we have relied on the kindness of the Public Library of Denver and its wonderful staff.  Our history is collected in a unique combination of onion-skin copies, original letters, hand-written notes, some very early and unfortunately unreadable photocopies and, in some cases, the collective memory of our members. We apologize in advance for not including in this report the names of each and every one of the people having made a contribution to the Association and we further apologize for any errors in dates or places.  A listing of the names of each president, vice-president, member of the council, and Journal editor, and of each conference site are located in several appendices to this article.

The available records maintained at the Library and the space available for this document allow for only a series of snapshots, some spaced close together and others far apart, of our history rather than a continuous year-by-year reporting of events and people.  In the past fifty years, many people and institutions have contributed in both significant and small, but sustained, ways to making the Western Social Science Association the organization that it is today.  In reviewing the documentation available we did note that, with the advent of the internet and computer age (about 1992), the number and diversity of communications in the archives have diminished.  Having received several boxes of material from David Gay and Ed Glatfelter, this is a trend that we hope to reverse.

            We were almost the Association that never-was.  In 1958, then-President of the Colorado-Wyoming Social Science Association, Curtis W. Martin of theUniversityofWyoming, asked the members whether it was time to dissolve the Association or to separate the Colorado-Wyoming Social Science Association from the Colorado-Wyoming Academy of Science.  From this discussion came the creation of the Rocky Mountain Social Science Association.  Dr. Martin seems to have been concerned that we had no constitution or set of by-laws, and no journal, that we were holding our meetings in university cafeterias, and that there were only four disciplines represented at the meetings.  That the WSSA is a “can-do” organization was very evident even at that early moment in our history. At that meeting, the offices of President, Vice-President, Secretary-Treasurer and a five member executive council were created.  President Martin asked other important questions, such as whether the Association should continue to meet on Fridays and whether we should be meeting separately from theAcademyofSciences. By 1960 we had a constitution and a mission.  By 1965 we had a journal and by 1974 or 1975 we had moved off of university campuses for our meetings.

            The Western Social Science Association has changed significantly its structure, funding sources, type of conference and identity over the last 50 years.  At the same time the Association has maintained the qualities that have established it as an organization that welcomes and encourages new scholars while highlighting the efforts of our more seasoned scholars.  The organization has grown from a very small group of scholars fromColoradoandWyoming, who gathered in unused classrooms at a host university, to an international organization of international repute that can only house its annual meeting in a large hotel or convention center.

            In this brief history we provide an overview of the evolution of the organization from its ancestral beginning as the Colorado-Wyoming Social Science Association to the Rocky Mountain Social Science Association and then finally to the Western Social Science Association.  We will review significant events related to the Association’s goals and mission, name changes and identity, sections, officers, constitution, conferences and finances. As is the case with any large organization, there have been many positive events, a few embarrassments and some outright mistakes.  There was the year that we were booked into two hotels in very different cities, and the year that we were almost snowed out inSalt Lake City.   We managed to embarrass ourselves in 1972 in our negotiations withBrighamYoungUniversityover the housing of the Social Science Journal.  As a result of economic downturn and fewer people traveling, we almost went broke right after 9/11.  The publisher of our Journal sold out to a much larger publisher, vresulting in a number of difficulties over several years, particulary in contract negotiation .  We have, however, grown from an annual conference budget of literally a few dollars, to a budget that requires much negotiation, planning and forethought.  We have grown from a very small local academic organization to an internationally recognized organization with very strong ties to academics and even governments in other countries.  In sum, we have become ourselves, or in other words, we have grown into our own destiny.



Goals and Mission of the Association


            Regardless of the changes in size, name, structure and conference location, the one constant of WSSA has been its mission to promote the social sciences.  While the language outlining the goals and mission of the Association has been re-written over the last 50 years, the concepts have never wavered.  WSSA is a welcoming association where egos and titles are most often set aside for the common good and the promotion of the social sciences. The major arenas of our promotion of the Social Sciences have been through the publication of the Journal, through our annual conference, and through the continuous work of the members of the Executive Council and the Section Coordinators; however, the members have always provided the grounding of those efforts. 

            The first Constitution of the Association (1960) outlined the mission of the Association in its preamble.  “To foster professional study, advance research and promote the teaching of the social sciences in our institutions of higher learning, we establish this organization as The Rocky Mountain Social Sciences Association, . . .”

            In 1967, the minutes of the Association reflect a long list of goals, including the role of the Rocky Mountain Social Science Journal in promoting the social sciences.  Of particular interest was goal C: “To stimulate research and scholarship by providing an outlet for the work of not only mature scholars, but also relatively younger and newer members of the social sciences in the region.”  Today, we say, “Unlike some disciplinary-specific conferences, WSSA does not eat its young, we nurture and promote their efforts.(Larry Gould, 2002)”


The [KJH1] Association’s mission is to foster professional study, to advance research, and to promote the teaching of social science.  The Western Social Science Association (WSSA) is committed to multi-disciplinary and interdisciplinary scholarship, service, and collegiality. The WSSA advances scholarship, teaching, service and professional exchange across the social science disciplines.


Name Changes and Identity


Few records have been saved from the first ten years of the association; however, those that are available illustrate the efforts of our founders as people willing to take a chance, creating an organization of good standing, academic soundness and longevity. 

On Friday, October 3, 1958, the Colorado-Wyoming Social Science Association separated from the Colorado-Wyoming Academy of Sciences, becoming the Rocky Mountain Social Science Association.

            While the records are a bit unclear, it appears that faculty from theUniversityofWyomingand various institutions inColoradoformed the Colorado-Wyoming Social Science Association in 1929, with Ben M. Cherrington, serving as the President.  The Colorado-Wyoming Social Science Association in that year joined the Colorado-Wyoming Academy of Science as its Social Science Section.  From 1929 through May 9, 1959, the Colorado-Wyoming Social Science Association co-located its meetings with the Academy. 

When the Rocky Mountain Social Science Association was created the goal was both to broaden the influence of the organization,  and to more accurately reflect its membership.  While the backbone of the Association at the time were the Colorado institutions included (names at the time) Colorado College (Colorado Springs), Colorado State College (Greeley), and Loretto Heights College (Loretto) and the University of Wyoming, members came from other Rocky Mountain states, along with membership from the Great Plains.  By the second meeting of the Association, May 2, 1960, members were coming fromColorado(116),Wyoming(14), Kansas(3),New Mexico(2)Nebraska(1),Utah(1) and elsewhere (1).  Disciplines included History (43), Political Science (39), Economics (27), Sociology (15), Social Sciences (4), Geography (2) and other miscellaneous fields (8).

            In a letter dated January 9, 1959, Raymond Cary announced the following:


“The votes on the proposals submitted by the Council last Autumn were decisive. Sixty members voted for independence from theAcademyofSciences; three opposed, Fifty-six voted to change the name of the Association; two opposed; five voted to delay action until the 1959 meeting.  Sixty-one voted to expand the area of membership; two opposed.

            Thus, we launch out as an independent organization, with a new name and with an expanded area of potential membership and participation.  Whether or not these changes will have substantial effects upon instruction and research in the social sciences in the region will depend upon the strength of the membership and the concern of every member that the activities of the Association be vital and significant.”


            In that first year a subcommittee was formed to gather information concerning the creation of a journal for the new Association.  Members of the committee included Oscar Lewis, Bentley Gilbert and Mary Lewis.  In 1959 Bentley Gilbert became the Chair of the Journal Committee.  This began a complex relationship between the Journal and the Association. 

            During the early years of the Association the primary sections were Sociology, Economics, Political Science, History, Geography, American Studies and Slavic Studies.  The 1960s and 1970s were a growth period for the Association in both the number of members and the diversity of the sections.  On September 24, 1966, the Great Plains-Rocky Mountain Division of the Association of American Geographers joined the Association. 

In the late 1960s and early 1970s there was concern that the Association was growing too large.  Much of this concern was related to the fact that until that point the Association held its annual meeting on university campuses. There was also concern that the Association was starting to overlap with other regions, in particular the region covered by the Southwest Social Science Association, which was primarily in Texas.  In 1967 Colonel Robert Taylor, from the Air Force Academy and then-President of the Association, proposed the creation of a seal, trademark or logo.  That logo can be found on the letterhead from that era.  It consisted of three triangles representing theRocky Mountains, enclosed in a circle.  At some point after about 1975 the logo was changed to a picture of theUnited Stateswith theRockyMountainandWestern Great Plainshighlighted.  Notably,California,Nevada,Oregon,Washington,Texasand, most importantly,CanadaandMexicowere not included in the geographic sphere of the Association.  There is no record of when that logo was changed to the one we see today; however, a letter dated January 6, 1980, appears to be the first time that the current logo was used.

The 1964 membership list of the Association lists over 1,000 people from virtually every large and many small institutions in the Rocky Mountains andPlainsStates.  It is interesting to note the large influence of the Air Force Academy and of many junior and faith-based colleges.

A map (circa 1969) of the United States defined the “area we could consider fair game for the Association with genuine validity” with a hand drawn outline that drew the boundaries of the Association to include Montana, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Western Kansas, the panhandle of Oklahoma and West Texas.  Of particular interest is the hand printed note “CANADA (?)”.  Canadian Studies is now one of our strongest affiliates and we have an exceedingly good relationship with the Canadian government.Mexicowas also not included, something that has since been rectified.

The growth of the Association, along with the increase in the area of geographic influence led on April 26, 1974, to a vote to change the name of the organization to the Western Social Science Association.  The vote was taken at the annual meeting held inEl Paso,Texas, and was effective January 1, 1975.  Over the last five years or so, there have been renewed discussions about the name of the Association.  Much of the most recent discussion stems from the fact that we are now an international organization.  Names such as the International Social Science Association or the Western Hemisphere Social Science Association have been considered.  We think that, for the moment, these are still nothing more than conversation.

On July 28, 1986, the Western Social Science Association received a certificate of incorporation from the State ofTexas.  We were designated as a non-profit corporation, the purpose of which was to foster professional study, advance research and promote the teaching of the social sciences in institutions of higher learning.  At that time our business address wasTexasChristianUniversity, Department of Urban Studies,2800 South University Drive,Fort Worth,Texas, and the initial registered agent was William W. Ray.  Bill Ray was instrumental in taking WSSA to a greater level of organization while setting a higher standard for the business side of the operations.  His efforts are certainly felt today.

In a report prepared for the membership in 1988 it was clear that the Association had grown well beyond the ancestral boundaries ofColoradoandWyomingand beyond the artificial boundaries described in 1969. CaliforniaandTexashad been added to the core area of influence, whileKansasandOklahomawere considered as core bordering areas of influence.  In 1988 the Association recorded 975 members including 154 from outside of the Western United States and 32 from foreign countries, 23 of whom were fromCanada.  This report demonstrates the growth of the Association beyond its geographic boundaries, as well as a growth in the diversity of its members.





The first mention of a journal for the Association was in 1958.  Oscar H. Lentz, Bentley B. Gilbert (ColoradoCollege) and Mary Lewis (Colorado Women’s College) were appointed to investigate the possibility of creating such a publication.  Printing cost was estimated at about ten dollars per page for a run of about 750 to 1,000 copies.  The recommendation was to produce a 96 page “magazine.”  The committee recommended a change in dues from $1.00 to $4.50 to cover the cost, but suggested that the extra money should be held in escrow to be reimbursed to the members if the journal did not get off the ground.

The predecessor of the Journal was the published proceedings of the Annual Conference.  The annual gathering was small and all papers presented at the conference were published.  Thus, Volume 1, No. 1, of the Rocky Mountain Social Science Journal, published in April, 1963, consisted of the Papers and Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Rocky Mountain Social Science Association held on May 5, 1962, atColoradoStateUniversity inFort Collins,Colorado; however, a second issue that year contained peer reviewed articles.  It appears that the printed proceedings were in great demand, with about 1,000 copies distributed to members, non-members and institutions.  Even at this early date there were discussions about publishing a more formalized journal.  Efforts were made to find a university to subsidize the journal.

There appears to be some confusion in the records, but according to information contained in the 25th Anniversary conference program, Oscar H. Lentz organized the Journal, while Sidney Heitman became the first editor in 1963.  Shortly after his appointment as Journal Editor, Professor Heitman resigned to take a sabbatical and was replaced in 1964 by Stephen E. Schoderbek of the U.S. Air Force Academy.  In 1965 Heitman returned from sabbatical, again becoming the editor of the Journal.

At its Annual Meeting on May 8, 1965, the membership ratified an agreement between The Rocky Mountain Social Science Association and Colorado State University (CSU) for the formal publication of the Rocky Mountain Social Science Journal.  The agreement established the starting date of July 1, 1965, and provided for some adjustments to the editor’s teaching schedule, staff support, and financial support of $500.00 per issue with the expectation that two issues a year would be published.  The Dean of theCollege ofArts and Science at CSU was assigned as the representative of the University and would review the relationship at the end of the first year.  In 1967, Sid Heitman became the first Editor of the Journal as we know it today and the Council approved a budget of $1,200 for publication.  1967 also saw the appointment of J. Leo Cefkin, Rex D. Rehnberg and Harry Rosenberg as the editorial advisory committee to assist Heitman with the Journal.  It was further decided that the responsibility for the Journal was to be placed in the hands of the Executive Council of the Association.  The Association was charged with the responsibility of ensuring distribution of the Journal, including the development of institutional memberships in theRockyMountain area.

In 1972 the Journal moved from two issues a year to three, and in 1982, under the editorship of D. Stanley Eitzen, it became a quarterly publication.  The Journal, which became the Social Science Journal with Volume 13 in 1976, was self-published (until 1986) and distributed to Association members and institutions.  This created much of the revenue enjoyed by WSSA, and through the 1970s the Journal was supported mainly by advertising and institutional subscriptions.  The list of libraries purchasing the Journal in 1988 was, to say the least, very impressive and spanned the globe.  In theUnited States, over 400 libraries were listed as institutional members, while another 80 libraries in foreign countries received it.  Canadian universities accounted for the largest number of subscribers outside of theUnited States.  Also on the list of subscribers were universities inFinland,Tunisia,Turkey andThailand, to mention a just few.

The journal’s first Editor, Sid Heitman, a CSU historian (who specialized in Russian history), was also the most influential in that role.  He served as the Editor for 11 critical years and laid the foundation that subsequent Editors built upon.  Evan Vlachos, a CSU sociologist, served as the Journal’s first Book Review Editor.  While Heitman was certainly a very controversial person, it is clear that his efforts brought the Journal into the prominence that it later achieved.  It appears that Professor Heitman threatened to resign every couple of years and was in constant discussions with various Association Presidents, Secretary-Treasurers and CSU Deans concerning the operations of the organization and, in particular, those of the Journal.  While he could be contentious, the record clearly indicates that he was of the highest character and deeply concerned about building a quality Association and Journal.  One author who published several articles in the early days of the Journal was Richard Armey, a then-obscure economist fromNorthTexasStateUniversity.  He went on to achieve national prominence in the 1990s as Republican Majority leader in the House of Representatives.

            As reported in the April 1, 1971 meeting notes, the number of issues of the Journal was raised from two per year to three, but that each issue would be reduced to two hundred pages.  The library subscription rate for the Journal was raised $6.00 to $9.00.  Tom Drabek, Paul Kutsche and James Colwell were assigned to monitor the impact of these changes.  At the 1975 meeting, Sid Heitman was authorized to negotiate with Xerox University Microfilms for the publication of the Western Social Science Association Monographs: Occasional Papers and the Western Social Science Association Monographs: Studies.  Little appears to have come from these negotiations.  The advertising rate for Journal was increased to $85.00 per page.

In January 1978, Stan Eitzen, a sociologist and a prolific author of textbooks in the field, was presented by the Dean of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences to the Executive Council as CSU's nominee for editor to succeed Heitman. While the transition was a difficult one, during Eitzen’s editorship (lasting six years), the Social Science Journal published four issues a year, with one being devoted to a symposium on a single topic.  The review process was further professionalized with a broader range of reviewers being incorporated into journal operations, befitting the range of social sciences represented in the Association and reflective of the varied submissions to the Journal.  Robert Regoli and R. P. Cuzzort (a criminologist and theorist[kjh2]  respectively), who were faculty members in the Department of Sociology at theUniversity ofColorado inBoulder) followed Eitzen.  Their three-year tenure also marked the first, and so far only, time period during which the SSJ was co-edited or jointly edited. 

Meeting in Renoin 1985, the Association appointed David Howard Davis, a political scientist from the Universityof Wyoming, to edit the Journal for a three-year term beginning 1986.  Davispromised articles readable to all social scientists, not just those in their own discipline. He initiated brief editorials such as ones on fraudulent articles, a call for analysis of the Reagan Administration, and suggestions for five articles that needed to be written (including “Do Speculators Die Rich?”). He also initiated a practical article in each issue, such as ones on the Social Science Reading Room at the Library of Congress, a comparison of statistical packages, and textbook ancillaries. Davissolicited papers from prestigious scholars such as Matthew Holden and Frederick Hoxie, placing them first in an issue. A question he faced, like all Editors, was whether the Journal was to be Western in theme and authors, or to be a national journal published in the West. Of course, when the referees recommended the acceptance of an article entitled “The Economics of Rodeo Cowboys,” it had to go first as the lead article for that issue. This was near the end of the pre-electronic era. Manuscripts came in on paper, and went to the publisher on paper. In 1989, foreshadowing electronic submission and processing, one pioneering manuscript came in on ARPANET, predecessor of the Internet.University ofWyoming support was generous at first, but after the price of oil fell to $12 a barrelin 1986, a financial crisis hit.  Also in 1986, JAI Press became the publisher of the Journal, beginning with Volume 23, ending the era of self-publishing.  There were concerns beginning in 1990 about the reliability of service from JAI, as the Journal was falling behind schedule in production, printing and delivery by nearly three months for several issues.

A report dated 1988 and prepared by N. Joseph Cayer (Chair), Anne Mayhew and Neila Seshachari resulted in the appointment of Michael Katovich , a sociologist from Texas Christian University (TCU), as Editor succeedingDavis.  The first issue under Katovich’s editorship appeared in January 1990.  Since he did not have a manuscript backlog, he decided to spend the summer and fall of 1989 working on a special issue for the January 1990 issue.  Coincidentally, Jack Gibbs, one of the most prominent sociologists in the nation, and an ongoing contributor to the Southwestern Social Science Association (SWSSA), had just published a book on Control.  In it he argued that control should be the central and categorically preeminent concept in sociology; all schools of sociological thought should make control central to theoretical and empirical work.  Katovich found Gibbs’ work to be well-crafted and provocative enough to warrant a symposium-like issue, beginning with a summary article provided by Gibbs, moving on with several “reaction essays” from prominent scholars in sociology, economics, political science, and history, and ending with Gibbs’ response to the essays.  Some of the essayists such as Anne Mayhew (Economics), David Altheide (Sociology), and William Reese (Sociology), had established a history of participation in the WSSA, but all, whether familiar with the WSSA or not, accepted the challenge to respond with a great deal of professional vigor.  After putting together the first issue, attending various regional meetings held by social scientists, and corresponding with presenters about the possibility of submitting finished papers for review, Katovich began to get an “assembly line” in order.  He began searching for various scholars in a variety of social science disciplines who would be willing to serve as reviewers.  By far, the biggest challenge at the beginning of his tenure as Editor involved matching submitted manuscripts from various social science fields with appropriate reviewers.   Serving as Editor until the fall of 1992, Katovich published a total of twelve issues in three volumes (1990, 1991, and 1992) from a small office at TCU using an Apple II computer, and one student helper (who was his office manager)

David Freeman, a political philosopher from WashburnUniversityin Topeka, Kansas, followed Katovich and served as Editor of the SSJ for twelve years, the longest tenure in that position,  During his stewardship of the Journal, Freeman initiated a number of changes and improvements. He increased the number of Deputy Editors and Associate Editors to reflect the scope and breadth of the Journal and its mission.  He changed the front matter and the back matter to better reflect the academic and strong cultural and regional character of the WSSA.  The Book Review section was re-instituted in the early 1990s and Bob Watson edited it with distinction in the late 1990s and early 2000s.  The tradition of a special issue on a particular social science topic (generally, the last issue or No. 4 of a given Volume of the Journal) was revived.  Even the color of the Journal cover was changed from green to the now familiar pastel blue.  The Journal began to achieve greater prominence during with this period.  For example, for ten of the twelve years that Freeman served as Editor, the SSJ ranked in the top ten of regional journals with a social science (qualitative emphasis[kjh3] ) in the country. Finally, after the Netherlands-based publishing giant, Elsevier, acquired JAI Press, the journal’s contents became available on line and thus easily accessible to an international academic community.

The Journal experienced a “homecoming of sorts” when it returned to Fort Collins, Colorado, beginning with Volume 43 in 2006 and Prabha Unnithan, a sociologist/ criminologist at CSU, was appointed as the new Editor.  His association with the SSJ dated back to the mid-1990s when he served as its Book Review Editor.  Unnithan inherited a backlog of accepted articles that lasted well into the middle of Volume 44 (2007).  As a result, the tradition of special topic issues was discontinued indefinitely, although a collection of articles on Women’s Studies was published in the first issue of 2007.  At the behest of the Executive Council the number of Associate Editors was reduced from 24 to 18. WSSA Presidential Addresses, after appropriate revisions, began to be slotted regularly as the first article of the first issue of the year following their delivery at the Annual Conference.  In the last three years, there was a marked decrease in the acceptance rate for articles submitted, and perhaps consequently, a jump in the Journal’s Impact Factor (a now widely used measure of a journal’s standing based on citation rates for articles in the two years following their publication).   WSSA and Elsevier renegotiated their contract for publishing the SSJ in 2007 and the Journal began the move to an online submission and review process utilizing the Elsevier Editorial System (or EES).  These recent changes promise to increase the SSJ’s relative prestige and reach and to further broaden and internationalize its relationships with authors, reviewers and ultimately, readers (who, given its widespread electronic presence and availability, may never see a print copy of the Journal). 

Most Editors contacted for this article cited overlapping difficulties and common concerns such as the need to understand and make informed judgments on a wide range of social science submissions, the experience of tussles between the regional nature of the WSSA and the national and global reach of the social sciences, and the negotiations involved in the mechanics of administering a scholarly journal that belongs to a professional association but was also dependent for its operations on university authorities and a separate publishing entity.  At the same time, most Editors also agreed with David Howard Davis who said he enjoyed the job thoroughly, maintaining that the experience was akin to receiving a multi-disciplinary PhD in the social sciences without having to go to graduate school in each one.




WSSA is one of the most decentralized associations of its nature and size.  We rely extensively on the section coordinators to enlist new members, keep the older members engaged, prepare the call for papers and in general assist the program coordinator in preparing the conference agenda.  This decentralization has its up and down sides.  On the positive side, WSSA has a level of diversity not common in other associations and there is a home from almost every scholar wishing to present at the annual conference.  Additionally, attendees have the opportunity to attend sessions in disciplines other than their own that have subject matter of great interest.  The down sides are small but nagging.  The Association must rely on the section coordinators for a good turn out at the conference, we lack a central e-mail or mailing list (soon to be corrected) and there is sometimes some confusion over dues and conference fees.  On the whole these are manageable issues given the color, depth of experience and diversity brought to WSSA by its member sections and affiliates.

There has been a continuous debate over number and type of sections.  This debate has been healthy for the Association, although at times it has been heated, and sometimes funny.  One such early debated involved the inclusion of Anthropology as a new section at the Rocky Mountain Social Science Association’s annual meeting.  In reading the exchange of correspondence it is clear that writers actually had little firsthand understanding of the broad discipline of Anthropology and were only thinking of it in terms of Archeology.  There is a continuing and informative debate about the differences between Mass Communication and Human Communication which resulted in a recent decision by the Council the create a trial section for Human Communication.  Land Grant Studies was combined with other sections when the last of the land grants were settled, and Criminal Justice/Criminology was created in 1991 as an outgrowth of the Sociology Section.  We continue to grow in the international aspects of the Association withNew Zealandand Australian Studies, Canadian Studies, Slavic Studies, and the Association for Borderlands Studies. 

The Association started with six discipline related and one interdisciplinary section.   The first sections included: History, Political Science, Economics, Sociology, Social Science, Geography and the interdisciplinary section.  In 1962 an American Studies Section was added.  1969(?) saw the creation of  sections on Latin American Studies, Anthropology, Russian/Eastern European (Slavic) Studies and  the joining of the Great Plains-Rocky Mountain Division of the Association of American Geographers with our Association. In 1971, Mexican-American Studies (later called Chicano Studies) formed a panel, and in 1973 panels on Asian Studies, American Indian Studies and Canadian Studies were added.  Mass Communications was added at theEl Pasomeeting in 1974.  In 1975 Women’s Studies and the Association for Arid Lands Studies affiliated with WSSA.  In 1990 Criminal Justice (later Criminal Justice and Criminology) was added as a section independent of Sociology.

In April 29, 1967, annual report to the membership by the RSSA Secretary-Treasurer the section coordinators who had been approved.  These were: Raymond V. Bowers from theUniversityofArizona(Sociology); Carl McGuire from theUniversityofColorado(Economics); John Vloyantes fromColoradoStateUniversity(Political Science); Harry Rosenberg fromColoradoStateUniversity(History); Albert L. Fisher fromUtah(Geography); and John Martin fromNew Mexico(American Studies).  By October 1, 1967, the section list had grown to include African American Studies, American Studies, Economics, Geography, History, Political Science, Sociology and Latin American Studies.

The Association of Borderlands Studies (ABS) is now the largest of WSSA’s thirty-plus sections.  The ABS was founded at the WSSA meetings in 1976 (in Tempe, Arizona) by Ellwyn Stoddard, C. Richard (Dick) Bath, Oscar J. Martinez, and Z. Anthony Kruszewski.  The ABS is a multi-disciplinary organization with members from several countries.  The ABS began publishing The Journal of Borderlands Studies in 1986 and the journal has now become a widely recognized and cited journal. The ABS has held its annual meetings with WSSA in each year since 1976, although it has held an occasional independent meeting along with its regular meeting at WSSA.    

The Association for Institutional Thought (AFIT) was formed at the 1979 WSSA meetings inLake Tahoe,NV.  AFIT’s purpose is to promote the study of institutional economics in the tradition of Thorstein Veblen, John Dewey,JohnR.Commons, Clarence Ayres and others.  AFIT is now a thriving organization with numerous panels and papers at each WSSA meeting.  WSSA’s current president Richard (Rick) V. Adkisson is a former president of AFIT.




A complete list of past-presidents can be found in any copy of the Journal and is also located in an appendix to this article.  What is notable is the large number of past-presidents from the 1980s who are still active in the Association.

Missing from the list in the Journal are the names of the presidents of the Colorado-Wyoming Social Science Association: Nussbaum (1949), Garnsey (1950), Carter (1951), Dale (1952), Cummings (1953), Zeleny (1954), Kuhn (1955), Sikes (1956), Steglich (1957) and Martin (1958).  We record them here so that they will no longer be available to only those researchers who review the archives of the Association.

In 1958/1959 the President of the Association was Raymond Carey.  At that time the nomination of the president came from the floor of the annual meeting, with election to immediately follow.  The same procedure was true for other elected officials.  It is interesting that a member asked how we could vote for a person without first observing the behavior of the person in that office.  The answer to this question resulted in the creation in 1961 the offices of first and second vice-president.  The first-vice president was to ascend to the presidency upon the end of the term of the president, while the second-vice president chaired the Lectures Committee and was responsible for collection, coordination and dissemination of lecture information to member schools.

Mary Lewis was elected the Secretary-Treasurer in 1959.  I. James Pikl, Jr. was the Secretary-Treasurerr in 1966, while Wesley W. Posvar served at the President.  The importance of the position of Secretary-Treasurerr (now Executive Director) cannot be over-estimated.  This is the position that not only provides the glue for the Association, but serves as the institutional memory.  The Executive Director is the only person who continues on the Executive Council for more than a three-year period.  The Executive Director negotiates contracts with the conference hotels and the publisher, is responsible for the financial accounting of the Association, maintains the membership list, collects dues, pays the bills and in general runs the business side of the Association.

Beginning in 1966 the President-Elect was assigned the duty of membership Chairman. According to the Newsletter dated October 1, 1967, published inPlainview,Texas, Jerry F. Dawson (WaylandBaptistCollege) was serving as the Secretary-Treasurer.  More importantly, this was Volume 1, Number 1, of the Newletter.  This means that the Newsletter has been in constant publication for 41 years.  That year (1967) Clark Knowlton (UniversityofTexas,El Paso) was President, L.G. Geiger (ColoradoCollege) was Vice President, and Carl McGuire (UniversityofColorado) was President-Elect.           

The 1967 Nominating Committee consisted of Clay Fechter (NortheasternJunior College), Louis Geiger (ColoradoCollege) and Allen Breck (DenverUniversity).

At the Annual Conference in Denverin 1975 R.D. Sloan was nominated for a three year term as Secretary-Treasurer.  Listed on the top of the April 1, 1971[kjh4] ,  as President was T. Phillip Wolf (Indiana University Southeast), J. Leo Cefkin, Vice-President (ColoradoStateUniversity), Thomas Drabeck, President-Elect (University ofDenver) and Jerry F. Dawson, Secretary-Treasurerr (Texas A & M).  The logo was still a map of theUnited States with the area of geographic influence of the Association shaded.

            Lay James Gibson proposed the elimination of the elective office of Secretary-Treasurer and the creation of the appointed position of Executive Director in a letter dated November 7, 1980. The purpose of this change, as noted in the letter, was to insure continuity in the conduct of the Association’s business.  The responsibilities related to this position also changed from simply that of keeping the records of the Association to that of being the business manager and contract negotiator, in addition to managing the operations of the Association. Bill Ray served as the Executive Director from 1976 until 1990, at which time Bryan Downes took over. Bryanserved from 1991 to 1998, followed by Jay Stauss who served from 1998 to 2001.  Since 2001 Larry Gould has served as the Executive Director.




On October 3, 1958, the Council voted to create a committee to develop a constitution for the Association. The first constitution of the Association was approved by the Executive Council on March 5, 1960, and was submitted to the members on May 7, 1960, for a vote.  It was approved.  The constitution established the name of the Association as The Rocky Mountain Social Science Association and created the positions and duties of the officers and Council.

The first constitution was amended at the Annual meeting held at the University of Denver Law Center on March 30, 1963.  It was printed atMesaCollege,Grand Junction,Colorado, May 9, 1963.  The amendments defined the roles and responsibilities of the officers, clarified the membership of the Executive Council and defined the terms of office for elected officers.

In 1964 there were four changes to the Constitution.  These included making the effective date of dues to be from one annual meeting to the next; the creation of the Executive Council; clarification of the quorum; and finally, a change in the term of office of the Secretary-Treasurer from one to three years.  This last change has proven to be very important.  It has often been the case that the Secretary-Treasurer (Executive Director) has provided the institutional memory for the organization; thus, the glue that has gotten the Association through some of its rough times.




The first meeting of the Association was held in a cafeteria at theUniversityofDenverin 1958, while the most recent meeting was held in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, at the Hyatt Regency. The Association continued to meet on college and university campuses until 1974, when for the first time it was hosted at a hotel, the Paso del Norte inEl Paso.  The conference moved back to a university campus for one year in 1976 when it was held at theUniversityofArizona.  During our days of holding the conference on the campus of a university, the United States Air Force Academy served most often as the host, whileColoradoStateUniversityand theUniversityofWyomingcome in a close second.  Since we have been locating the conference at hotels,DenverandAlbuquerquehave been our most returned-to sites followed bySan DiegoandReno.

The minutes of the 1958 meeting of the Colorado-Wyoming Social Science Association show that the meeting was held at the University of Denver, and that the President’s Luncheon was held in the Student Union and was attended by 106 people.  The 1959 meeting was approved to be held at theUSAFAcademyon May 2.  The meeting would start at 8:00 am and close at 9:00 pm, with the four discipline-specific panels to be held in the morning and four interdisciplinary panels to be held in the afternoon.  The Council also accepted the invitation ofColoradoCollegeto hold the 1960 annual meeting on that campus.  From its meager beginning, at which 30-40 people attended the Annual Conference, to its large attendance (1,600) in 1989, to today with an annual attendance of 700-800 people, the Annual Meeting has been at the core of the identity of the Association.

The program for 1960 indicates that the Annual Conference was held on Saturday, May 7, 1960, atColorado College,ColoradoSprings,Colorado.  Wesley W. Posvar, of theUSAFAcademy, was the President that year with E. Russell Kuchel,UniversityofWyoming, serving as Vice President.  The printed program was 5 pages long and listed four disciplines (Economics, Political Science, History and Sociology), with 7 different panels.  Lunch was hosted byColoradoCollegeand a no-host social hour and dinner was held at the Candlelight Inn onNorth Nevada Ave.

The Conference was hosted by the Air Force Academy in 1967, withWesternStateatGunnison,Colorado, offering to host the Conference in 1968.  By 1971 the printed program had grown to about 20 pages and included African American Studies, American Studies, Anthropology, Asian Studies, Ecology-Environment, Economics, Geography, History, International Studies, Latin American Studies, Mexican-American Studies, Middle East Studies, Political Science, Rocky Mountain Conference on Classical Studies, Rocky Mountain Association for Slavic Studies, and Sociology.  The conference was held on theColoradoStateUniversitycampus atFort Collins, May 7-8, 1971.  The conference was growing from a one-day affair to two full days of sessions.  Room rates for an on-campus dorm room was $5.00, which is about $26.13 in 2008 dollars, and the cost of lunch was $2.50.

The 1974 Annual Meeting was held April 25-27 at theUniversityofTexas,El Paso.  The Conference hotels were the Paso del Norte and Holiday Inn.  By then we had moved off of university campuses both for the sessions and for housing.  It appears that this was one of the first 3-day meetings of the Association.  The agenda for the meeting looks remarkably like present-day agendas, although the number of sessions was less than today.  In 1975 the Conference was held at the Cosmopolitan Hotel inDenver,Colorado.  James Colwell was the President, but could not attend because of illness, so Deborah Hardy, Vice-President, presided.  The Conference was held inAlbuquerquein 1977.  Runners-up for selection wereFort Worth,Texas, andLas Vegas,Nevada.

WSSA has paid regular visits toAlbuquerque,Denver,RenoandSan Diegoin recent years.  Some sites are certainly more popular than others and some, such asCorpus Christiand the Hilton inAlbuquerque, proved to be a challenge.  There continues to be a debate about the use of sites with a casino, where we get the best guest room rates and many times the best attendance, but to which some people have moral or philosophical objections, or objections based on the prevalence of noise and smoke.  WSSA is in a strange position when compared to other similar academic associations.  Due to the large number of affiliates, which requires us to have a large number of breakout rooms relative to the number of guest rooms that we require, we have had trouble bringing the conference to certain sites. 




Membership dues and conference fees have been a major source of revenue for the Association.  On April 13, 1959, annual dues were $1.00, with is equal to about $7.27 in today’s dollars, conference fees were $1.00, lunch on Saturday of the conference was $1.70, and dinner was $2.50 (tip included).  By 1978 individual dues were $10.00 for faculty ($32.47 in today’s dollars) and $5.00 for students, and the conference registration had increased to $5.00 for students, $10.00 for members and $15.00 for non-members.  Today those fees are $40.00 for dues for active members, and $25.00 for retired members and students.  The conference registration fees are $75.00 for members, $45.00 for retired members and students and $105.00 for non-members.

The cash-on-hand balance of the Association in 1958 was $104.21.  ($763.86 in 2008 dollars).  In a report prepared and signed by Wade H. Andrews, Secretary-Treasurer, on October 24, 1964, the cash-on-hand was $412.16 ($2,814.56 in 2008 dollars), with accounts receivable of $25.25 ($172.43 in 2008) and no unpaid liabilities.  In 1966 the cash–o- hand balance was $1,236.79 ($8,080.86 in 2008 dollars).  The major source of revenue ($1,737.50, or $11,352.36 in 2008 dollars)  was dues and Journal subscriptions.

In 1967 a motion to increase the dues by one dollar was rejected.  A cash balance of $2,127.35 ($13,483.39 in 2008 dollars) was reported.  Revenue was reported as $2,573.60 ($16,311.77 in 2008 dollars), with expenditures of $1,301.73 ($8,250.51 in 2008 dollars).  Printing was $906.60 ($5,746.13 in 2008 dollars) and postage was about $100.00 ($633.81 in 2008 dollars).

The year-end cash balance reported on February 13, 1971, was $5,657 ($29.569.07 in 2008 dollars), while dues were set at $4.50 ($23.52 in 2008 dollars) for members and conference registration was kept at $3.00 ($15.68 in 2008 dollars).

On January 6, 1980, a motion was passed by the Executive Council giving past-presidents Honorary Life Membership in the Association, placing their names permanently on the membership role.  In 2006, Life Membership for past-presidents was discontinued, starting with Diane Calloway-Graham, at her own request.  The rationale for this change was the high cost of sending the Journal to so many past-presidents.

Today, largely due to a very successful contract negotiation with Elsevier Publishing, we have cash–on-hand of about $9,000, with about $31,000 in savings, $50,000 in long-term investments and $20,000 in renewable certificates of deposit.  We spend about $45,000 to $50,000 per year on the conference, largely in support of receptions and audio-visual equipment.

The Future

            In recent years several academic associations and their related conferences have gone under.  This is largely due to shrinking university budgets, and higher costs for travel and lodging, all of which impact the ability of scholars to attend conferences.  WSSA has been able to survive the era of reduced funding by providing its attendees with an excellent venue for exposure of their work to a large and varied audience.  Additionally, WSSA has been able to provide a home for many affiliates and sections not commonly found in other academic associations, particularly those of a single discipline.  We try to insure that conference sites are selected with the interests of the attendees in mind and that we provide the kind of diversity that keeps each site fresh for both new and old members.  We continue to assess the nature of the social sciences, adding sections where needed and revitalizing our existing sections.  We have strongly encouraged the participation of graduate and undergraduate students, along with newly-minted scholars.  Therein lies our future. 

Conference Sites over the years


Year               City                                            State                   Site

1959               Colorado Springs,                    CO                      US Air Force Academy

1960               Colorado Springs,                    CO                      Colorado College

1961               Boulder,                                     CO                      University of Colorado

1962               Fort Collins,                              CO                      Colorado State University

1963               Denver,                                      CO                      University of Denver

1964               Laramie,                                    WY                     University of Wyoming

1965               Boulder,                                     CO                      University of Colorado

1966               Fort Collins,                              CO                      Colorado State University

1967               Colorado Springs,                    CO                      US Air Force Academy

1968               Colorado Springs,                    CO                      US Air Force Academy

1969               Lubbock,                                   TX                      Texas Tech University

1970               Colorado Springs,                    CO                      Colorado College

1971               Fort Collins,                              CO                      Colorado State University

1972               Salt Lake City,                         UT                      University of Utah

1973               Laramie,                                    WY                     University of Wyoming

1974               El Paso,                                     TX                      Paso del Norte Hotel

1975               Denver,                                      CO                      Cosmopolitan Hotel

1976               Tempe,                                      AZ                      Arizona State University

1977               Denver,                                      CO                      Cosmopolitan Hotel

1978               Denver,                                      CO                      Hilton Hotel

1979               Lake Tahoe,                             NV                      Hyatt Hotel

1980               Albuquerque,                            NM                     Hilton Hotel

1981               San Diego,                                 CA                      Convention Center

1982               Denver,                                      CO                      Holiday Inn

1983               Albuquerque,                            NM                     Hilton Hotel

1984               San Diego,                                 CA                      Convention Center

1985               Fort Worth,                               TX                      American Hotel

1986               Reno,                                         NV                      MGM Grand Hotel

1987               El Paso,                                     TX                      Westin-Paso Del Norte

1988               Denver,                                      CO                      Radisson Hotel

1989               Albuquerque,                            NM                     Hilton Hotel

1990               Portland,                                    OR                      Hilton Hotel

1991               Reno,                                         NV                      Nugget Hotel

1992               Denver,                                      CO                      Radisson Hotel

1993               Corpus Christi,                         TX                      Marriott Hotel

1994               Albuquerque                             NM                     Hyatt Regency                            

1995               Oakland                                    CA                      Parc Hotel

1996               Reno,                                         NV                      John Ascuaga’s

1997               Albuquerque                             NM                     Hilton Hotel

1998               Denver                                       CO                      Tech Center 

1999               Fort Worth                                TX                      Radisson

2000               San Diego                                  CA                      Town & Country Resort

2001               Reno                                          NV                      John Ascuaga’s Nugget

2002               Albuquerque                             NM                     Hyatt Regency

2003               Las Vegas                                 NV                      Rivera

2004               Salt Lake City                          UT                      Sheraton City Centre

2005               Albuquerque                             NM                     Hyatt Regency

2006               Phoenix                                     AZ                      Wyndham                                                      

2007               Calgary                                      Alberta               Hyatt Regency

2008               Denver                                        CO                      Hyatt Grand