The Amarillo Pioneer

Amarillo's only free online newspaper. Established in 2016, we work to bring you local news that is unbiased and honest.


WTAMU to Host Southern Plains Conference

"The Center for the Study of the American West (CSAW) at West Texas A&M University will partner with nonprofit education and leadership organization Ogallala Commons to bring the Southern Plains Conference to the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum for a Feb. 22-23 conference on “Shaping a Sense of Place on the Southern Plains.”

Fourteen speakers will be featured with presentations on various disciplinary and professional perspectives on the theme. Scheduled presenters include Shelley Armitage, author of Walking the Llano; Andy Wilkinson, poet/song-writer and artist-in-residence at the Southwest Collection at Texas Tech University; and Amy Hale Auker, author of Rightful Place, Winter of Beauty and Ordinary Skin. In addition, conference-goers will experience “Expanse,” the photographic and video art of Jim Livingston.

In addition to the presenters, the conference also will include a number of speakers from around the Southern Plains region—Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Kansas—including Amarillo residents Jay O’Brien, AJ Fawver and Wayne Hughes. These speakers will explore the theme of “Sense of Place” through discussions of agriculture, ranching, the oil/gas industry, issues in education, regional history and other related topics.

The conference also will feature a panel of WTAMU faculty from diverse disciplines, including Michael Grauer, art history; Dr. Bonney MacDonald, American literature; Dr. Byron Pearson, western and environmental history; and Dr. Ray Matlack, wildlife biology.

Ogallala Commons, directed by Darryl Birkenfeld, Ph.D., took over the Southern Plains Conference and produced it annually until its discontinuation in 2013. Over its run, the conference focused on themes of the "Twelve Key Assets of Commonwealth ( which include the water cycle, history, spirituality, soil and mineral cycle, education, arts and culture, energy and the natural environment. This year, Dr. Alex Hunt, CSAW director, is collaborating with Birkenfeld and Ogallala Commons to reinstate the Southern Plains Conference as a biannual event at WTAMU. Hunt sees CSAW’s role in reviving the Southern Plains Conference as a natural fit.

“We wanted to develop a conference focused on regional studies, and when Ogallala Commons proposed this partnership, it seemed like a great opportunity,” Hunt said.

He also found the conference theme, “Sense of Place,” timely.

“I think a lot about social and environmental challenges facing our region, which are significant. I see a lot of younger people who do not feel strongly connected to the region, many of whom feel that their opportunity in life will be someplace else,” Hunt said. “This conference speaks to those issues. It also ties in well to President Wendler’s WT125 initiative, which is calling for a long-range view of the relationship between WT and the region.”

Online registration is available at Tickets are priced at $30 and includes both days of the conference, a dessert reception on Thursday as well as lunch and refreshments on Friday. WTAMU students may attend free of charge."

-West Texas A&M University

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