• Testimonials

    I can't overstate the importance of WLA to my career. I felt so welcomed as a graduate student that WLA has become my intellectual home.
    Nancy Cook, 2007
    Taylor Award recipient 1988, repeat EC Member, WLA President 2011, and Treasurer since 2014

The Louis Owens Awards for Graduate Student Presenters at WLA Conferences

The WLA honors the great writer and scholar Louis Owens for his contributions to western American and American Indian literary studies and for his unfailing generosity as a colleague, teacher, and mentor. The goal of the Louis Owens Awards is to build for the future of the Western Literature Association by modeling Owens’ own support and encouragement of diverse graduate student engagement in western literature and culture studies.

The Owens Awards are intended to foster ever-greater diversity within the WLA membership, to help broaden the field of western American literary studies, and to recognize both graduate student scholarship and financial need. Since its inception in 2004 through an anonymous donation and with the help of yearly donations from our members, 32 scholarships have been awarded so far.



The monetary amount of this year’s scholarships: TBA.

If you are interested in applying for this award, submit a paper proposal for participation in the conference. If your paper is accepted, you can then submit the award application materials via Google Forms: https://forms.gle/VBuUzkRenhj72HHz5.

Application deadline: August 1, 2023

If you are awarded one of the Owens stipends, you are expected to attend most of the conference. Please see conference details for the 2023 WLA Conference. 

If you have any questions regarding the Owens Awards, please contact  Prof. Lydia Heberling, Chair of the Owens Committee.

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Originally named the Minority Student Award

2004:  JOSHUA SMITH, University of Southern California

2005:  JESSICA BREMMER, University of Southern California

    ANDREA DOMINGUEZ, University of Arizona

Renamed Louis Owens Award/s

2006: ELIXABETE ANSA-GOICOECHEA, Indiana University

    JENNIFER CLARK, University of Southern California

2007: NAVEED REHAN, University of Alberta

2008: JESSICA BREMMER, University of Southern California

2009: CAROLE JUGE, Université Paris, Sorbonne

    JAMES E. MURRAY, University of South Dakota

2010: ELISA BORDIN, University of Verona

   STEPHEN SIPERSTEIN, University of Southern California

2011: JOHANNES FEHRLE, University Freiburg, Germany

2012: CHRISTOPHER MUNIZ, University of Southern California

   AUBREY STREIT KRUG, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

2013: RENATA GOMES, Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, Brazil

   JASMINE JOHNSON, University of British Columbia

2014: JANE WONG, University of Washington

2015: SHANE JOSEPH WILLIS FRANKIEWICZ, Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg, Germany

   LORENA GAUTHEREAU, Rice University

   JULIE WILLIAMS, University of New Mexico

2016: MIKA KENNEDY, University of Michigan

   MARIA MACKAS, Georgia State University

   HO’ESTA MO’E’HAHNE, University of Southern California

2017: LAURA DE VOS, University of Washington

           NADHIA GREWAL, Goldsmiths University of London, UK

2018: LYDIA HEBERLING, University of Washington-Seattle

           TISHA REICHLE, University of Southern California

           BERNADETTE RUSSO, Texas Tech University

2019: MARIA ALBERTO, University of Utah

           SURABHI BALACHANDER, University of Michigan

2020: No awards were given.

2021: No awards were given.

2022: TACEY ATSITTY, Florida State University

           DOMINIC DONGILLI, Goldsmiths University of London

           LAUREN WHITE, University of Southern California

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Note: Our 2018 award recipient, Lydia Heberling, is this year’s award committee chair! She is now an assistant professor at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo in the Department of Ethnic Studies.

Meet one of our Owens Recipients: Lydia Heberling (2018)

Photo of Lydia Heberling

The Western Literature Association is truly one of the most welcoming professional organizations for graduate students entering the field of Western literary studies. WLA faculty are generous with their mentorship, feedback, and encouragement, and the graduate student cohort is deeply collaborative and supportive. I have been energized and encouraged by the vibrant exchange of ideas and collaborative spirit I found in the WLA since I first attended in Reno, Nevada, in 2015.

It is through the generous support of the Louis Owens Award committee that I was able to attend the 2018 conference in St. Louis, Missouri, and present work on reimagining 17th and 18th century Spanish missions in California as Indigenous hubs of resistance. This work in progress examined the rich mixed-media, mixed-genre book Bad Indians: A Tribal Memoir (2013) by Chumash and Costanoan Ohlone-Esselen writer Deborah Miranda, which reframes dominant narratives about Indigenous erasure in California. The WLA is particularly supportive of work in the field of American Indian and Indigenous literary studies, and I am so grateful that awards such as the Louis Owens Award exist to support work by Indigenous scholars and scholars of color in this field. 

Through the WLA I have made several lasting friendships and connections that will continue to shape my professional work and enrich my personal life. At WLA conferences I have had the immense pleasure of interacting with scholars such as Krista Comer, Lisa Tatonetti, Susan Bernardin, Joanna Hearne, Jenn Ladino, and Kirby Brown. The WLA is a fantastic space for emerging scholars to develop work in any area of Western literary and cultural studies. 

~Lydia Heberling, University of Washington (2019)


  • Western Literature Association (WLA)

    Founded in 1965, the Western Literature Association (WLA) is a non-profit, scholarly association that promotes the study of the diverse literature and cultures of the North American West, past and present.

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