CANYON, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — West Texas A&M University’s Center for the Study of the American West will host its 2022 Southern Plains Conference from 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on April 29 in the Hazelwood Lecture Hall, which will address “the challenge of maintaining a regional identity in a global age,” officials with WT announced.

“Students need to be educated in a way that prepares them for the increasingly competitive global marketplace, but it’s important not to lose sight of the importance of local settings and knowledge,” said Alex Hunt, CSAW director. “This especially impacts rural or regionally marginalized places, sending students the signal that they must go elsewhere to seek their futures.”

The “Regional Education and Teaching Region in the 21st Century” themed conference, officials said, will include several panel discussions offering “historical perspectives on education in the Southern Plains.”

Shanna Peeples, WT’s John G. O’Brien Distinguished Chair in Education, will introduce the Route 66 Project, which will explore “historical intersections of race, culture, mobility and energy along the Mother Road,” according to officials.

Along with delivering one of the conference’s keynote addresses at 11:20 a.m., Peeples will host a roundtable with Ramona Emerson, Diné writer and filmmaker from Albuquerque; Melodie Graves, associate director of academic advising and diversity team chair at Amarillo College; and Ruth DeAnda, WT instructor of social work.

“Marcel Proust said that our real discoveries don’t happen when we leave home to see new things, but when we return and see home with new eyes. That idea has infused everything I’ve been doing since returning to the Texas Panhandle and joining the faculty at WT,” Peeples said. “How can we teach and how can we learn in ways that help us to see our region with new eyes? Our Route 66 Project, in partnership with National Geographic and as a National Writing Project site at WT, uses the famed Mother Road as a major learning path. It invites all of us, in the words of the song, to ‘motor west’ metaphorically, substituting open minds for the open road.”

In addition, Darryl Birkenfeld, chair of Ogallala Commons, a nonprofit education and leadership organization that “aims to reinvigorate communities around the Ogallala Aquifer, will lead a roundtable discussion that will feature Jim Steiert, author of “Playas: Jewels of the Plains,”; Justin Trammell, Playa Festival faculty member; and Laura Wilbanks, a longtime elementary science teacher in the South Plains and Eastern New Mexico, officials announced.

Birkenfeld, officials detailed, will also deliver the keynote address, “Learning By Doing: A Community-Based Internship Program,” at 3:35 p.m.

To register for the free event click here and, officials added that a complimentary lunch will be provided.