The idea of a regional association of Asian specialists was suggested by Spencer J. Palmer and other Utah Asianists in early 1962. Earl W. Pritchard of the University of Arizona and then-President of the Association for Asian Studies (AAS) encouraged the idea and offered AAS financial help. The AAS subsequently adopted the organization as one of its "regional conferences."
The first meeting, boasting 4 panels and attended by 50 faculty and students, opened on November 15, 1963 at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Organizers included: Spencer J. Palmer, Helmut G. Callis, Russel N. Horiuchi, William Mulder, and Lew M. Rogers.
In 1965, the organization defined its geographic scope to include Asianists from Canada and Mexico as well as all Western U. S. states(except Hawaii and Alaska). To reflect its geographic scope, it adopted the name "Western Conference of the Association for Asian Studies" or WCAAS (usually pronounced WICK-us). The annual fall conferences soon expanded to include dozens of panels attended by over 200participants from all over the world. From the beginning, the meetings included a keynote speech by the president of AAS as well as book displays, cultural presentations, and papers read and discussed by fellow Asianists.
WCAAS acquired its current organizational structure and Bylaws in the early 1970s and adopted a logo and launched an Internet home page in the 1990s. In 1998, Selected Papers in Asian Studies, which had been edited by Charles Hedke of the University of Arizona and Gordon Harrington of Weber State University in Utah, was transformed into a published journal with L. Shelton Woods of Boise State University as editor.
WCAAS flourishes today as a premier regional Asian Studies association with representation on the Council of Conferences of the Association for Asian Studies. WCAAS welcomes the participation of all those with interests in Asia.