Established 1973, ILLOWA came into existence when James Joyce and Kermit Hoyenga of Western Illinois University, Dean Wright of Monmouth College, and Gary Francois of Knox College established a mechanism by which local colleges and universities could enhance interaction with each other and provide an educational research experience for their students.
Over the years, ILLOWA expanded to include other educational institutions. In 1998, ILLOWA established its web site at Culver-Stockton College and since the fall of 2001, undergraduates who present at ILLOWA can also submit their papers for possible inclusion in the Journal of Psychological Inquiry. ILLOWA is one of oldest continuing undergraduate psychological research conventions in the United States.
The programming format of the convention has remained relatively unchanged over the years in that only undergraduates are allowed to present their findings from empirical research projects. The host institution provides lunch, a visiting keynote speaker, and absorbs the cost of the convention. The site of the convention is on a rotational basis and the date of the convention, if scheduling permits, is the Saturday before the Midwestern Psychological Association's annual convention.
The ILLOWA convention has been mentioned in Teaching of Psychology, Eye on Psi Chi, and in the APA Monitor. Additionally, ILLOWA has been cited as one of the major undergraduate conventions in the United States, see Smith and Davis (2010) The psychologist as a detective: An introduction to conducting research in psychology (5th Ed.).