About Us | WRDC USU Extension


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    About Us


    The Western Rural Development Center collaborates with western land-grant universities and public and private sector partners to promote excellence in research, education, and Extension for the prosperity of western rural communities.


    The Western Rural Development Center works to build capacity throughout the region’s Land-Grant Universities and Cooperative Extension Service to help rural communities prosper, thrive economically, and become self-sustaining.


    The Western Rural Development Center collaborates with the Western Extension Directors Association, the Western Association of Agricultural Experiment Station Directors, Western Land-Grant Universities, and public and private sector partners to analyze, develop, and share scientific discovery and application of sustainable rural community development practices.



    The WRDC is funded by USDA-NIFA and also receives generous support from Utah State University, Utah State University Extension, and the Utah Agricultural Experiment Station.

    Board of Directors

    Representation Board Member Affiliation Term
    CES 1862 Ken White, Chair Utah State University Extension Ongoing
    CES 1862 Lou Swanson Colorado State University Extension 2019
    CES 1862 Jon Boren New Mexico State University Extension 2020
    CES 1862 Mike Gaffney Washington State University Extension 2021
    AES 1862 Glenda Humiston University of California 2019
    AES 1862 Chris Pritsos Nevada Agricultural Experiment Station 2020
    AES 1862 VACANT   2021
    LGI 1994 Benita Litson Diné Collage 2019
    Indigenous, Tribal, Native Frank Metlow Spokane Tribe of Indians 2020
    FACULTY Cindy Reeves University of Hawai'i at Manoa 2020
    FACULTY Paul Lachapelle Montana State University Extension 2021
    FACULTY Debra Hansen Washington State University Extension 2021
    PARTNER Edgar Ruiz Council of State Governments-WEST 2019
    PARTNER Jonathan Shuffield National Association of Counties 2020
    PARTNER Jake Tibbitts Eureka County, Nevada (CARET/APLU Rep.) 2021
    USDA-RD (ex-officio) Jill Rees USDA Rural Development - Oregon 2020
    USDA-NIFA (ex-officio) Brent Elrod USDA NIFA Ongoing
    John Cromartie Economic Research Service, USDA 2020


    Don E. Albrecht, Director don.albrecht@usu.edu

    Dr. Don Albrecht began his role as the Director of the Western Rural Development Center in July 2008. He received a B.S in Forestry, an M.S. in Sociology from Utah State University and a Ph.D. in Rural Sociology from Iowa State University. He then served as a member of the faculty at Texas A&M University for 27 years where he worked in the Departments of Rural Sociology and Recreation, Parks, and Tourism Sciences. He has researched and written extensively on the issues confronting the communities and residents of rural America. Among the issues explored are natural resource concerns, economic restructuring, demographic trends, poverty, inequality, and education.

    His most recent book publications include Our Energy Future: Socioeconomic Implications and Policy Options for Rural America (2014), Rethinking Rural: Global Community and Economic Development in the Small Town West (2014), Rural Housing and Economic Development (2018). 

    Betsy H. Newman, Assistant Director betsy.newman@usu.edu

    Betsy H. Newman joined the WRDC staff in August 2005 after working for eight years as an event manager for Conference Services, a division of University Extension, at Utah State University. As assistant director, she assists with the visioning and strategic planning and is responsible for the Center's communications and public relations activities, is the graphic designer, editor for Rural Connections, and collaborates with regional and national teams to develop training opportunities primarily for western Extension educators and specialists. Ms. Newman serves on the national eXtension Community of Practice, 'Enhancing Rural Capacity.' She served for three years as Chair of Scholarships & Endowments for the university’s Professional Employees Association and a two-year term as President of the Association. A native Ohioan, she has traveled and lived throughout the region for the past 25 years including stints in Washington, Alaska, and Montana.

    Deanna Thompson, Staff Assistant deanna.thompson@usu.edu

    Photo and content coming soon! Really, we'll get her details posted soon! --January 2018

    Riana Gayle, Data Analyst  riana.gayle@usu.edu

    Riana Gayle joined the WRDC staff in August 2018. She received a B.S. in Natural Resources Policy and Administration from North Carolina State University and an M.S. in Ecology from Utah State University. Much of her research interests stem from hands-on disaster relief work with groups across the Southwestern U.S. in 2015 and 2016. Resultingly, her thesis explores the resilience of communities to natural hazards, focusing on drought. Her position as a Data Analyst with the WRDC allows her to further study the resilience of rural communities to lesser known hazards such as socioeconomic, demographic and climatic changes, and to help develop adaptive solutions. Originally from the busy city of Charlotte, North Carolina, she has enjoyed the transition out West, missing the quick access to the ocean, but not the traffic.