About Us

The Western Rural Development Center is a regional catalyst for capacity building in the West. The Center collaborates with its public and private sector partners to promote excellence in research, education and Extension for the prosperity of western rural communities.

The WRDC strengthens rural communities by sharing scientific discovery and application of sustainable practices with rural citizens via conferences, trainings, Web 2.0, and publications. The Center aims to help rural communities prosper, thrive economically, and become self-sustaining.

Priority Areas

  1. Enhancing Human Capacity through People-Based Rural Development
  2. Creating Vibrant Rural Communities through Place-Based Rural Development
  3. Promoting Sustainable Natural Resource Development

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

Board Member Affiliation Term
Ken White, Chair Utah State University Extension Continuous
Sarah Adler USDA Rural Development - Nevada 2017
Jon Boren New Mexico State University Extension 2017
Dina Chacon-Reitzel New Mexico Beef Council 2016
John Cromartie Economic Research Service, USDA 2016, non-voting
Kathryn Dodge University of Alaska 2019
Brent Elrod National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA Continuous, non-voting
José Garcia-Pabón Washington State University Extension 2018
Mike Harrington Western Association of Agricultural Experiment Stations 2017
Brian Higginbotham Utah State University Extension Continuous
Glenda Humiston University of California Davis 2019
Pending Farm Foundation Continuous
Benita Litson Diné College 2016
Steve Loring New Mexico Agricultural Experiment Station 2015
Frank Metlow Spokane Tribe of Indians 2017
Chris Marklund National Association of Counties 2017
Edgar Ruiz Council of State Governments-WEST Continuous
Lou Swanson Colorado State University Extension 2016
Glen Whipple University of Wyoming Extension 2015


Don E. Albrecht, Director

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) and Rethinking Rural: Global Community and Economic Development in the Small Town West (2014).

Betsy H. Newman, Assistant Director

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.