Our Team

For communications and PR inquiries, email Julee Stephenson | Director of Communications

For data and market research inquiries, email Martha Thomas | Data Coordinator

For fundraising inquiries, email Ali Eccleston | Managing Director of Development 

CSU Office of Engagement & Extension Leadership

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Kathay Rennels | Interim Vice President for Engagement and Extension

Kathay Rennels works to advance collaborative networks across the state and create economic development opportunities. She has significant experience fostering public and private partnerships in regional and rural workforce development across the state. Rennels previously served three terms as a Larimer County Commissioner and is co-leader of the Food and Agriculture Key Industry Network for the State of Colorado. She has served as special advisor to the Chancellor of the CSU System on rural-urban issues since 2019. She was named interim vice president for engagement and Extension in July 2022.

Rennels helped initiate “The Value Chain of Colorado Agriculture” project, released in March 2013, co-authored the November 2014 follow-up study, “The Emergence of an Innovation Cluster in the Agricultural Value Chain along Colorado’s Front Range”, and planned and implemented the recent “Advancing the Agriculture Economy Through Innovation” summit held at CSU. Rennels has served on the Northern Colorado Economic Development Council, Community Foundation of Northern Colorado, El Pomar Foundation, The Matthews House, Larimer County United Way, and Colorado Youth Conservation Association.

Lindsey Shirley | Associate Vice President for Engagement and Extension and Deputy Director for CSU Extension

Lindsey Shirley, Ph.D. serves as Associate Vice President of Engagement & Extension and Deputy Director of CSU Extension at Colorado State University. Whether in Wichita, Kansas, or Rome, Italy, she has shared innovations in teaching and learning implemented into secondary, post-secondary, and Extension learning environments worldwide.

As a professor, Lindsey found herself exploring innovative strategies for the land grant university and higher education to respond to the growing outdoor recreation economy. This investigation led her to develop the first-of-its-kind Bachelor of Science degree in Outdoor Product Design and Development at Utah State University. Today, Lindsey’s focus is on the intersection of the needs of Coloradans and the programs convened by CSU Extension and the Office of Engagement and Extension. In 2021, the Academy of Community Engagement Scholarship recognized her work with communities by inducting her into the Academy.

Before coming to CSU, Lindsey served as Associate Vice Provost for Extension and Engagement and Associate Director of the Extension Service at Oregon State University. During her time at OSU, she worked closely with the governor’s office to affect change on a statewide level that has been critical and transformational in fulfilling the First Gentleman of Oregon Dan Little and Governor Kate Brown’s mission to improve the mental and physical health of Oregonians.

Read the full announcement of Shirley’s appointment with CSU.

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John Tracy | Director, Colorado Water Center

John Tracy serves as the director of the Colorado Water Center, joining the Center in July 2022 from Texas A&M where he served as director of the Texas Water Resources Institute.

Tracy has spent most of his career at land-grant institutions, addressing water, land and environmental resources management issues, working with a diverse range of agencies and stakeholders. He has served in leadership positions at water institutes in Texas, Idaho, and Nevada, as well as on the boards of the American Water Resources Association and the National Institutes for Water Resources.

His approach to engagement starts with research questions and activities co-created with communities and agencies to understand concerns and knowledge gaps. In his work with students, he believes the most significant outcomes result when students are prepared to address the highest priorities that society is facing.

Tracy holds a Ph.D. in Engineering and MS in Civil Engineering, both from the Univ. of California at Davis, and a BS in Civil Engineering from CSU.

Read the full announcement of Tracy’s appointment at the Colorado Water Center.

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Beth Conover | Executive Director, Salazar Center for North American Conservation

Beth Conover has spent her entire career working at the intersection of environmental policy and community development. She comes to the Salazar Center from the Gates Family Foundation, where she worked for 8 years, most recently as Senior Vice President for Natural Resources and Community Development. Prior, she worked on community conservation program development in diverse places including Providence, Rhode Island; Zimbabwe, Southern Africa; and the Colorado Plateau.

Born in Denver, she was Director of Parks and Environment for the redevelopment of the former Stapleton International Airport and a senior advisor and founder of Greenprint Denver for Mayor John Hickenlooper. She is the editor and co-author of How the West was Warmed: Climate Change in the Rocky Mountain West, a collection of essays published by Fulcrum Press in 2010.

Faculty and Campus Key Contacts

Patti Schmitt | Director, Community Development

Patti Schmitt serves as the community development director for the Office of Engagement and Extension, working closely with Colorado communities to address complex social, health, economic and safety challenges. Additionally, she is the director of a unique leadership program called the Family Leadership Training Institute (FLTI) of Colorado at CSU Extension. FLTI is a unique leadership program that targets community members traditionally underserved and focuses on bridging the gap between decision makers and community members so that communities can better learn, plan and act together. 

Dawn Thilmany | Director of Engaged Scholarship

Dr. Dawn Thilmany, Associate Department Head and Professor in the Department of Agriculture & Resource Economics, holds a half-time joint appointment with the Office of Engagement and Extension. In this role she collaborates with Community & Economic Development and with the Director of the Regional Economic Development Institute (REDI) to advance CSU initiatives in community and economic development.  She is an Extension Economist Specialist, and is working in partnership with multiple CSU divisions to develop onboarding and best practices for new scholars, staff and students for applying their field expertise into engaged research opportunities. 

Field Contacts

Contact Your Local Extension Office 

With offices serving every county in Colorado, CSU Extension is local wherever you are. Get in contact with your local Extension office today.