Utah State University has named the Vice President of Industry Relations for Dairy West as the new Western Dairy Center director.

New WDC Director Eric Bastian would be replacing Donald McMahon. Bastian said the center is currently working on multiple projects to help them reach their goals for the future.

“It’s a pretty ambitious slate of activities that we’re onto,” Bastian said.

Established in 1987, The WDC performs research and workforce development and trains younger generations in the technical aspects of dairy products. Currently, the center has about 50 students working with 17 faculty members in the dairy industry.

“All of this is to do directed research that our industry identifies as needed to be done,” Bastian said, “at the same time to progress these young people through the program so that when they graduate the industry is ready to hire them, if they come in and work for the regional industry that has been growing quite rapidly, the last 20 years.”

Although the WDC and the dairy industry seem to be growing today, according to Bastian, the center started to struggle in the late '90s and the early 2000s. He said by 2005-'06 the number of students interested in the industry were almost gone.

To help revitalize the industry, Bastian worked with McMahon in developing the Building University and Industry Linkages through Learning and Discovery, or BUILD, Program with the purpose of training students in the dairy industry.

“This is a workforce development effort by and large, but it’s tied to our research efforts because of the technical nature of what we do when we make cheese, ice cream and other products,” Bastian said.

Since it was established in 2013, the BUILD Program has helped build a network with faculty members from different universities including USU, Brigham Young University, Washington State University, Oregon State University and University of Idaho to work with undergraduate and graduate students within the Western region.

“I was able to work with professors who were just dyed-in-the-wool dairy researchers,” Bastian said. “It was fantastic education for me and really prepared me to work in the dairy industry which I’d done through all of my life.”

As the new WDC director, Bastian and the WDC team look to the future and hope to have the center become one of the prominent dairy research areas in the United States.

“We also have as a goal to be able to produce the innovation for the industry that will be required to sustain the industry going into the next 20 years,” Bastian said.

Bastian said in order to reach these goals, the center will need new faculty to continue to train a younger generation for the large and growing regional dairy industry.

“Along with supplying the high quality dairy products for the region that we live in, this industry is a place where people can look to for employment,” Bastian said. “There are a lot of opportunities that the community may not be aware of that exist regionally in this industry.”

For more information on the WDC, visit the WDC website at westerndairycenter.usu.edu/about.

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