Who We Are

Committed to Rural Intermountain Communities


The RECREATE Institute leverages Western’s School of Business to provide thought leadership, research, education, and partnerships for the renewal of resilient, inclusive, and sustainable rural economies in the Intermountain West.


The economies of the rural Intermountain West are a heterogeneous mosaic of industries that reflect the unique and iconic landscapes which surround these communities. The historic mainstay industries - mining, ranching, and timber, which have been the foundations of these economies and community identities - are in transition. To thrive in the future, communities must come together to define an inclusive and sustainable economic future that builds on their unique strengths, identities, and the surrounding lands. Committed to the heritage of rural development, the RECREATE Institute envisions a future for the Intermountain West that honors our deep roots in these magnificent wild places, a spirit of adventure and exploration, and livelihoods that support the life styles that we seek in living here.


​The RECREATE Institute believes the key to a vibrant, inclusive, and sustainable future for Rural Intermountain West Communities is realized through engagement and partnership with local stakeholders. Core to these values are:

  • Promoting social and ecological diversity and inclusivity in organizational activities.

  • Creating meaningful employment opportunities in mountain communities.

  • Nurturing ethical leaders and organizations to support commerce and the outdoor industry.

  • Viewing public lands as a foundation of Western livelihoods, well-being, and identity.

  • Encouraging investment in local entrepreneurs that supports these values.

  • Supporting initiatives that reduce barriers to rural entrepreneurship.


​Western Colorado University's School of Business

Western Colorado University, located in Gunnison, CO, has a long standing commitment to understanding and addressing the unique challenges of rural economic development with organizations such as the ICELab@Western and the Center for Public Land. The RECREATE Institute was developed from a growing body of research that points to two ideas: successful rural economic development cannot be addressed as a monolith, but rather through thoughtful, localized strategies and that the most effective development takes a holistic approach that incorporates the region’s economic strengths and heritage.  The RECREATE Institute leverages Western’s School of Business and in particular the Outdoor Industry MBA to address solutions for more sustainable and resilient economies in the intermountain west so that these communities are more prosperous.

Taryn Mead, PhD

Taryn is an Assistant Professor in Western's School of Business. She is a sustainability, innovation and management scholar whose research focuses on the interface between corporate strategies and socio-ecological systems. This includes subjects such as systems of production and consumption, sustainability-oriented innovation, circular economy, biomimicry, and the role of corporations in sustainable development. She also has expertise in creativity for sustainability among business, design and engineering professionals in interdisciplinary settings. 

Scott Borden, PhD

Scott is the Director of the Outdoor Industry MBA and an Assistant Professor in Western Colorado University's School of Business. His research is informed by practical experiences such as serving on the Board of Directors for a Benefit Corporation Certified Investment Bank, as the marketing director for an international outdoor education company, and owning his own business which has consulted with organizations including B-Lab and the Access Fund. In addition, he serves on several local committees invested in Gunnison's sustainable growth.

Sally E Hays, PhD

Sally, a Professor of Economics as well as Graduate Faculty for Western's Outdoor Industry MBA, has taught at Western since 2004. Her research focuses on economic incentive structures for groundwater protection, energy efficiency programs, and the tourism economy.

Taylor Schultz

Taylor is a 3+2 student through the Clark School of Environment and Sustainability and completing her first year of Master's in Environmental Management. In her time at Western, she has been a part of Omicron Delta Kappa and worked to start the Western Solar Society, a club focusing on renewable energy projects on campus. She is the current RECREATE Institute AmeriCorps Vista and hopes to focus on innovative ways to address sustainable growth in the Gunnison Valley. 

Skyeler Smith

Skyeler was born and raised in Northern Colorado and has always had a passion for helping others and being outdoors. She graduated from Western Colorado University in May 2020 with a Bachelor's degree in Business Administration with emphases in Finance and Marketing and a Psychology minor. During her time at Western, Skyeler started the club, "Women at Western" which supported women's growth and inclusion in their professional aspirations.  Skyeler is involved with local volunteer initiatives and committees in Gunnison, CO and is motivated by bringing the community together through recreation, arts, business, and food security.



"(Volunteers in Service to America) members bring passion and perseverance where the need is greatest: to organizations that help eradicate poverty. AmeriCorps VISTA members serve as a catalyst for change, living and working alongside community members to meet our nation’s most pressing challenges and advance local solutions."

"Based in the center of campus at Western Colorado University, the ICELab bridges community assets, from the energy of the students and residents to the growing businesses and government stakeholders throughout the Western Slope."