University Affairs

Rich Etchberger: Award Winning Professor and Selfless Statewide Leader

By Marcus Jensen |

USU Interim Vice President for Statewide Campuses Rich Etchberger (left) poses for a commencement photo with his wife Lianna (right) and daughter Molly at her graduation from the Caine College of Arts in 2022. Etchberger announced his retirement at the end of December. (Source: Rich Etchberger)

VERNAL, Utah — After nearly 30 years as a wildlife science professor, cutting-edge researcher, and later as a university administrator and leader, Rich Etchberger has announced his retirement at the end of December. After serving for 21 years as a professor at Utah State University Uintah Basin and seven years as vice provost, including the final 18 months as interim vice president for Statewide Campuses, Etchberger leaves behind an immeasurable impact on countless students and fellow employees.

“It has been my pleasure to serve the wonderful students and to work with the amazing individuals during my nearly 30 years at Utah State University,” Etchberger said. “I love this university and the mission it serves. It is hard to believe this has come because I have enjoyed every minute of it and the time has flown by. Thank you to all who have joined me along this journey.”

Etchberger will officially retire on December 31. A farewell message board has been created so that faculty, staff, and students who have interacted with him may leave messages of thanks and congratulations. Well-wishers can post on the board by visiting

“Rich is the epitome of excellence, both as a faculty member and as a leader,” said Pamela Dupin-Bryant, vice provost for Statewide Campuses. “Throughout his three decades of service, Rich has had a positive impact on the lives of countless individuals and has been a champion for providing educational opportunities throughout the state of Utah. He cares deeply about students, faculty, and communities.”

Etchberger was hired to the USU Uintah Basin faculty in 1995, in addition to his wife Lianna, who also served as an adjunct lecturer in the department of biology. Early on, he established the Wildlife Ecology and Management program in the Uintah Basin region and developed industry partnerships that supported career outcomes for students. Etchberger earned a bachelor’s in ecology from Unity College in Maine followed by a master’s and doctorate in wildlife ecology from the University of Arizona.

Etchberger’s passion for mentoring undergraduates, particularly post-traditional students, led him to his career at USU Uintah Basin. It was here that he dedicated himself to inspiring his students to make an impact on natural resources and the economy at the small, rural campus located in the heart of Utah’s energy development corridor in northeastern Utah. He was passionate about engaging students and created videos for his YouTube channel well before it became the platform it’s become today.

Throughout his teaching years, Etchberger was awarded many accolades, including the 2014 Undergraduate Research Mentor of the Year for the College of Natural Resources and the 2011 Professor of the Year at USU Uintah Basin. No accolade was more prestigious than Etchberger being named the 2015 Carnegie Professor of the Year for the state of Utah by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education.

“Rich Etchberger is a pioneer in Statewide Campuses for his innovative teaching at Utah State across the full breadth of course types, from field experiences in natural resources to large enrollment classes,” said USU Provost Larry Smith. “Many of Rich’s students went on to successful careers in natural resource professions inspired by his passion for the discipline and for giving students outstanding hands-on learning opportunities. He was a model faculty member who mentored colleagues not just in Statewide but throughout USU. In recent years, Rich took on major administrative roles and his abundance of common sense and passion for doing the right thing regardless of challenges made it a joy to work with him. His devotion to higher education and his wonderful success are sources of happiness and hope for the future of the profession.”

In January 2017, Etchberger joined the Statewide Campuses administration, being named vice provost. In this position, Etchberger worked with faculty members throughout the state, focusing on professional development. He also worked to expand the efforts of promoting student achievement and success in the Statewide Campus system, as well as engaging in student recruitment and retention.

In July 2022, Etchberger became interim vice president for Statewide Campuses, which was anticipated to only last for a few months until a permanent replacement could be found. However, Etchberger selflessly extended his service and continued to lead USU Statewide Campuses for 18 months.

“Dr. Etchberger’s contributions to the USU Statewide Campus system will have long-lasting impact,” Dupin-Bryant said. “He is a dear friend and mentor to many and will be missed. We wish him all the best as he begins his next great adventure.”

Rich and Lianna, now both retired, are looking forward to building their next chapter in Tucson, Arizona, where they first met and fell in love, and to be near their daughter, Molly (Caine College of the Arts BFA Printmaking 2022) who is in graduate school at the University of Arizona.

Etchberger and others release birds back into the wild. Etchberger joined the USU Uintah Basin campus in 1995, establishing the Wildlife Ecology and Management program in the Uintah Basin region. (Source: Rich Etchberger)

Etchberger contributed cutting edge research and expertise to his field and received several awards for teaching, including the 2015 Carnegie Professor of the Year for the state of Utah by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. Etchberger continued to teach at least one class each semester, even after joining USU Statewide leadership. (Source: Rich Etchberger)

Rich Etchberger (right) poses with USU Vice Provost for Statewide Campuses Pamela Dupin-Bryant at a Statewide Faculty Recognition dinner. Dupin-Bryant described Etchberger as a dear friend and mentor to many, including herself. (Credit: Levi Sim/USU)


Marcus Jensen
News Coordinator
University Marketing and Communications


Pam Dupin-Bryant
Vice Provost
Statewide Campuses

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