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Christopher D. Merrett

Christopher D. Merrett is Director of the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs (IIRA) and professor of Geography at Western Illinois University. He received his Ph.D. in Geography from the University of Iowa in 1994 with a focus on regional development and international trade. Before becoming director, Merrett’s duties at the IIRA included research, community outreach, and teaching. His current research focuses on cooperatives and community development. Merrett co-edited (with Norman Walzer) two books on this topic: A Cooperative Approach to Local Economic Development (2001) and Cooperatives and Local Development: Theory and Applications for the 21st Century (2003). He has also published in a range of journals on topics such as community development, value-added agriculture, cooperatives, and rural development.

Graduate Coordinator

Anne Heinze Silvis

Anne is Program Leader and Assistant Dean, Community and Economic Development, University of Illinois Extension, and serves on the Community and Economic Development Team for University of Illinois Extension. Her work focuses on topics including community development, leadership development, community assessment and group process skills.


Anne directs funded projects in leadership development and community planning. Anne is past chair of the Board of Directors for Rural Partners, the Illinois Rural Development Council; served on the Board of Directors and as Communications Chair for the International Community Development Society; and serves as the Book Review Editor for the journal, Community Development. Anne’s teaching includes Survey Design and Analysis in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning and Introduction to Leadership Theory. She is a member of the North Central Regional Center for Rural Development’s initiative, Foundations of Practice. Anne serves on various committees and task forces for the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences; University of Illinois Extension; and the State of Illinois. Anne is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin at Madison and earned an MBA from the University of Illinois.

Class Director - Year 1

Mallory Smith

Mallory Smith is the Community Development Director for the City of Columbus Junction, Iowa. It is a diverse and unique community with many enthusiastic volunteers making the community development job interesting and rewarding. The position is part time yet the job entails every topic covered at the CDI. She has a degree in Home Economics from the University of Iowa and an MBA from Western Illinois University. Her development experience includes two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Honduras; organizing an economic development office in Louisa County, Iowa; and serving as the Iowa coordinator for Buy Fresh Buy Local for four years.

Class Director - Year 2

Brian Moody

Brian Moody is the Executive Director of Tuscola Chamber & Economic Development a position he has held since 2005. His work has included downtown redevelopment, highway/ interstate retail expansion, small business retention and industrial development. Brian recently led the successful recruitment of Cronus Chemicals’ $1.5 billion manufacturing facility to the community. A native of Tuscola, Illinois, he studied political science at Illinois State University and holds an MBA from Eastern Illinois University. Brian is a graduate of Midwest CDI and serves as President of the 11-county East Central Illinois Development Council (ECIDC) and a member of the Illinois Development Council. He is an advocate for increased regional collaboration throughout Illinois and across borders. Brian has collaborated with the Strategic Doing design team led by Ed Morrison from the Purdue Center for Regional Development. Like most rural EDCs, Brian wears many hats in his community serving as Rotary President, Deputy Coroner for Douglas County, and as a volunteer firefighter for nearly 20 years.

Class Director - Year 3

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