Oregon State University, as Oregon’s land grant university, has focused on rural issues since 1868 through its academic programs, Agricultural Experiment Stations and Extension Service Offices. In 2001, OSU created the Rural Studies Program within the Agricultural and Resource Economics Department of the College of Agricultural Sciences. Emery Castle was appointed as the first director and upon his retirement Bruce Weber was appointed director. In 2005, OSU made a significant strategic investment in the Rural Studies Program in order to enhance the capacity of the program to serve the needs of rural people and places.

The Rural Studies Program is multi-disciplinary and teaches classes, conducts research and provides extended education with faculty from many colleges at OSU. As of 2013, the Rural Studies Program's multi-disciplinary program is housed within the Department of Applied Economics at OSU.