Our First 60 years of service to cooperatives in Wisconsin and Beyond written. background photo of international cooperators sitting on steps of the Lowell Center in 1974. They attended the Co-op Management Workshop


We are fortunate to engage with a diverse network of dedicated and passionate cooperators collaborating together to communicate, engage, and demonstrate the cooperative difference in communities. Here are a few quotes from fellow cooperators regarding the impact of the UW Center for Cooperatives on their cooperatives and organizations.

Coming to UWCC at a Fulbright visiting researcher was one of the best experiences of my life. Being there helped me finish my PhD, get a deep understanding of the cooperative sector and meet great people along the way.

This truly is a special place, where good people do amazing work.

Jernej Stromajer, Ljubljana, Slovenia

What UWCC brings that no one else has is its focus on agriculture and consumer cooperatives. UWCC is the only university-based center in the U.S. that studies and supports all forms of cooperative business and it has developed a strong reputation for its programming amongst state, national, and international stakeholders that is worth preserving. The competitive funding that it receives is a testament of the UWCC embodying an entrepreneurial spirit that a modern university is encouraging and nurturing.

Dr. Michael Boland, Professor, Applied Economics, University of Minnesota

I was director of University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives from June 1990 to January 2003. It truly was an enjoyable and rewarding experience. During my first five years the Center offered international cooperative education, a thirteen week program for international students supported by USAID. This was a valuable experience for me getting to know these students and sharing with them how the cooperatives could best address their economic needs. I also was involved in director training, employee education, board evaluations, assisting cooperatives in strategic planning, revising bylaws, considering mergers and offering workshops and conferences. Through these activities I got to know cooperative leaders, gain a further understanding of the potential of cooperatives in addressing economic needs but also the challenges facing cooperatives.

Dr. Bob Cropp, former Executive Director, UW Center for Cooperatives

My first involvement with UWCC was in the early 1970s when I was a graduate student in sociology. I had just come back from the Peace Corps in Senegal and was intent on learning as much about cooperatives as I could. Mary Jean McGrath took me under her wing and helped me find readings, courses and faculty to help me on my way. With the help of Mary Jean and others affiliated with the Center, I completed my dissertation on farming cooperatives in Zambia in 1977.

My close working relationship with UWCC did not end there. Rod Nilsestuen, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Federation Cooperatives, I, as WFC’s Director of Cooperative Development, UWCC staff and affiliates, and others organized Cooperative Development Services in 1985. In the 28 years I worked for CDS as an employee and consultants, the Center was a close partner. I continue to value UWCC staff as a friends and collaborators.

E.G. Nadeau, Co-Director, The Cooperative Society

UWCC does an exemplary job of leveraging state resources with its external partners to extend the reach and impact of its work—not to mention the reputation of the UW. Our members in Wisconsin look to the Center for leadership in cooperative development; our members across the country look to the Center for thought leadership and research about how people can use the cooperative business model to build more inclusive local economies….Given the challenges that the Wisconsin and the country face related to inequity, climate, and the changing nature of work, the cooperative business model is more relevant today than ever. And more people are looking to cooperatives as a strategy to empower people in their businesses and economies. For people to be able capture this potential, they need the research and development expertise provided by the Center.

Doug O’Brien, President and CEO, National Cooperative Business Association

Organic Valley has been in existence for over 30 years, and UWCC has been a valuable resource to us for most of our existence. In the early days we took advantage of some of the excellent training and education programs UWCC has offered, as well as resources on the formulation and governance of cooperatives. This has been true of both our Board members and of some of our staff. Additionally, the long history of co-op centered research has been valuable to us. Speaking in my role as part of the NCBA Board, I also know that the work of UWCC has not only state implications, but national ones, as well. In particular, I want to point out that some of the research done by UWCC has no other parallel, and it is extremely valuable to NCBA and to the co-op community in general. For decades, UWCC has been a nationally recognized leader in the cooperative movement.

Jerry McGeorge, Former Executive Vice President of People, Organic Valley/CROPP Cooperative

Share Your Story

As part of our 60th anniversary celebration, we are asking cooperators to share their connection with UWCC. How has UWCC impacted you, your cooperative, or your community? What is your cooperative story? How has your co-op improved the lives of members?

Share Your Story