Founders Vision

The document establishing the Cooperative Chair, in the Department of Resource Economics and Environmental Sociology (formerly Rural Economy) at the University of Alberta specifies the three main purposes that underlie the creation of this chair:

To build on the already strong bridge which links the Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry to the co-operatives, boards, commissions and other group marketing entities of the province in the broad area of extension education in co-operative marketing and business management. It is expected that these linkages will reinforce an understanding of the history, evolution and current issues relating to group marketing organizations and activities, as well as aiding in the transmission of new educational activities.
To strengthen the research arm of the Faculty and to enhance the flow of useful information to the co-operatives, boards, commissions, other group marketing entities, and to the scientific world;
To expand teaching capabilities within the Faculty to ensure that both undergraduate and graduate students benefit from the expanding knowledge in the area of marketing strategies and business management.

Any changes in the purpose, objectives and specific emphasis of the Chair over time over time come from the industry itself through the Co-operative Chair Council. The research program of the Chair is specified to involve supervising graduate students in the area of agricultural marketing and business management. The holder of the chair contributes to the teaching of undergraduate students registered in the joint Agricultural Business Management Program in the Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry and the Faculty of Business as well as contributing to teaching other applied economics courses in the Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry. It is expected that graduates from this program compete to take their place as management professionals in cooperatives, marketing boards and other marketing entities throughout Canada. This facet of undergraduate and graduate education is an established tradition in Rural Economy and the Faculty, but the Chair provides further support and focus on marketing and business management for these educational activities.

he added research thrust has a significant influence in contributing to the agricultural marketing and agricultural business management undergraduate and graduate programs in the Faculty and Department. A strong research program is the backbone of strong educational programs, but to achieve strength in both teaching and research, qualified professional human resources are needed; this is supported by the Chair.

The other main purpose of the Chair is to intensify relations between the wider agricultural marketing and management community and the Faculty. The Chair program is expected to contribute to seminars, workshops, and conferences designed to serve particular needs in the wider agricultural community. In doing this, the Chair is expected to cooperate with existing continuing educational institutions such as industry associations, REDA and the University of Alberta Extension Faculty. Increased emphasis on continuing education and training is a goal pursued by the Department and Faculty. It is a key element in building and maintaining strong linkages between the University and the wider agricultural community.

Appointments to the position of Co-operative Chair serve under the guidance of the Co-operative Chair Council and are responsible to the Chair of the Department of Rural Economy on an operational basis. The agreement that governs the Chair program provides that the Co-operative Chair Council will consist of eight members from the group of industry contributors, with seven members from the University, and be chaired by a member of the group of industry contributors. The Council meets at least once per year and serves a number of purposes including review of research and extension programs, identification of major issues in need of research and study and outline of the activities for the coming year and beyond. The Council Executive consists of six persons from the Council, including the Council Chair, the Chair of the Department of Rural Economy and two more people from each of the groups of industry and University Council members. The Executive meets several times each year with the Co-operative Chair-holder to facilitate Chair operations, including establishment of contact with industry, support of workshops, seminars, research activities and other programs, and/or supplemental fund raising.

The Council of the Cooperative Chair has been chaired, successively, by Ed Schultz (Alberta Pork), Gerry Kemp (FCL) and Orval Sorkan (UFA) and, most recently by Greg Smith (ATGMB). The other industry members of the Executive currently are Fern Hansen (FCL) and Ken Hoppins (UFA). Early fund-raising for the Cooperative Chair in Agricultural Marketing and Business was spearheaded through the REDA Advisory Council and a sub-committee consisting of Howard Haney, Ed Schultz, John Melicher and Murray Hawkins. This led, by 1993, to an endowment of some $1.6 million, provided by Alberta cooperatives and group marketing organizations, with matching funding through the University of Alberta, supported also by a guarantee in-kind and related support from the Department of Rural Economy. By 1993 these funds were transferred to the University of Alberta and the agreed structure to advise and guide the Cooperative Chair, which involves the joint Industry-University Council and Executive, was developed.

Further development of the vision and organizational model for the Co-operative Chair was pursued by the inaugural Executive and Council, led by Ed Schultz, which sought advice, in early 1994, on alternate models of Cooperative Chair programs through discussions with Michael Cook (University of f Missouri), Ron Knutson (Texas A & M), and Murray Fulton (Centre for the Study of Cooperatives, University of Saskatchewan).

By 1994, earnings from the endowment fund were sufficient to commence a position search. The first Co-operative Chair-holder to be appointed was Brian Oleson, of the Canadian Wheat Board, who committed to the position on a short-term basis in 1995 to lead a process of further definition of industry and university expectations of the Chair. The first longer-term holder of the Chair was Harvey Brooks, previously of the CWB, who held the position of Co-operative Chair from 1996 until he resigned, effective June 1999, to move into industry employment. Following an extensive search for an internationally recognized senior-level Co-operative Chair-holder, Ellen Goddard has been appointed to this Chair and commences her position in late December 2000.

Currently the market value of the endowment account is $4.262 million (September 2000). Each Chair-holder has engaged in a variety of extension and outreach activities with Alberta group marketing institutions. The Chair program has contributed to educational activities relevant to its purpose by providing for the Rural Economy course on Co-operatives and Alternative Business Institutions. A number of graduate students, both in Agricultural Economics and in Rural Sociology, have been associated with research allied to the Cooperative Chair program; a related graduate fellowship program has been put into effect. Numbers of research activities were undertaken by the previous longer-term Chair holder, both individually and collaboratively with other faculty members of Rural Economy. The output from these activities is continuing and is seen in undergraduate and graduate student training, research papers in peer reviewed journals and industry extension activities. The Co-operative Chair program is well positioned to contribute to education, research and outreach in Agricultural Marketing and Business which is relevant to co-operatives and group marketing entities that face the challenges of the new millennium.