The Cooperative Business Model

Wyoming’s Rural Electric Cooperatives Initiate New Class at University Of Wyoming:
The Cooperative Business Model

University of Wyoming (UW) students have already begun signing up for a new class in the fall, called the Cooperative Business Model, and now the department head is wondering if he will need a larger venue.

“We’ve hardly started marketing it, and it’s already half full,” said Benjamin Rashford, department head of the UW Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics. Rashford had reserved a room for 30 students.

Rashford noted the class size to representatives of the Wyoming Rural Electric Association during a May 3 ceremony in Laramie announcing the class.

“We’re all very generous and give a lot of scholarships, but how much do [the recipients] know about co-ops and where they get the scholarships from?” said Shawn Taylor, executive director of the WREA. Taylor noted that the course is intended to help students learn what a cooperative is and how it works.

The Cooperative Business Model will educate students about the concept of member-ownership while analyzing functioning cooperatives such as electric cooperatives, credit unions, farmers’ co-ops, retailers and more.

The WREA, which consists of 11 utility cooperatives along with three generation and transmission cooperatives, provided $10,000 to fund the delivery of the course through the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. The class will be offered as a standard credited course for UW students this fall.


ABOUT THE CLASS: This course will acquaint students with the cooperative business model and encourage them to think critically about why co-ops emerge, how co-ops differ from other business structures and where the model can be applied to current economic, social and environmental issues. Students will also learn from guest speakers who are leading thinkers and employers in the co-op field.

Though currently listed as a 4000-level Ag Econ course, The Cooperative Business Model is appropriate for students at all levels and in any major. It will be taught Tuesday evenings during the fall semester at the University of Wyoming.


ABOUT THE INSTRUCTOR: Milton Geiger is an economist by training (M.S. from UW Dept. of Agricultural and Applied Economics) and currently works for the members of Poudre Valley Rural Electric Association, an electric cooperative in northern Colorado. He spent over a dozen years working in Wyoming for UW Extension and USDA Rural Development. He is a past Board chair of Big Hollow Food Co-op.