Helping Cooperative Leaders Grow Professionally

The University of Missouri’s Graduate Institute of Cooperative Leadership (GICL) serves as a resource for the nation’s agricultural cooperatives, providing research, education and engagement programs that help cooperative leaders to grow professionally.

GICL creates a unique, reciprocal relationship with its stakeholders: connecting directly with the industry and using real-world experiences to develop new concepts and research ideas that are tested in a collaborative environment. Its research-based findings generate new theories and frameworks that become the basis for GICL’s educational programs. The institute then shares that learning with industry partners, students and academic peers through storytelling, presentations and case studies.

GICL’s programming includes:

  • The GICL Summer Institute, an annual training program that serves senior-level cooperative managers from across the country. Participants “acquaint themselves with the cooperative model, and develop the leadership and management skills required by the evolving global agricultural marketplace.” Specific topics addressed in the institute’s curriculum include strategic planning, board-management relations, executive development, cost analysis, conflict resolution and resource allocation.
  • The GICL Board Chair/CEO Conference, a biennial event that focuses on the shared responsibilities of cooperative boards and executive managers in developing governance, capital acquisition and member engagement strategies. The conference helps participants to enhance and improve their cooperatives and better serve their member-owners.
  • Customized executive education programs and workshops. GICL offers small group workshops that engage global academic partners and cooperative leaders. Participants address specific cooperative issues, drawing on research and developing practical solutions.
  • Student education. Graduate and undergraduate students learn from the work of GICL faculty and staff in the classroom and participate in the institute’s research and outreach programs.

For more than 30 years, Dr. Mike Cook has led GICL as the institute’s executive director. A recognized industry expert, Cook served as the CEO of an agricultural cooperative before pursuing his academic career and has served as a director on 40 boards. The Cooperative Hall of Fame inducted Dr. Cook into its ranks in 2012 for his contributions to the cooperative community.

Cook has been the driving force behind GICL, and it was obvious to the university’s leadership that his eventual retirement would have a significant impact on the institute.

“The university is committed to continued leadership in cooperative research and education programs, including GICL,” said Cook. “We know that it will be essential to create a seamless shift in leadership, so we began working on transition plans last year, including creation of the GICL Distinguished Fellowship. Our goal was to engage someone who could collaborate with the current GICL team, and prepare to serve as our executive director following my retirement.”

Efforts to raise funds for the new position received overwhelming support from the cooperative community, including a $150,000 commitment from CoBank. In January, Dr. Keri Jacobs joined the university as the GICL Distinguished Fellow. Dr. Jacobs, who previously served as the Iowa Institute for Cooperatives Endowed Economics Professor at Iowa State University, is an experienced educator, researcher and extension specialist. She has conducted training and analysis specific to the cooperative model, board governance and financial and equity management.

Dr. Mike Cook has led Graduate Institute of Cooperative Leadership as the institute’s executive director

“GICL’s educational programs are the cornerstone of the institute’s value,” said Jacobs. “In the very near future, our industry’s brightest emerging leaders may not have backgrounds in agriculture or hear about cooperatives in their formal education. They may not have an opportunity to explore cooperatives’ roles in shaping our societies and contributing to our economy. GICL will play an important role in continuing cooperative education and I am delighted to join them and to help expand the institute’s successes in talent development.”

“CoBank has been a long-time supporter of GICL,” said Cook. “The bank’s current and past CEOs have served on our board of trustees and more than 200 of its employees have attended our summer institute. I am personally grateful to CoBank for its support and I know it will continue to be an important resource for the university and for Dr. Jacobs in the years to come.”