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K-State Today

February 1, 2013

Preserving a slice of rural life: Student interns teaming up to chronicle Kansas co-ops

Submitted by Communications and Marketing

A grant to two Kansas State University professors will put student interns to work compiling a database on agricultural cooperatives in Kansas.

Brian Briggeman, associate professor of agricultural economics and director of the Arthur Capper Cooperative Center, and Bonnie Lynn-Sherow, associate professor of history and director of the Chapman Center for Rural Studies, received a $24,500 grant from the CHS Foundation for the project "Chronicling Cooperatives in Kansas." The grant, facilitated by the Kansas State University Foundation, provides support for two undergraduate interns -- one from the College of Agriculture and one from the College of Arts and Sciences -- to develop a comprehensive database of resources related to the history of agricultural cooperatives in the state of Kansas.

Additionally, interns will conduct several videotaped interviews with key members of the cooperative community throughout the state. Each interns receives $6,000 and travel expenses during the grant period from April 1-Dec. 1.

The idea of creating a centralized database started with Donn Teske, president of the Kansas Farmers Union. The organization hired an intern in summer 2012 to start the process of cataloging the materials related to the history of cooperatives in Kansas that are in the K-State Libraries' special collections. 

The effort inspired a more ambitious task, that of cataloguing the on-site records and collections of large and small cooperatives throughout the state. Briggeman knew that this was just the kind of project that would appeal to CHS, the largest agricultural cooperative in the U.S. CHS has deep ties to the state and a record of previous donations to Kansas State University.

The partnership between Briggeman and Lynn-Sherow was a natural for them both.

"Brian knows the cooperative community in Kansas inside and out," Lynn-Sherow said. "He has all the contacts to make this a successful effort."

Briggeman knew where to go and who to talk to, but needed the help of the Chapman Center for Rural Studies to bring it all together in a searchable database. 

"Bonnie's track record in telling rural Kansas history is phenomenal. Working with her to chronicle Kansas cooperatives will take this project to heights otherwise unattainable," Briggeman said.

Kris Boone, professor and head of the department of communications and agricultural education, consulted on the video component of the project.

"We only just started doing video production in the Chapman Center, so we needed some guidance. We are fortunate K-State has all the expertise we need right here on campus," Lynn-Sherow said.

Students interested in applying for an internship need to be enrolled in either the College of Agriculture or the College of Arts and Sciences. Competitive applicants will be familiar with rural communities, have a strong interest in Kansas history, demonstrated research skills and a high level of attention for detail. The deadline for applications is Friday, Feb. 22. For more information about how to apply, visit http://www.k-state.edu/history/chapman or http://www.accc.ksu.edu.