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2022 Elroy Webster Cooperative Studies Scholarships Awarded

The 2022 Elroy Webster Cooperative Studies Scholarship recipients have been awarded. The recipients were announced at the 19th Annual Tom Lyon Family Leadership Symposium which was held during the Annual Meeting of Cooperative Network in La Crosse, Wisc., on November 10, 2022.

The following two scholarships are funded by the CHS Foundation:

Rev. Stephen Pitts, SJ PhD in Applied Economics University of Minnesota

Rev. Stephen Pitts, SJ is a Roman Catholic priest of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) and a PhD student in Applied Economics at the University of Minnesota. In 2006, he entered the Jesuits after completing bachelor’s degrees in Mathematics and Computer Science at the University of Oklahoma. Through his Jesuit training, he worked with Latin American migrants in Tijuana, Baja California; McAllen, Texas; and El Paso, Texas, where he served as Director of Religious Education at Sacred Heart Church after his ordination as a priest.

Many conversations with migrants from rural areas inspired Fr. Pitts to study agricultural value chains in Latin America in a more systematic way. During his theology studies at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, California, he concurrently completed a master’s in International and Development Economics at the University of San Francisco, where he wrote his thesis based on household surveys in summer 2017 that he conducted of members of an indigenous coffee cooperative in Chiapas, Mexico.

He returned to Chiapas for fieldwork with the same cooperative in summer 2022, where his team conducted follow-up surveys and price risk experiments with members of the same cooperative. He has also helped the cooperative build relationships with US Jesuit universities and hosted their graduate students, faculty, and staff for short and long-term visits. Since 2020, he has expanded his focus to include the Comparte network of Jesuit-sponsored agricultural development projects in Latin America, where he has visited projects in Colombia and Peru.

His work has been supported by the US Central Southern Province of the Society of Jesus, the Ignatian Center of Santa Clara University, and the Center for International Food and Agricultural Policy of the Department of Applied Economics at the University of Minnesota.

Elizabeth (Libby) Wilts Master of Business Administration (MBA) University of Iowa Tippie College of Business

Libby Wilts grew up on a farm near Kerkhoven, Minn., where she was a member of the Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg FFA chapter throughout junior high and high school. In eighth grade, she started growing soybeans; she now rents 55 acres and owns an additional 40 acres to farm.

Fully understanding the demands of crop production, she is grateful to be a member of Glacial Plains Cooperative in Murdock, Minn. and Farmers Co-op Oil Company in Clara City, Minn. where she purchases her inputs and sells her grain.

Since 2020, Libby has engaged in commodity hedging with CHS, and became a shareholder with Chippewa Valley Ethanol Cooperative in Benson, MN in 2021. In addition to her involvement in cooperatives through her farming enterprise and career, she has been active in Minnesota Farmers Union (MFU) and has served as a county delegate at the MFU State Convention, debating and creating the organization’s policy platform.

Libby graduated in 2019 from the University of Minnesota with a BS in Agricultural Communications and Marketing, minoring in Ag Business and Agronomy. She worked for Bayer Crop Science as a Field Sales Representative for three years before transitioning to her current position as a Business Development Project Manager with CHS, Inc. Libby plays a unique role within CHS, providing leadership and guidance to local CHS cooperatives as they strategize short-term and long-term plans for their businesses. In conjunction with her CHS career, Libby is working toward her Master of Business Administration (MBA) through the University of Iowa.

Libby realizes the significance of cooperatives for her farm and will continue to be part of the cooperative business model through her career, her farm, and as an aspiring future board member.

An additional award recipient this year has been funded by donor support:

Gabriel Munoz Master in Business Administration Delta State University

Gabriel Munoz is originally from La Paz, Bolivia, and came to the United States on a soccer and tennis scholarship through Shaw University. Proud of the balance he managed between school, sports, and as an intern with Carolina Common Enterprise as he completed a Bachelor of Business Administration, Gabriel felt that the opportunity to compete at the highest level in the sports while gaining experience in cooperative development was a dream come true.

Gabriel finds that the values of Carolina Common Enterprise (CCE) are closely in-line with his personal beliefs, and he has great respect for the ties between the organization and cooperative development in North and South Carolina. Through close alliances with the community, he believes CCE is able to better understand and serve their clientele.

Gabriel is currently pursuing a Master in Business Administration at Delta State University in order to provide technical assistance to communities with potential to develop and maximize impact through the cooperative model. By combining technical human support with people’s desire to improve, Gabriel moves closer to his dream of dynamic, inclusive, and sustainable economies, in which people live full lives, free from poverty or hunger.

Congratulations to all of the 2022 Recipients!

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