TAMU-CC RELLIS Student Forms Group in Support of Worker-Owned Co-Op Businesses

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Grant Berger, a Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi student at the RELLIS Campus in Bryan, Texas, has started a student organization dedicated to supporting the worker-owned cooperative business model.

“I started The RELLIS Co-Op Business Organization because I am a believer in democracy in the workplace,” said Berger, a business administration major in the College of Business and president of the new organization. “This club is a good opportunity to learn more about that idea in an inclusive and collaborative setting. I saw an opportunity to join with like-minded students to explore ways to increase happiness and productivity at work.”

DaNeetra Walker, Manager of Enrollment Services at the RELLIS Campus, is the adviser for the student organization.

“The business model is evolving,” Walker said. “It is imperative for students to understand this transition as they enter the professional workforce. At RELLIS, we’re enhancing what students learn in the classroom by promoting self-management skills and leadership development. Employers seek candidates with initiative and drive. This organization will produce well-rounded and confident leaders and I am honored to serve as adviser.”

Looking beyond the normal experiences a college student may experience is consistent with the innovative spirit at RELLIS, the first integrated education, research, and testing institution in the state of Texas. The educational programs at RELLIS focus on collaboration beyond institutional affiliation, and the campus serves as a model for the future of higher education by cultivating powerful opportunities for students.

“I’m thrilled to see Grant seize the initiative and assume the challenge of leading this student organization,” said Christopher Marrs, adjunct faculty member in the College of Business. “I am confident that Grant will lead his team by applying the principles of transformational, servant, authentic, and ethical leadership we emphasize in my RELLIS Leadership & Managerial Effectiveness class (MGMT 4320).” 

Berger was attracted to attend TAMU-CC RELLIS because it is a new model in higher education.

“RELLIS offers great benefits, like Blinn College’s permanent presence on campus, a great student engagement team, and much more,” Berger said. “I like the fact that I am able to live in Bryan/College Station and still receive the same education I was getting my first two years at TAMU-CC in Corpus Christi.”

Berger plans to graduate in 2022.

“My post-graduate plans are to gain real world management and business analysis experience in preparation for my own projects; I want to help struggling businesses re-structure their companies from traditional models into worker cooperatives,” Berger said. “There is strong evidence that worker cooperatives that formed from the restructuring of traditional businesses are the most successful.”

Members of The RELLIS Co-Op Business Organization plan to study what makes a worker co-op unique, examples of co-ops today, and the history of the modern co-op movement.

Berger noted that there are four main types of cooperatives as they are commonly understood: consumer cooperatives, producer cooperatives, purchasing cooperatives, and worker cooperatives.

“This organization was founded to study and promote the values and structure of the worker cooperative,” Berger said. “This form of cooperative is highlighted by the idea of ‘one worker, one vote.’ The workers own the business to which they provide their labor. In a worker cooperative business model, decisions are made either directly by the workers through democratic vote, or by an elected leader/board of directors.”

Berger said the most common type of cooperative in the United States today is the producer cooperative model.

“The worker cooperative model is popular in Europe and South America, and is growing quickly here in the States,” he said.

Berger is hoping other Islander students at the RELLIS campus with a shared interest consider joining the organization.

“If students engage in our organization, we can encourage outside-the-box thinkers and problem solvers,” Berger said. “Our community of students will be determined to go beyond just identifying problems, but asking what can be done to solve them.”