Generations reunite to celebrate life‑changing student dairy co‑op

Large group of CUDS participants outside Ensminger Pavilion.
Some of the more than 80 alumni, family members, students, and faculty of WSU's Cooperative University Dairy Students, or CUDS, reunite Jan. 26 at Ensminger Pavilion.

By Seth Truscott, College of Agricultural, Human, Natural Resource Sciences

Three generations of students, instructors and alumni of Washington State University’s Cooperative University Dairy Students came together on Jan. 26, to mark the 41st year and first reunion for this life‑changing program.

In Cooperative University Dairy Students (CUDS), WSU students raise milk and manage their own herd of cows and calves at the university’s Knott Dairy Farm. Milk from the herd goes to the WSU Creamery for Ferdinand’s ice cream and Cougar Gold cheese.

Fitting in dawn and evening milkings and midnight calvings with their studies and involvement on campus, students themselves gain an on‑the‑job education that helps power the Northwest dairy industry and grants them skills for life.

Personal connection with Animal Sciences

André‑Denis Wright, dean of the College of Agricultural, Human, Natural Resource Sciences, joined alumni to commemorate the occasion and share his academic journey. As a scientist, Wright helped dairy farmers, studying the microbiology of ruminants to increase digestive efficiency in dairy cattle.

WSU Animal Sciences, he told members, is on track to be the largest major by student population in the college. Wright welcomed the involvement of CUDS alumni in moving the program forward, and thanked cooperative members, friends and faculty for attending, reviving memories and renewing friendships.

In CUDS, “you learn a lot more than you realize,” said Wright. “You’re gaining huge experience, learning about yourself, about teamwork, time management, and gaining skills that help you when you go out into your chosen professions.”

While alumni have gone on to leadership roles, jobs in business and industry, or academic careers, “you are part of the CUDS family,” Wright said.

Proud of accomplishments

At the reunion, the current class of students and faculty met founding faculty member Joe Hillers, 1978 student charter member Mike Wedam, and dozens of others who lived the CUDS experience and grew from it.

“I’ve taught lots of classes, as you know, and this is the best teaching program that I know,” said Hillers, who recounted how the early members built and improved their herd and practices. In the decades since, more than 300 graduates of CUDS took their hard‑won skills to all aspects of the dairy industry, and many fields beyond.

“You students did a super job — you need to be so proud!” said Hillers, who received a standing ovation from attendees for his legacy.

At the reunion, Hillers and current advisor Joe Harrison encouraged support for WSU’s Friends of Animal Science Development Fund. Gifts given for CUDS will help students take part in hands‑on industry experiences, and support scholarships.

Two older founders of CUDS with two current CUDS leaders.
CUDS past, present and future, including 1978 charter student member Mike Wedam and Emeritus Prof. Joe Hillers (l‑r center) join outgoing and current CUDS presidents Morgan Young and Chris Mandella.

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