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Employees and their companies benefit from applied thesis project

By Mary Bowen, Kansas State University

 

Many students are apprehensive beginning the process of writing a master’s thesis. However, the Master of Agribusiness (MAB) program at Kansas State University encourages students to take a different approach to the thesis project. One of the goals of the MAB program is to provide food, animal health and agribusiness professionals strategies for making informed decisions based on an understanding of current issues and analytical and problem-solving skills to implement solutions to firm-level problems. The thesis project is an opportunity to apply those tools to a company-related issue.

“It was a real pleasure to be a part of the MAB program at Kansas State. Going through the thesis process was especially valuable, not only for me to have the chance to practice some of the business concepts I have learned through the program, but I also have been able to use it to give something back to my employer,” Marvin Goertz, Technical Services Manager for Canyon Bakehouse said.

In the third year of the MAB program, students identify a firm-related problem they will solve through the development of a professional thesis. The professional thesis is somewhat different than a traditional research-based thesis and gives students opportunity to apply skills learned throughout the first two years of the program.

“My thesis from the Master of Agribusiness program at K-State has been invaluable to me and my company. It allowed me to utilize what I had learned over the previous classes to analyze a real-life situation facing my company. That kind of in-depth analysis gave me insight into my business that I hadn’t had before,” said Cargill Supply Chain Specialist Katlin Hall.

Goertz and Hall analyzed pieces of their companies’ supply chains and were able to make suggestions that lowered costs substantially. Not all students realize an immediate financial benefit from the thesis, but the knowledge gained gives students a competitive advantage in the industry.

“My thesis motivated me to delve into an area within my industry that I wasn’t initially familiar with and I expect will open new doors for my career. The research and final thesis project gave me the validation I needed to participate in discussions with industry and government representatives,” Dana Brooks, Sr. Vice President, Government Relations of the National Milk Producers Federation said.

The MAB program surveys its students after they complete the program to gather information including if the thesis was valuable. The program also gets feedback from employers regarding the thesis project. One Division Sales Manager with John Deere Company responded about his employee’s MAB experience and thesis noting “the skills acquired through the MAB program have enabled him to interact with dealers on a strategic business level. His MAB thesis regarding dealer location strategy was very timely. We have been doing a lot of work in this area and his studies provided him with a unique perspective on this topic.”

For those who are still apprehensive about joining a master’s program with a thesis requirement, Brooks offer this advice, “The initial process of writing a thesis is daunting, but if you choose a topic you are interested in as you learn more about it, the writing become easier. Don’t quit writing even when you think you have nothing to say--a rough draft quickly turns into a final project.”

MAB students earn a fully accredited master’s degree through distance education. The conveniences of distance education make going back to school without career interruption possible, even for those in jobs requiring travel. Course work is done through the Internet, DVDs, podcasts and interactive online recitation sessions. Students also visit the K-State campus, K-State Olathe campus or Southeast Asia two weeks a year to meet classmates and faculty, receive training on the technology, interact with industry leaders, and give project presentations. Students in the program are located in more than 40 states within the United States and more than 30 countries abroad. They range in age from 25 to 55 and work in every sector of the food, agribusiness and animal health industries.

The MAB program is currently taking applications our August 2013 and January 2014 cohorts. To find out how you can be a part of the K-State Master of Agribusiness program or for more information on how the MAB can help your career, please go to www.mab.ksu.edu, call 785-532-4495 or e-mailmab@ksu.edu