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Life Long Learning Key to Ongoing Success

Successful, community-driven and business-minded are words that begin to describe Christine Greydanus.

She and her husband Jack, along with their son Peter, manage around 60,000 chickens along with her daughter Jodi and son-in-law Adrian who take care of 13 acres of hydroponic greenhouses at operations near Petrolia, Ontario. But that isn’t all Christine does. When she’s not managing the family business and giving back to the community by serving on her municipal council, she goes to school.

This mother of three, and grandmother of five, is a 2012 graduate of the University of Guelph’s online agricultural Masters of Business Administration (MBA) program.

“I wish I would have taken the program 10 years ago,” says Christine. “I would have loved to figure this business out a lot sooner. Tuition is a lot cheaper than paying for the real-life experience.”

And real-life, hands-on, agricultural experience she has. In 1990, Christine and her husband moved to Petrolia from Listowel and started a business raising 10,000 chickens. That business has grown to six barns and 60,000 animals producing hatching eggs. In 2004, the family business expanded to include a six-acre poly-plastic hydroponic greenhouse. A few short years later, an additional seven acres of glass greenhouses were added. In total, Christine and her family now produce 1.5 million kilograms of sweet bell peppers every year.

For most, that would be enough to keep you busy. Looking to advance her career, propel her business and reach personal goals, she set her sights on an agricultural-focused MBA.

Christine first became aware of the program at Guelph in early 2002, after completing the Advance Agricultural Leadership Program (AALP) in 2009. Her farming operations continued to grow and by the spring of 2009, she knew she wanted to further her education and do something with even more substance.

The Guelph Experience

The University of Guelph has a long history in food and agribusiness. The two-year program combines unique face-to-face and interactive online learning with world-class professors with real-life experience, and is Canada’s only MBA in food and agribusiness. The program has graduated many industry leaders over the past two decades.

The College of Management and Economics at Guelph attracts students, like Christine, who have a social conscience, an environmental sensibility, and a commitment to community involvement. The program is designed to be flexible enough to allow participants to develop their managerial potential and academic standing without having to interrupt their careers.

It was a perfect fit.

The online MBA at Guelph is flexible and that is what drew Christine to the program. She explains it is so flexible, you can literally take it anywhere.

“I studied from various locations across the country and overseas. You need to be able to access the Internet to stay on track, but there are many crazy stories about where my fellow students studied from and how we stayed connected.”

However, as flexible as the program is, it was the weekly assignments and tight deadlines that kept her moving through the program.

“There is flexibility in that you get to organize your week because there is no class schedule. However, there’s no flexibility in that there is a timeline on course work and assignments. But that’s the motivating factor that keeps you focused on the finish line. Every course has a lot of group work, so it is essential you stay connected with the group.”

The innovative and interactive online learning experience is enhanced by three brief, intensive, in-classroom courses that provide participants and faculty with the opportunity for face-to-face interaction. Christine saw tremendous benefits from the time spent on campus, with her classmates, in Guelph. While the University uses technology to deliver its MBA program, being on campus allowed for more in-depth classroom sessions and an opportunity to network with and learn from her peers.

There were nine other students in Christine’s food and agribusiness program and an additional 15 in the hospitality stream, ranging in age from 20s to late 50s.

“I had the opportunity to mix with a diverse group of students. I found the challenge of working with, and getting to know my fellow classmates, one of the greater parts of the enriching experience. Because of our age range, we all brought unique perspectives to the program.”

The program has contributed greatly to Christine’s confidence and personal success.

“I’ve polished the business management skills I developed through my experience on the farm and grew even more. I took away a degree that is valuable in reaching future goals,” she says.

“If you’re looking for a program that will give you new skills or build upon the ones you’ve got, Guelph’s MBA can do it,” she says. “You’ll get out of it what you put in.”

So now that Christine has graduated, what does she do with all her free time? Looking to give back to the community and develop even more skills as she prepares to step back from the family business, she’s hitting the books…again.

“I’m currently studying law at Osgoode Hall Law School at York,” she says. “I definitely would not be here without my Guelph MBA.”

For more information about the online agricultural Masters of Business Administration (MBA) program visit www.cme.uoguelph.ca.