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Developing the Next Generation

Developing the Next Generation
by Kristyn Kapetanovic

Just six months into the MS-MBA in Food and Agribusiness Management, Kitty Reed can already tell it has made an impact.

“Because our projects are tailored to our individual situations, I’ve had the chance to interact with the upper management of my company,” says Reed, a cattle territory manager at Boehringer Ingelheim. “By committing to the program, I’ve shown them that I’m also committed to increasing my skill set and my management capabilities. It has certainly already increased my opportunities.”

The MS-MBA, an online, dual-degree graduate program, is tailored to develop the next generation of senior managers in food and agribusiness. As a student, Reed is earning both an M.S. in agricultural economics from Purdue University and an MBA from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business while continuing to work full time. Due to the program’s intense focus on food and agribusiness, the coursework is highly relevant to students’ jobs.

One of the most unique facets of the MS-MBA is the capstone project, which Reed will undertake in her second year of the 27-month program. Working with her supervisor and a faculty mentor at Purdue, Reed will identify and explore a management issue her company faces and propose a solution to the problem.

“The capstone course and projects help students get the attention of their company’s upper management by producing real solutions for management issues of importance to their employers,” says Marshall Martin, professor of agricultural economics at Purdue University and instructor of the capstone class. “Because of the capstone project, students have the chance to directly impact their company by analyzing emerging relevant challenges and frequently implementing the recommendations that are generated by their capstone projects.”

Justin Wrage, MS-MBA alumnus and Syngenta Seeds employee, says that the capstone project was instrumental in his recent promotion to division marketing manager. During his interview for the position, he discussed his project in depth, explaining his recommendations to company executives.

“I’m grateful to the Purdue-IU program for providing me with the knowledge and skills necessary for securing this opportunity and providing value to Syngenta,” Wrage says.

The MS-MBA draws a diverse spectrum of highly motivated people from across the food and agribusiness industry. Reed notes that an unanticipated benefit of the program has been the intelligence, competence and experience of her classmates. Students develop close networking relationships, relying on each other’s support to successfully complete demanding courses while balancing career and family obligations.

“Working with the other students has greatly broadened my perspective,” Reed says. “It’s easy to become so focused on your little portion of the industry that you forget about the rest of agriculture. It has been tremendously beneficial to learn about the other students’ professional backgrounds and how their experiences apply to what we’re learning.”

Reed travels frequently for her job and appreciates the MS-MBA’s anytime, anywhere model that allows her to decide when she wants to “go to class.” She can download lectures and listen to them while travelling, and she only needs an Internet connection to turn in her assignments.

The program’s distance-delivery modules are punctuated by five on-campus residencies: two on the Purdue University campus in West Lafayette, Ind.; two on Indiana University’s campus in Bloomington, Ind.; and one international residency that exposes participants to the international business climate, allowing them to think broadly about the diverse factors that drive global agribusiness.

“I’ve only been in the program for six months, yet I’m continually amazed by the new things I’m exposed to. I’ve been able to apply many of the concepts and tools to my current position,” Reed says. “I can’t wait to see what comes next.”

To learn more about the MS-MBA in Food and Agribusiness Management,