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Step Up to the Challenge : The Purdue-IU MS-MBA in Food and Agribusiness Management

Step Up to the Challenge:
The Purdue-IU MS-MBA in Food and Agribusiness Management

by Kristyn Kapetanovic

Tim Kelly would have never called himself a runner five years ago. But now, he laces up and hits the pavement every day. He’s training to compete in his first marathon in a few months, and he attributes his inspiration to an interesting source—the Purdue University-Indiana University MS-MBA in Food and Agribusiness Management.

“Being a part of the program has taught me that I can do anything,” says Kelly, current MS-MBA student and regional sales manager at Nutriad Inc. “Tackling the program inspires you in other areas of your life, areas unrelated to academics or your job. The program reinforced my attitude that anything is possible and my confidence that I have the ability to rise to the occasion that any challenge offers.”

Earn two degrees while working full time
The MS-MBA in Food and Agribusiness Management is specifically designed for people like Kelly, a professional in the food and agribusiness industry whose life and schedule wasn’t suited for a traditional master’s degree program. Because it is delivered almost exclusively online, the program allows people to earn two advanced degrees in 27 months while still working full time.

“Sure, the program is delivered online, but I don’t consider it an online program,” says Kelly. “You work at a defined pace, with the same expectations, support, and accountability you’d find in a standard program.”

A partnership between the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University (IU) and Purdue University’s Department of Agricultural Economics, the MS-MBA has met the dynamic needs of people in food and agribusiness since 1999. Many graduates describe the program as the most challenging and rewarding two years they’ve ever experienced.

“The MS-MBA program was a phenomenal experience for me,” says Garrett Costello, a quality assurance manager at Wilbur-Ellis Company. “It is a very rigorous plan of study, but it has allowed me to be a greater contributor to my company.”

Move ahead with a rigorous, low-residency graduate model
The program’s distance-delivered education model lets people continue to participate in the program despite travel or new work assignments. This “anytime, anywhere” concept allows students the flexibility to work at their own pace and in their own environment. Course material remains online through the duration of the program, so students can continually access and replay lectures, unlike in a traditional classroom. Because course lectures can be downloaded, students can take the classroom with them at any time and keep lectures for when they need a refresher.

The program consists of 57 total credits, 21 of which focus on food and agribusiness management. The remaining 36 credits are general business courses that are delivered as part of the Kelley Direct MBA program. By selecting three specific electives as part of the program, MS-MBA students can also earn a certificate in strategic management without any additional charge or coursework.

The program is broken down into modules, instead of traditional semesters. Each module lasts 12 weeks and consists of two 3-credit courses. Purdue and IU understand the rigors of working full-time while pursuing a graduate education—after each module, students take a week off before beginning the next classes. Most people invest 10-12 hours per week studying for each course.

More than 85 percent of course content is delivered via the Internet; however, the five one-week residency sessions provide a rich environment for interaction and discussion among faculty and students. They allow faculty to teach the information that they feel would be better presented in person. The first and third residency sessions are held on the IU campus in Bloomington, Indiana, while the second and fourth residencies are held on the Purdue University campus in West Lafayette, Indiana.

The final residency is conducted on the campus of one of Purdue’s international partners, Austral University in Argentina. This residency exposes students to varied business cultures and helps them learn how to interact in global business situations.

Immediately apply classroom lessons to workplace issues
Because the program allows professionals to continue their careers while pursuing graduate degrees, they can immediately apply classroom lessons in leadership and agribusiness to situations that arise in the workplace. The program curriculum has a leading-edge managerial foundation with a focus on the food and agricultural industries—a balance that will both broaden and deepen student perspectives.

A thesis or dissertation is not required for the MS-MBA program, but students do complete a capstone project, which focuses on a significant issue or opportunity facing their company or sponsoring organization. Supported by Purdue professors, students develop a solution to the problem or issue. Many of these projects have had important financial impacts on the sponsoring organizations.

Create a network of agribusiness leaders
As an MS-MBA student, people have the opportunity to build relationships with other agribusiness professionals from around the world. Students are typically 29-35 years old and have 5-10 years of business experience, though older students have also been very successful in the program. They complete the program as a cohort group—starting and ultimately graduating together. The cohort model allows students to exchange experiences and ideas, resulting in broader perspectives across industries, and in many cases, strong friendships. Plus, Purdue ensures that class sizes remain small, which increases student interaction.

“The cohort has been one of the keys to my success in the program,” says Kelly. “You find that the people in your cohort group are having the same struggles that you’re facing. There is a huge level of emotional support available from the other students, as well as the program’s faculty and staff.”

Kelly knows that his upcoming 26.2-mile run will be one of the toughest challenges he’s faced, but the courage and confidence he has gained through the MS-MBA program will push him to the finish.

“I would highly recommend the program to anyone,” he says. “It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, and it’s given me the feeling that I can conquer the world.”

Learn more about the application process
Luanna DeMay, program manager
(765) 494-4270

Kristyn Kapetanovic is the marketing assistant at Purdue University’s Center for Food and Agricultural Business. She can be reached at