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MS-MBA Program Designed for Busy Professionals

Ben Poletti wanted a graduate degree from a quality program that would prepare him to advance in the workplace but also give him the flexibility to work classes into his busy schedule.

A Perfect Fit

Photo by Vincent Walter

Agribusiness professor Mike Boehlje lectures students. The majority of coursework in the MS-MBA program is completed via distance-education, but students and faculty come together as a group during five one-week residencies.

The territory manager for Deere & Co. in Bowling Green, Ky. found the ideal solution in a new MS-MBA program in food and agribusiness management—a joint offering of Purdue University and Indiana University's Kelley School of Business.

Poletti, who had been referred to the program by colleagues, said he was sold on it after hearing Purdue agribusiness professor Mike Boehlje speak at a company meeting. "That sealed the deal," he said. "I knew it represented the quality that I was looking for in my education."

The dual-degree, distance-learning program combines Purdue's long-standing strengths in food and agribusiness management with IU's expertise in distance-delivered management education.

"The dual-degree program delivers the best of both worlds—an industry-specific focus on current issues in food and agriculture and a general MBA," said Jay Akridge, Purdue agribusiness professor.

Purdue courses are taught by senior agricultural economics faculty whose broad-based experiences combine academic research, teaching, and industry consulting.

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Rick Winn, marketing engineering manager for Seminis Vegetable Seeds in Filer, Idaho, said the agricultural focus was what he was looking for in a graduate program. "I didn't want an MBA always focused on the computer industry," he said. "I wanted it to focus on what I do."

The first class of students started in August 2004. At completion of the 27-month program, participants will earn two advanced degrees: a master of science in agribusiness from Purdue and a master in business administration from IU.

Compatible with Careers

A distance-learning degree program like this one is attractive to mid-career professionals because it gives them control over where and when they study, said Akridge.

"These are people who often travel on business, have young families, and are frequently transferred within their organizations. Taking a year off for a full-time program or enrolling in a part-time evening or weekend program doesn't work for them," said Akridge.

Students agree that flexibility is key to making coursework compatible with their busy careers. "You have to work hard, but the program has the flexibility to let you set your own schedule," said Poletti. "If you're traveling, you can take it on the plane with you."

Networking is a big part of the program as students develop relationships with other upwardly mobile managers from across the food system.

"We're a tight group. If something comes up, your other group members are going to make sure you have the resources to get caught up," said Poletti. "The networking is great."

While the majority of the coursework is distance-delivered, students and faculty come together as a group during five one-week residencies, split between locations at Purdue, IU, and Wageningen University, the Netherlands, which emphasizes the international component of the program.

Food and agribusiness professionals in the Purdue-IU MS-MBA program have already solved one of their biggest business problems: how to find a graduate program that's a custom fit.