sealPurdue News

May 1999

Distance-delivered MBA program in agribusiness

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- The nation's first distance-delivered executive MBA in agribusiness will be available beginning this fall from Purdue University.

Electronically delivered master's of business administration degrees, known as executive MBAs or EMBAs, are popular because they allow working professionals to earn degrees while they continue in their jobs. Like most such programs, Purdue's allows students to complete their studies using long-distance technologies such as the Internet. The Purdue program is the first in the United States to focus on agribusiness executives and managers.

The program is a joint effort of the Purdue School of Agriculture and the Krannert Graduate School of Management.

Jay Akridge, the Purdue ag economics professor who directs the program, said it grew out of a demand for degree programs for people in agriculture and food production. "The Purdue Center for Agricultural Business has been offering short, non-degree programs for a long time," Akridge says. "We've received numerous requests over the years for a formal program that offers a degree that wouldn't require people to leave their jobs."

Akridge says the target student is a manager in agriculture or agribusiness who has been working five to seven years and is interested in earning an MBA. "We're looking for future leaders in agriculture, food production and related industries," he says. "Also, an MBA isn't for every farmer or rancher, but some producers may clearly fit in the program, too."

The MBA program will be very similar to other EMBA programs except that this program will focus on applications within the food and agribusiness marketplace. "Some of the courses are specific to ag business," Akridge says. "There will be a course on laws and regulations that affect agriculture. We're also really focusing on food safety and agrichemical regulations.

"On the other hand, we also want to stretch these people out. We don't want to focus exclusively on agribusiness. There's a lot to learn from Wal-Mart and Intel and those companies, and we'll be incorporating examples from them, too."

Each class will have 45 to 55 students, who will progress through the studies together, a system known as a cohort program. This allows the students to work together as a group for two years, forming professional relationships that can continue throughout their careers.

The program is broken into four 22-week modules that are similar to semesters. In each module students conduct their studies off-campus for 20 weeks and then attend intensive class sessions on campus for two weeks.

When the students are off campus, they will utilize books, compact disks and the Internet to learn the material. "Each course has a specific Web site within the overall Web site for the program," Akridge says. "The students will use the Web sites, plus e-mail to the professor and on-line bulletin boards for discussions.

"The on-line materials are all very easy to download. Anything that takes a lot of bandwidth, such as video or PowerPoint presentations, is being pressed onto CDs and shipped out with the books. If someone is in a motel in some small town out in the middle of nowhere, we want them to be able to make a connection and quickly download what they need for their assignments."

Although the program is a nonresident program, students are expected to attend a one-week orientation session at the beginning of the first year, and to also attend the four two-week residence sessions. Three of the two-week programs will be at the Purdue campus.

The fourth two-week session will be on the campus of an international partner institution. "The international dimension of agribusiness is a part of the whole program. Our program takes the students abroad and immerses them in a different culture," Akridge says. "The students will have a chance to do on-site industry visits to talk with European company managers, which is great because the European way of doing things complements what we do here."

At the end of the four modules the students will be expected to complete a summary project that is relevant to their particular marketplace. "This gives them something to take away from the program and put to immediate use in their company," Akridge says.

More information about the Purdue Executive Master's of Business Administration in Agribusiness can be found on the program's Web site.

Source: Jay Akridge, (765) 494-4327;

Writer: Steve Tally, (765) 494-9809;

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail,

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