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16
Summer 2008
Thurnau also believes in the value of WWU’s cohort structure for
adult education. Rather than signing up for each course indi-
vidually, and changing classmates with every course, the cohort
structure allows students to enroll for the entire program at once.
This allows students to really get to know one another and grow
together as a team throughout the program. “Going through the
program with the same 20 people adds camaraderie and ac-
countability,” said Thurnau. “Our group is so diverse; I’ve noticed
that I now attempt to think through all sides of an argument be-
fore I voice my opinion.”
Joshua Gordon is a foodservice consultant for Banta Foods, a divi-
sion of Reinhart Foodservices. Gordon has enjoyed the program,
but he, too, names the cohort structure as his favorite part of The
Woods experience. “I enjoy the family that is developing with
everyone in my class,” said Gordon. “You don’t get this type of
closeness and open discussion in larger class settings.”
Terry Culver, director of Columbia and Jefferson City site opera-
tions, feels that the program is strong, with a unique niche and a
unique structure. “Our strengths are our classroom facilitators, who
have a long background of education and experience in Ag. Of
course having several people on the Graduate & Adult Studies
(G&AS) staff with Ag backgrounds and Ag degrees doesn’t hurt
either,” said Culver.
Culver himself has an Ag degree from Lincoln University, and he
worked in production and international livestock sales for 18 years,
so he is passionate about the program. “The material covered
in lectures and projects directly relates to current events shaping
the industry,” said Culver. “We like to say, ‘What they learn in the
classroom tonight they can apply at work tomorrow.’”
According to Culver, much of the learning process occurs during
class discussion where everyone gets equal time to share their
ideas and experiences, and WWU MBA students often have 20
to 40 years of experience! “That is what keeps me coming back
and our students so enthusiastic about the program. The work that
each student does is geared to help them in their day jobs. When
our students graduate, they are not only great writers and conf-
dent speakers…they are very knowledgeable about the material
and able to effectively apply these concepts in the real world.”
The students agree. “The program interested me, because I am
passionate about the agricultural industry, but these classes have
also helped me with projects for my job,” said Jill Fleischmann, pro-
gram coordinator for the Missouri Value Added Center, a section
of the University of Missouri’s agricultural economics department.
Breck Frerking, public relations coordinator of the Show-Me Insti-
tute, agrees that the material easily translates into instant on-the-
job value. “The strong emphasis on agriculture policy has been
incredibly benefcial to me in my professional work,” said Frerking.
“I have gained valuable insights into the agriculture industry.”
According to Jessica Brush, G&AS director of offce operations,
the idea for the agribusiness MBA began as a way to serve one
of Missouri’s largest and most successful industries. “There are few
options for the agriculture-focused person here in Missouri, who
cannot attend a traditional, daytime degree program. Many
students also prefer a broader-base of Ag-specifc courses mixed
with a solid foundation in business.
Missouri is a historically agriculture-rich state, thanks to the Missouri
and Mississippi rivers. St. Louis and Kansas City remain essential
hubs of Ag trade and transport and are home to many successful
agri-businesses,” said Brush.
Brush asserts that the program is important, because agriculture
affects each and every person, every day, even if they don’t
realize it. “Every product has its roots in agriculture – from product
packaging and the food we eat to the ink in your pen…even
the shirt on your back,” said Brush. “And offering the right mix of
courses is only part of the equation. Knowledgeable professors are
equally important,” she said.
According to Frerking, the agribusiness program offers both. “What
I have enjoyed most…are the insights and knowledge presented
by the instructors, who are respected professionals with strong
backgrounds in agriculture,” she said.
Thurnau agrees. “I really respect Terry Culver and his ‘open door’
policy. He’s very approachable and genuinely concerned about
our experience at The Woods,” she said.
According to Hattie Francis, Esq., an adjunct professor of busi-
ness law, “The professors are just as excited about teaching the
courses. I like working with the students,” she said. “The course is
fun, because of the enthusiasm everyone has for the topic. Not
only are they interested in the core material, but they are inter-
ested in how it translates into real world applications.”
“This is the only opportunity I know of in central Missouri and prob-
ably all of Missouri to give agribusiness professionals a venue to
learn in—at the level of the MBA degree—with an emphasis in
agribusiness. The emphasis is important, because it does have
its own particularities,” said Francis. (MAY BE GOOD BREAK OUT
QUOTE)
Jim Graham began teaching the agricultural policy and entre-
preneurship courses after getting a call from a former high school
student of his, Jessica Brush. “They called me for some input when
they were just starting to get the whole program up-and-running,