At Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, a strategic alliance between the Krannert Graduate School of Management and the School of Agriculture has led to the development of the first distance-delivered, Executive MBA (EMBA) in food and agricultural business in the U.S.

The EMBA offers an innovative alternative to the traditional part-time Executive MBA, in its focus on the unique management challenges of the food and agricultural marketplace, and the use of distance education technology, which allows participants to pursue their degree while maintaining on-going responsibilities in their respective organizations. The first class in this new program began in August, 1999, with 21 students, from 11 states and Mexico. Applications are being accepted for the second class, which begins in July, 2000.

This fully accredited EMBA program spans a two-year period. It is distinctive, in that the on-campus instruction is concentrated into a one-week orientation session plus four, two-week residency sessions. The orientation session and three of the two-week residency sessions are held on the Purdue University campus, in West Lafayette, IN. The fourth residency session is held on the campus of an international partner institution. This schedule makes it possible for participants to be drawn from a wide geographical area, minimizes conflicts with normal job responsibilities and eliminates the problem of interruptions in the program, due to job transfers. Sarah Vacek, current EMBA participant and president of Sarah Vacek Communications, says, "The program allows student to apply knowledge from work to their studies, and their studies to their work simultaneously. Today's work schedules and demands require flexibility and this program delivers. High quality interaction consistently occurs among classmates and instructors."

This program is a "cohort" program-that is, all students in each class enter together, take the common set of courses together and graduate together. Due to its national and international, rather than local, student population, the program provides an unusually rich environment for interaction among the participants. Students develop important relationships with other future leaders from across the food chain, a key benefit of the program. "I am delighted with the challenging curriculum, world class staff and top caliber classmates," said Gerald Powell, EMBA participant and GBU market advisor, Dow AgroSciences.

The program is built around a set of core courses, in the functional areas of management, including marketing, finance and accounting, human resource management and organizational behavior, production and operations management and strategy. Each of these courses is oriented to the food and agricultural markets through selection of topical material and use of food and agricultural business case studies. At the same time, considerable emphasis in these management courses is given to other, non-food and agricultural firms and industries to insure that participants have the opportunity to learn from situations outside the food and agricultural markets.

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