Real-world experience

K-State ag econ class welcomes John Deere and Cargill representatives

K-State strives to intertwine real-world experience with classroom learning in all its courses and programs. For his agricultural economics students, associate professor Aleksan Shanoyan decided to invite representatives from both John Deere and Cargill to participate in a variety of ag econ courses. “The objective is to bridge the gap between the classroom and the real world in order to highlight the relevance of course content and to enhance student motivation, engagement and learning experience.” Shanoyan said.

Students were able to get feedback and real-world knowledge of the ag industry through the course integration and guidance from John Deere and Cargill representatives concerning their research.

“Over the course of a semester, students researched strategic problems faced by top agribusiness companies such as John Deere and Cargill and presented their analyses to top managers showcasing their critical thinking and communication skills,” Shanoyan said.  “This offered a unique learning experience to our students, and also provided our industry partners with an opportunity to engage with our students in a deeper and more meaningful way.”

For their part, Cargill was very excited to get involved with these courses and to work with students on a personal level. “Cargill was very happy to support the ag econ department in this endeavor,” said Mindy McBee, strategic account sales leader for Cargill Animal Nutrition. “We have six alumni who are involved with K-State recruiting already helping with the engagements, and all were excited for opportunities to present to students — especially given we have not been able to be on campus in person in over a year.”

Cargill is always looking for new and exciting ways to engage students, so when the opportunity came up to work with Dr. Shanoyan and his classes, Cargill jumped at the chance. “Alex (Dr. Shanoyan) reached out last November to engage Cargill in the spring 2021 semester,” McBee said. “We were very excited to receive a proposal from him that provided multiple opportunities to engage. We are always looking for new ways to get in front of students and show them what we really do at Cargill. These engagements are providing unique ways to interact, like sharing case studies, which are great ways to showing the work we do. The students have been very responsive so far and we are enjoying the new connections are able to make.”

John Deere was also excited to have the opportunity to participate in these ag econ courses. “John Deere has given us multiple opportunities to participate with many different programs at K-State. When this opportunity to work with Dr. Shanoyan came up, we jumped at the chance,” said Travis Schieltz, Enabling Solutions Manger and President of K-State alumni for John Deere.

“John Deere hopes that with this classroom participation we are able to give students real-world application of their knowledge — that they are able to use these experiences to think more critically when in the classroom and apply their learning to relatable real-world examples.”

Student reception to this connection between the classroom and real-life application has been very positive.

“After interacting with these executives, I have been able to see how they apply the concepts I have learned in class to real life,” said Kaitlin Bell, senior in agricultural business. “This is something that can be hard to do for some classes, but this experience has helped give me a better sense of actual real-life problems that need to be solved.”

“For me, the biggest takeaway from my time with the Cargill and John Deere executives is that there is always room for improvement,” Bell said. “From the outside, a company such as Cargill or John Deere seems to have it all figured out and together. However, that is not always true. While the companies have an idea in which direction they need to be going, there are a lot of times where different avenues can be pursued. Working with and learning from these executives has helped me see that there are so many ways that a company can address new threats and work to stay relevant within their market.”

Bell hopes that this type of integration will continue. 

“Personally, I hope something like this is done in classes for a long time to come,” Bell said. “While the week before presenting to the executives may be a bit stressful, making sure that everything is up to par, it is a great real-life experience in the classroom.”

By James Dalton Burton

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