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Two SIU colleges collaborate for new online degree

By Cory Ray, @coryray_DE

A new master of business administration concentration with a focus in agriculture will make its way online next fall.

The program — known as Agribusiness Economics — is a result of the College of Business and College of Agricultural Sciences collaborating.

While a masters program for agribusiness economics already exists within the College of Agricultural Sciences, students in the online program will be enrolled in the College of Business to achieve an MBA.

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Students pursuing the degree will take courses specific for an MBA, as well as existing agribusiness economic classes to fulfill requirements.

When Dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences Mickey Latour came to the university in 2012, he saw a desire for an agriculture studies with a degree in business. So he spoke to Dennis Cradit, former the dean of the College of Business, about creating the concentration. Since then, the two colleges have worked together to create the program.

“I knew there was a tremendous amount demand,” Latour said. “We wanted to advance, and MBA is a hot ticket out there.”

Traditionally, Latour said there have been three distinct “flavors” for students who study agriculture business: a standard MBA, double master’s degrees in business and in science offered in a concurrent program, or a master’s of science in agribusiness economics.

The MBA specialization totals 50 credit hours with 26 in the College of Business and 24 in agribusiness through the College of Agricultural Sciences. The degree is 12 fewer credit hours than if they were pursued separately.

Fewer than 10 universities in the country offer MBA concentrations in agribusiness economics, Latour said.

Recruiting for the online degree has recently began at professional conferences.

Students will have to give up some business elective classes to participate in the two-year program. But Jason Greene, dean of the College of Business, believes students will receive a solid and unique degree.

“For students who are in that industry, I think it will be a great benefit to them,” Greene said.

Ira Altman, chair of the agribusiness economics department, said the program will begin next summer when students will take some classes before officially beginning in the fall.

According to Altman, a main reason for the MBA concentration was low enrollment in the Agriculture Economics masters degree by itself. She hopes the collaboration will entice students who desire agriculture studies with business practices.

Low enrollment also led to the development of an accelerated masters program for Agribusiness Economics students, which is targeted toward students coming out of bachelor’s degree programs. 

The accelerated masters allows students to dually count nine credit hours to both their undergraduate and master’s degrees.

The MBA program currently has no students enrolled, because students already enrolled in the original masters program could not dually count classes from the previous year. Altman, however, expects students to enroll for next fall.

Cory Ray can be reached at [email protected] or at 526-3326 

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