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June 13, 2013

Grad Student Enhances Agricultural Career with UNL MBA

Derek Schardt of Wayne, Neb., got his undergraduate degrees from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln in political science and history. As he debated the best way to apply those degrees to future career aspirations, one thing became clear – an MBA degree would give him more options in the job market.
 
One obstacle to pursing the MBA was the need to pass the GMAT entrance exam. Schardt had not taken a math course since high school.
 
“It was a little intimidating, but I got study guides from the Princeton Review and Kaplan, and went to work,” he said. “The math is important, because it’s going to be in almost any business course you take. It really comes down to the repetition of doing the problems over and over again. I had to take the GMAT twice, but it’s just a matter of time if you stick with it.”
 
Schardt has a background in agriculture, and his grandfather and uncle both farm north of Lincoln. He felt the MBA program would give him a greater appreciation for the business aspects of agriculture.
 
“I chose an agribusiness specialization,” he said. “The UNL MBA program lets students narrow their focus on a particular business interest whether it’s agribusiness, IT, marketing or another area. The faculty and advisors are extremely helpful, and in my case almost knew what direction I should go before I figured it out.”
 
Hi is currently applying his educational background through a graduate assistantship at the Nebraska Department of Agriculture.
 
“I do research for them on trade problems and try to promote Nebraska’s agricultural products. We also try to get foreign food processing companies considering moving to the U.S. to locate in Nebraska,”he said.
 
The next big part of Schardt’s academic experience will take place at the International Food and Agribusiness Management Association Annual World Forum and Symposium being held in June in Atlanta, Ga. Dr. Dennis Conley professor of agricultural economics and marketing, is his adviser and will be taking a group of UNL students to the event for a case competition.
 
Conley said the competition is demanding and requires students to be well versed in business practices.
 
“Four hours before they make their presentation, they will be given a case study,” Conley said. “In past years, cases have focused on diverse topics such as scarce water resources in California to marketing lamb meat in New Zealand.”
 
Schardt believes he is well prepared for the competition.
 
“The competition will be intense but I’ve already had to fast track myself more than some students who have had some business education,” he said. “I’ve learned how to work in teams, make presentations and answer questions when I’m put on the spot in the MBA program,” Schardt said.