​Help Wanted

Purdue Ag graduates more than ready
for challenging careers

In the past four years, Cassie Misch​ has both seen improved genetics change in the seed industry and played a role in it. She helped get Roundup Ready 2 Yield® soybean varieties to market, licensing the second-generation technology to seed companies in Indiana and the Midwest. Misch expects to see continued rapid expansion in trait technologies in corn, soybeans and wheat in the next decade.

Cassie Misch
Cassie Misch

Mish is a 2007 Purdue University graduate and key account lead for soybeans and wheat at GreenLeaf Genetics. She is part of the new agriculture economy—a broad, innovative industry focused on meeting global food, energy and health care needs. It’s an economy that not only holds great promise for the public, who will reap the benefits of advances in seed genetics, bio-based products and renewable fuels, but also for students entering the growing and diverse field of agriculture.

“The job opportunities in the agriculture of today and tomorrow far outnumber the qualified candidates available to fill them,” says Marcos Fernandez, associate dean of agriculture and director of academic programs in agriculture at Purdue. “There is not only a need but an excitement about the possibilities for our graduates.”

A Growth Industry

Statistics from a recent USDA employment report co-authored by Allan Goecker, senior associate director of academic programs, confirm the growing job market for agriculture graduates. It’s estimated that the agricultural, food and renewable resources sectors of the U.S. economy will generate nearly 55,000 openings for college graduates each year through 2015.

And those numbers could climb even more in the future, given predictions that agricultural productivity will have to increase more than 70 percent in the next 40 years to feed the world’s growing population.

Fernandez says the fresh, bright minds of Purdue ag students will be among those examining some of the challenges and coming up with the solutions.

Students Find Their Passion

Gabe Rangel
Gabe Rangel

Gabe Rangel​, a senior biochemistry major, is one such student. A promising young researcher, Rangel has made the most of opportunities in the classroom and the lab.

During two summer breaks he participated in the IU Simon Cancer Center’s summer research program, testing a drug on human prostate and pancreatic cancer cells. During a Howard Hughes Medical Institute-funded research opportunity, he tested the effects of a new malaria vaccine on parasites and did fieldwork at the vaccine testing site in West Africa. Rangel currently works in the lab of Scott Briggs, a Purdue biochemist and cancer researcher, on a project in epigenetics, a growing research specialty that investigates how cells can change their traits by mechanisms other than changing their DNA sequence.

That’s an impressive résumé for the Indianapolis native, who didn’t have a clear-cut path when he entered the College of Agriculture. “I wasn’t sure what career I would pursue, but the opportunities provided at Purdue and the collaboration with professors helped me find my passion,” Rangel says. “Our college emphasizes that we have an obligation to be global citizens. It could have been a challenge for me as an ag major from Indiana to work cross-culturally, but Purdue prepares us so well for that challenge.”

Education Beyond the Classroom

This preparation is what Fernandez calls Purdue’s commitment to a transformative learning experience. “In addition to a rigorous academic program, the College of Agriculture also excels in providing cocurricular opportunities to help students grow as individuals, as professionals and as scholars,” Fernandez says. “We stress communication and leadership skill development, practical hands-on experience, as well as study abroad, research and internship opportunities. From day one, we impress upon our students that taking advantage of these opportunities is equally as important as making the most of their time in the classroom.”

This dedication is evident in students like Rangel, who is using his research skills to address a global challenge, and in alumni like Misch, who works to make improved crop varieties available to seed companies and farmers in Indiana and the Midwest.

“At the College of Agriculture, there’s a commitment to preparing students for careers and opportunities, regardless of what path you take. There are jobs in agriculture you may not even know exist,” Misch says. “Taking advantage of the opportunities offered is what allows you to be ready for a career in the new ag economy.”

Additional Resources

Purdue Ag graduates continue increase in job placement​

Gabe Rangel: Leading from the Heart
Cassie Misch: Taking the Lead in Seed​