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Andrea Schwartz Distinguished Alumni 2020

Finding success means taking calculated risks

Several years ago, Andrea Schwartz was called for an urgent job interview. The interview was an hour away from home, the job was scheduled to start two days after the interview, and she did not know anyone else there. Even though taking this job sounded crazy in the moment, Schwartz did it. It was a chance that she was willing to take because she knew the reward would be worth it.

Several years later, Schwartz (B.S., Agricultural Education, 2006; M.S. Agricultural Extension Education, 2011) is now the dean of the School of Advanced Manufacturing, Engineering and Applied Science at Ivy Tech Community College-Lafayette and associate professor of agriculture. This job, while it has a fancy title, is much more than that to Schwartz.

Alumnus encourages students to enjoy their time in college

By Rebecca Carmeli-Peslak

Andrea Schwartz urges her students to keep their college years in perspective.

"College is inches on a tape measure; we have feet after," said Schwartz. "Take that time."

Schwartz (B.S., Agricultural Education, 2006; M.S. Agricultural Extension Education, 2011), dean of the School of Advanced Manufacturing, Engineering and Applied Science at Ivy Tech Community College-Lafayette and associate professor of agriculture, said she wishes she did not rush her time in college, so she encourages students to savor the experience.

Schwartz said she crammed in a bunch of classes early in college to try to graduate early, but said that was missing the point of college.

"We have an entire lifetime in front of us and we should enjoy these four years while we have them," she said.

The time spent in college is about more than academics; opportunities and connections are essential.

"Grades are important, but they are not everything," Schwartz said.

Schwartz credits more of her success to opportunities and the people she surrounded herself with while learning. She believes that students should enjoy their time in college by making friends and joining clubs that pique their interests.

"Enjoy your time in college and get out of your comfort zone, so you can find your people and your place," she said.

She sees her work as chances for her to touch students' lives by improving their college experiences and helping ensure that they can find their own success in life. Schwartz knows that her success came from taking calculated risks and encourages her students to do the same. Those are some of the reasons why she was selected as a 2020 ASEC Distinguished Alumnus.

"If I never took a chance with the new school and the far job, I wouldn't be where I am today," Schwartz said. "I had to take that leap of faith."

Schwartz said she learned early that you had to take chances by saying, "yes" to opportunities that might scare you. That is why she took the chance for an interview right before a school was starting. Along her journey, she had to take chances that scared her, even chances that she got rejected from, but to her, that was all part of the road to success.

Schwartz said she knew that everything after graduating high school was going to be a risk. She was going to have to take a chance if she wanted to see her goals met in the future.

"I graduated in a class of 60," Schwartz said of her small-town high school experience. "Sixty people is not very many. That is small enough to know everyone around you. Purdue has a lot more that 60 people and that can be really intimidating."

But Schwartz knew this was another chance he had to take. Coming to Purdue, with tens of thousands of students, was a big transition. The transition was not easy. While she started out in math education that major was not working for her. Once she discovered agricultural education, she knew that was the perfect major for her. Switching majors was a calculated risk, but she said it pushed her out of her comfort zone.

Agricultural education provided Schwartz with a fulfilling sense of community. Everyone there welcomed her with open arms. They all had similar goals and passions of teaching their communities about agriculture and its importance. She made friends, finally, and said she found many people with shared ideas. She learned in this major that she did not need to conform to fit in.

"Find you place," she said. "Find somewhere that you fit in and lean something that makes you happy."

It's a lesson she shares with all of her students today. Everyone struggles with fitting in at one point or another, but she encourages students to find a place where they belong.

"Everyone goes to the same high school, but once they come to college, they will find their place," Schwartz said. "You don't need to conform, you can be yourself, especially if you didn't fit in in high school. It's okay to not fit in in one place because you will eventually find your place, especially at Purdue because is a really big place."

Finding one's place also means searching within and learning about yourself.

"If you do not love what you are learning, don't do it the rest of your life," Schwartz said.

It is OK, she said, to change course and take chances. She encourages everyone to say, "Yes" and seize opportunities. Taking these chances, allowed Schwartz to end up in a role that she loves today.

She said her career allows her to do what she loves in a community of people who also are passionate about what they do. She loves her role and credits getting there to the chances she took and challenges she overcame throughout her college and adult life.

2020 ASEC Distinguished Alumnus Andrea Schwartz

B.S., Agricultural Education, 2006; M.S. Agricultural and Extension Education, 2011 Dean of the School of Advanced Manufacturing, Engineering & Applied Science and Associate Professor of Agriculture Ivy Tech Community College-Lafayette.

Andrea Schwartz is the Dean of the School of Advanced Manufacturing, Engineering & Applied Science and Associate Professor of Agriculture at Ivy Tech Community College-Lafayette. She earned her master's degree in Agriculture and Extension Education in 2006 and her bachelor's degree in Agricultural Education in 2006.

As dean at Ivy Tech, Schwartz's goals focus on supporting a successful team of faculty and staff while leveraging industry relationships to build a stronger workforce in the greater Lafayette area. Before being named Dean, she served Ivy Tech as Chair and Assistant Professor of the Agriculture Program. As Program Chair, she fostered relationships for more than 150 internship experiences across the country, increased participation in the Pathway to Purdue Agriculture Program by approximately 250 percent, and enhanced the College's ties to the Indiana FFA Association by co-hosting the Annual State Convention with Purdue. Ivy Tech-Lafayette hosts one day of career development events and leadership development events, as well as chapter fun night. Schwartz resides in Carroll County with her husband and two children on a small cattle and crop farm.

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