Grain science majors unique to K-State, benefit students

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Elizabeth May, senior in bakery science, and Rachel Sevart, freshman in dietetics, fill pastry bags with chocolate dough during bakery science club in Shellenberger Hall on April 14, 2015. (Nicholas Cady | The Collegian)

K-State’s Department of Grain Science and Industry has three one-of-a-kind majors, bakery, feed and milling sciences and management, that are the only four-year degrees of their type in the U.S.

Sitting alone in supplying the skilled workers in grain science has its benefits for K-State graduates. Each of the three majors has 100 percent job placement or continuing education, according to post-graduation surveys conducted by K-State Career and Employment Services.

The CES surveys, which are sent out six months after graduation, measure the job-placement statistics for all of K-State. The data comprises numbers of those who are employed, continuing education or seeking employment.

For all 2013-14 K-State bachelor degree graduates, 82 percent returned the survey. Of those, 94 percent were either employed or continuing their education, which is up 1 percent from the previous year. Universitywide statistics are available on the CES website.

The job-placement statistics are enough reason for some students to study grain science. Connor Henley, sophomore in milling science and management, said he switched from industrial engineering because of the better job placement and salary statistics for milling science.

In addition to job placement, the CES surveys measure the average starting salaries of K-State graduates. According to CES data provided by Sharon Thielen, assistant dean for the College of Agriculture, bakery science and management has an average starting salary of $54,740; feed science and management’s is $46,666; and milling science and management’s is $61,250, the highest of all majors in the College of Agriculture.

The three grain science majors consistently rank among the highest-paid agriculture majors at K-State. Data from the past five years also show 100 percent job placement for the three grain science majors.

The job opportunities parallel internship placement. Henley, who will intern this summer in Indianapolis with Archer Daniels Midland, had four internship offers.

Tanner Elliott, sophomore in milling science and management, had an internship with Buhler in Boston after his freshman year.

“It was a great way to get into the industry, to get ahead of the curve,” Elliott said.

Brenda Heptig, academic programs support coordinator for the Department of Grain Science and Industry, said that internships are a requirement for most degree options in grain science.

“They pay well,” Heptig said. “Usually between $18 and $25 an hour.”

Heptig said that K-State graduates are in such high demand that companies come to campus to conduct interviews for jobs and internships in Shellenberger Hall, the home of grain science and industry. Several students also receive job offers after completing internships.

Academic advisers can play an important role in helping students choose the best internship and job offers.

“It can be kind of overwhelming,” Heptig said. “I mean, it sounds like a great problem to have; but when you’re 19 or 20 and you’ve got three summer internship offers that, you know, maybe one’s in Texas, one’s in Oregon and one’s in Michigan, you know what is the best for you.”

As the only bachelor programs in the U.S., each of the majors bring in several out-of-state students and some international students. Graduates and interns generally have job offers in several different states.

For example, two of the seven feed science and management graduates in 2013-14 took jobs in Kansas, according to CES data. Additionally, a U.S. map inside the entrance to Shellenberger Hall shows the locations of student internships for summer 2014.

For nationwide data of everyone in the food science and technology industry, the Bureau of Labor Statistics website states the mean hourly wage is $32.15 and the mean annual salary is $66,870.

Jon Faubion, Singleton endowed professor in the Department of Grain Science and Industry, said that statistics should not be the deciding factor for students interested in the grain science majors.

“We are fortunate in having very good starting salaries for our majors,” Faubion said. “That shouldn’t be the primary reason that the student is interested in this degree. They have to be interested in what they’re doing; they have to like what they’re doing. Now if there is an advantage beyond that, such as high salaries and job placement, that’s definitely true, but you can have a number of great job offers and take a job with a great salary, but if you don’t like it, you’re not going to stay satisfied with the career.”

While some graduates return to K-State for further education, veterinary school or to conduct research, most graduates enter the industry at the management level, Heptig said.

“It’s a lot of hands on, a lot of people skills, it’s a lot of work,” Heptig said.

According to CES data, of the 21 milling science graduates in 2013-14, 11 had “manager,” “management,” “supervisor,” “superintendent” or “head” in their job description. Three of the seven feed science and one of the six bakery science majors included one of these terms.

Research is also an integral part of grain science.

“The research is a benefit to the state, the consumers in the state and the consumers nationally,” Faubion said, “because what we’re trying to do, among other things, is to identify better ways to store grain, to maintain its condition or to prevent insect infestation of the grain. So to maintain post-harvest quality, we’re looking at the process of understanding what it is about certain varieties of cereals that have higher quality and make better quality bread, make better quality beer or make better quality tortillas.”

Faubion, who is a K-State alumnus, formerly directed the applied technology and sensory science groups for the research and development arm of The Schwan Food Company.

Even if there were an influx of grain science students, Heptig said there would still be plenty of job openings. The three majors average about 200 students per year, but the number has been growing slowly, Heptig said.

The high number of K-State graduates in the profession provides for a good relationship among the companies and K-State.

“We have great industry support with internships, jobs, scholarships,” Heptig said. “They also donate a lot of equipment to our feed mill and flour mill.”

Students have several opportunities outside of class and internships to gain valuable experience. There is a faculty-led study abroad class and each major has its own student club.

Bakery science students hold bake sales every Wednesday. Feed science students sell dog treats called EPAWs. The store in Call Hall sells the flour of the milling science students.

“I think what is special about the grain science programs is that there is such a need in the world since we deal with food and we all want to eat,” Heptig said.

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Jason Tidd
Jason Tidd graduated from Kansas State University's Miller School of Journalism and Mass Communication in May 2017. He was the spring 2017 editor-in-chief, fall 2016 news editor and spring 2016 assistant news editor. While at K-State, Jason played baritone in the Pride of Wildcat Land marching band.