Business Department focuses on market and student needs

Hesston College alumnus Wilbur Bontrager

Their end jobs will be in sales, accounting, finance, marketing, human resources, manufacturing or information technology. Someday they’ll interview for that dream job and sign on the dotted line. But for today, students at Hesston College—expected majors as well as those still deciding—learn about all aspects of business.

Chad Newcomer, a sophomore from Mount Joy, Pa., is one of the business majors. In late March, Newcomer and 13 other students in Bill Mason’s Business Seminar course drove to Abilene to eat at the Brookville Hotel which serves family-style fried chicken.

“For that class we’ve gone to four different businesses, and we will be going to about four more, including some restaurants, to meet with the owners so they can tell us their stories,” Newcomer says. “They help us gain the knowledge we need on how to be better business leaders.”

Experiential learning is valuable, according to Business Department chair Vickie Andres, who has taught at Hesston College for 20 years. While foundational understandings form the solid base of the Business and Computer Information Technology Division and are designed for the four-year transfers, Andres and other instructors help all students, including those moving directly into jobs, learn hands-on business and computer skills.

Newcomer, for example, spent two months last summer at Harper (Kan.) Industries, Inc., in an internship, supervised by co-owner Heber Ramer ’75 and former Hesston College instructor.

“I redesigned their manuals, making them more appealing for their dealers. I used Adobe InDesign, a little bit of Photoshop, some Illustrator, Adobe PDF files,” Newcomer says.

Computer faculty member Bob Harder works with a student
Faculty member Bob Harder (center) works with Alan Leichty, freshman, Wakarusa, Ind.

Knowing how to use appropriate computer software tools is just one of the Business Program’s outcomes. Students are also expected to understand the free-market system, including entrepreneurship, and be able to talk about the differences in the global economic market. They create business plans and show they can manage various business operations. They assess career options and personal strengths.

“I enjoy the business field because there are so many career options available in business, yet all begin with a set of common core courses,” Andres says. Business majors continue to study accounting and other required courses as they have since the 1970s when the program began. But the department has adapted through the years to meet the needs of Hesston College students in general, many who come in with little job experience or who are undecided on their majors.

Recent changes in the program have included the addition of the Exploring Business course, which offers students a broad sweep of the department. The course is ideally suited for students still deciding on a degree focus and those with few high school business courses. Business courses are also compatible in combination with other programs, such as Aviation or Disaster Management.

Another addition is the Personal Finance course, which, according to Andres, responded to students’ needs when “the economic drop hit that negative 1% savings nationwide.” In this course students learn about personal taxes, investment choices, the stock market, savings options, insurance and budgeting.

Faculty member Vickie Andres leads students in a class exercise.
Faculty member Vickie Andres leads students in a class exercise.

In the Business Communications course students do mock interviews and prepare for presentations or proposals.
During spring semester students in the Desktop Publications course produced documents for area businesses. Entrepreneurship students, taught by David LeVan, launched a couple of short-term on-campus businesses.

During the year other out-of-class experiences include regular trips to the annual MEDA (Mennonite Economic Development Associates) conventions for as many as 10 or 12 business students. Hesston students attending the convention are regularly the largest college delegation at these meetings.

The annual business department dinner encourages the students in leadership and lets them hear from guest speakers not only at the dinner, but during classes. Last fall the dinner’s theme focused on the international fair trade organization Ten Thousand Villages.

Summer internships, like the one Newcomer participated in at Harper, as well as cooperative learning experiences throughout the year, allow students to experience business ideas and operations first-hand.
Current programs of study for Hesston College students are the Associate Degree Program in Business, the Four-Year Transfer Business Program and Computer Information Technology. Currently faculty are looking into adding an additional two-year program option.

“Business is constantly changing, and we continue to look at new ways to address market needs and meet our students’ needs. It is critical to our department,” Andres says.


June Galle Krehbiel former staff is a freelance writer who lives in Moundridge, Kan.