Ivy Tech associate degree served as foundation for rise in the industry
Bodie Kitchel can’t say enough about the value of his Ivy Tech Community College degree, and neither can his dad, but it wasn’t always that way.
Bodie comes from a family big on education – more specifically Purdue University education. HisBograndfather, Bob Kitchel, and father, Jon Kitchel, both were known for their basketball skills as students there; his uncle, Kelly Kitchel, played football there and continued as a Purdue sports commentator. The black-and-gold runs deep in these Boilermakers.
But, Bodie says, “I kinda hated school” and when he graduated from Lewis Cass High School in 2009, he announced he wasn’t going to the big school in West Lafayette right away. He convinced his dad the Ivy Tech Pathway to Purdue Agriculture program would be his best option. Bodie was going to pursue a two-year degree in Agriculture at Ivy Tech with plans to transfer later to prepare to join the family’s farming operation on 1,200 acres in Cass County.
Bodie did go straight into classes at Ivy Tech Kokomo. He was taking a fulltime load of 15 credit hours a semester and working fulltime at what was then Brodbeck Seeds in Wabash. In February of 2011, just before completing that two-year degree, he married his high school sweetheart, Natalie. Fulltime classes, fulltime job, new marriage… He announced he was done with school.
His father was sure Bodie was limiting his options in life, that he’d never achieve his life’s goals. At the time, who would have predicted that in less than 10 years, his son would be the national director of agronomy for BW Fusion, the premier distributor of Biodyne biological products, and part of the cutting-edge technology team that is applying their understanding of plant physiology, soil chemistry and crop nutrition responses to help farmers across the nation set new production records.
Bodie’s experience at Ivy Tech changed his father’s mind.
“Bodie received several scholarships at Ivy Tech, making his associate degree very affordable,” Jon Kitchel said. “While at Ivy Tech, he successfully completed an internship, and, at graduation, he had several offers for employment.”
And then Bodie ran that Ivy Tech associate degree. He says the key was taking advantage of opportunities to advance his career as they came along, each stop helping him figure out his passions as he went. Through a quick succession of employers in the agricultural industry, he says, “every change I made was an advancement in my career, the next logical step, which led me to where I am today.” And every “next step” in jobs selling seeds, chemicals, and fertilizers helped him realize agronomy was where he could make his mark.
“Looking back,” his father says, “I know success is based on your passion and Agriculture and Agronomy have always been Bodie’s passion. Today Bodie is very successful and works for a company that is changing agriculture.”
As national director of agronomy for BW Fusion, Bodie is involved in research into new nutrient management products for a wide variety of crops – from corn and soybeans to peanuts and cherry trees – on farms across the United States and into Canada. He finds himself working with people in comparable roles at other companies who have master’s degrees and doctorates.
“I came out of Ivy Tech with a two-year degree and two years of fulltime working experience,” Bodie says. “People gave me a chance based on that. It’s easy to place so much emphasis on the ‘paper’ but they looked past that and gave me the opportunity.”
Bodie believes the industry is seeing a paradigm shift in what employers value in an employee.
“In the last generation, it was the degree – and where it was from a benefit,” Bodie says. “Now employers are looking for traits in people rather than a piece of paper.”
Now, Bodie says, his father is Ivy Tech greatest cheerleader.
“Bodie’s experience was my introduction to Ivy Tech and it changed my opinion about higher education, Jon says. “Due to his success, my daughter Laramie followed his path and got her Ag degree from Ivy Tech too.
“I share the value of Ivy Tech any time I get a chance,” he continued. “Annually I invite Denver Muhs, an adjunct faculty member in Ivy Tech’s Ag program, to bring his students out to our family farm and I share with those students the success they can have with an Ivy Tech degree.”
Bodie’s job takes him around the country – in person and via BW Fusion’s “Digging In” video series on YouTube, where he shares crop production insights with a broad audience. But his heart remains in Cass County – on the family farm where he can occasionally jump on a tractor and do some work and with Natalie and their three children, 5-year-old Oaklyn, 3-year-old Beckham, and 1-year-old Mila Jade.
“I’m doing what I love, walking the fields and doing agronomy,” Bodie says. His advice for students today? “Find something you’re passionate about and then don’t make the mistake of racking up thousands of dollars in debt at a four-year school. Ivy Tech offers an affordable degree that allows you to mature as an individual and figure out what you want to do and where you want to be.”