Purdue alumnus Isaiah Butler, a transportation analyst at GROWMARK, Inc., grew up in South Bend, Indiana, and Fort Worth, Texas. Both cities’ industrial histories might have influenced Butler’s past and present educational choices. In 2013, Butler earned a bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership and supervision with a focus in industrial technology. Next week (May 11), he will graduate with a master’s degree in leadership, a program offered through Purdue Polytechnic’s Center for Professional Studies (ProSTAR).
Butler praised ProSTAR and Purdue Polytechnic’s Department of Technology Leadership & Innovation for fostering strong relationships with students.
“I developed meaningful connections with many people, including Mitchell Springer (executive director of ProSTAR and operations and strategic initiatives), Linda Naimi (associate professor of organizational leadership and supervision), and Larry Fischer (program manager),” said Butler. “I’m grateful for them and all the faculty and staff in the program. I'm on the verge of a big move, and my degree should set me up for success in the next chapter of my career.”
We talked with Butler about why he chose to get his undergraduate degree at Purdue and to come back for a weekend master’s degree program.
Question: Why did you first come to Purdue?
Isaiah Butler: I chose Purdue because it is a well-known STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) school, ranked as one of the most productive universities in the country. The Department of Technology Leadership & Innovation is excellent at helping students leverage the intersection of technology, innovation and organizational leadership across all fields. Also, three of my close siblings were attending Purdue, so I knew I would have an excellent support system.
Q: Please tell us about what you’ve been doing in recent years.
Butler: I am currently employed with GROWMARK, a regional agricultural supply cooperative, providing agronomy, energy, facility planning, and logistics products and services, as well as grain marketing and risk management services, in more than 40 states and Ontario, Canada.
I work in logistics as a transportation analyst, ensuring that our members and customers can provide their own customers with the right products at the right time. I analyze, procure, consign and coordinate transportation needs for truckloads of products sold by GROWMARK. Before that, I interned with GROWMARK in the talent management division.
Q: In which of the Center for Professional Studies programs did you study? Why did that program interest you?
Butler: I’m interested in combining high-tech solutions with my transformational leadership style. Purdue Polytechnic’s Master of Science in Leadership Weekend program allowed me to do just that. The program has a unique plan of study that fits a variety of career paths. It allowed me to focus a lot of my studies on technology as well as leadership.
Q: Why did you choose to advance your education via a weekend master’s degree program? How did it fit in with your family and job responsibilities?
Butler: Juggling graduate courses and a full-time job is demanding, but it’s worth the effort. The weekend program allowed me to gain professional experience and leverage my classroom education concurrently. This specific program is challenging, and it provides enough autonomy to effectively manage my busy schedule. I believe the Polytechnic faculty understands that the quality of students’ time determines the quality of their lives. The hybrid program helps us all achieve increased productivity and a healthy balance between work, school and life. I believe time is our most precious resource, more so than money.
Q: What has been a favorite aspect of the program, and why?
Butler: The program is research-based. Qualitative analysis and input is a strength of mine, so this program was a natural fit. I love how each professor incorporates real-world connections via relevant case studies, cooperative learning projects and self-reflection valuations. Many of the courses inspire creativity and help students realize who they are personally and professionally. It also helps students recognize the value they bring to the marketplace.
One of my favorite courses was Strategic Planning and Marketing in Technology because it went far beyond traditional, strategic business contexts. The course provided opportunities to gain a global perspective of strategy, with relevant principles that can be applied to real-world solutions in real time. Strategy can be a buzzword to make people sound like they are on the cutting edge, but Kyle Heurich, who teaches the course, did an excellent job challenging students to think about strategy differently. He had us examine a wide literature base, analyze and debate diverse perspectives, and develop a personal strategy. I highly recommend taking this course or one like it.
Q: What advice would you give students thinking about studying at Purdue in undergraduate or graduate programs?
Butler: For undergraduates, I recommend knowing your strengths. If you are considering a STEM major, knowing your aptitude in math and science helps tremendously. I also suggest that you be engaged with your department and its networks. Have the courage to ask for help when needed. Do not let pride or ego be the reason you get a C instead of A. Lastly, I encourage all students to study abroad, if possible. I studied abroad in Germany and South Africa, and it was life-changing.
Graduate students, make sure the faculty is committed to working with you. Students should also be intentional about fostering relationships. Inquire about funding (grants, scholarships) from your department of interest. Find a solid support group or mentor that can help you see the big picture. One of my mentors, Purdue alumnus Ryan Favors, was pivotal in my success.