Nov. 23, 2010
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Back to school – Part II

Graduates return to Purdue to advance their careers


After nearly 20 years or more in school starting at the age of 5, it’s easy for college graduates to feel as though a great burden has been lifted off their shoulders.

Amanda Stewart

Photos by Tom Campbell

Amanda Stewart worked for wineries in New Zealand and Oregon before returning to campus this summer to begin working on her doctorate in enology.

No more tests. No more all-nighters. No more tuition bills.

Many walk down the aisle, grab their diplomas and never look back.

There are others, however, who think the same things — swear they’ll never sit in a classroom or computer lab again. The days of ramen noodles are over. But here they are, back at Purdue, whether it’s simply to advance their education to move up in their chosen careers or to reinvent themselves to follow newfound passions.

“As undergraduates, at that point in many people’s lives, they don’t know what they want to do. A lot of times you don’t know what you want to do until you’ve done something,” said Dale Whittaker, formerly College of Agriculture associate dean and director of academic programs, and now vice provost for undergraduate academic affairs. “Once they decide what they want to do, new knowledge can put them at a competitive advantage.”

Amanda Stewart, BS ’03, MS ’04, put her food process engineering bachelor’s degree and food safety engineering master’s to use in a refinery that made biodiesel out of waste grease. She enjoyed the work and even got to live in Hawaii for a while.

But she always had wine in the back of her mind.

During her undergraduate years, Stewart worked in the wine lab at Purdue. When she moved to Hawaii to work in the biodiesel refinery, she took online classes on winemaking at the University of California-Davis. And when she left the biodiesel job, Stewart got a job doing quality-control work and fermentation at wineries in Oregon and New Zealand, and continued taking community college classes on winemaking and vineyard management.

“What I liked about the biodiesel job was working with a small business to start a new endeavor. That’s what the wine industry is all about,” Stewart said. “The winery I worked for in Oregon was this small, family business with three or four employees. Here’s a family making a living (and) sending their kids to college. It was a good business, and I really liked being involved with that.”