Dr. Arbindra Rimal was born and raised in Nepal. After college, he began his career at an accounting firm in India. His next job was at an agriculture bank — a move that started him down a new path. “I became so interested in agriculture, because it can help people by solving complex problems. After all, food is a necessity for life!” He earned a master’s, then came to the United States to continue his studies. He began teaching at Missouri State in 2000. He returns to Nepal every year to visit family, and is passionate about his field and how it is a force for good: “If you want to have a stable country or state, you have to have a continuous supply of safe, nutritious food. Everybody should understand how food gets to them and how it is produced and marketed.”
Q: You are being profiled because students say you’re a great teacher. What do you think makes a teacher great?
A: I think the most important thing is to keep the students engaged. If they get bored, they’re not listening. I try to put difficult concepts in terms anyone can understand. I use real examples from the news and from agriculture professionals to show them how their studies will come up in their careers. I also try to challenge them. Maybe they have only heard one side of an argument; I want them to think more deeply.
Q: What is agribusiness?
A: Basically, agribusiness is just like any other business — except it deals with food. Students may start out with a stigma: “Oh, ag; that’s just livestock.” As they get into the major they end up loving it. The production of livestock or crops is only a small part of agribusiness. This field is more about economic theories and business services that support agriculture. I use my accounting and finance background a lot in my classes.
Q: How do you give students great experiences in the classroom?
A: I offer ways for students to connect with working professionals on projects or case studies. To use an example, a local John Deere manager is a regular guest in my classes. He gives my students challenges to complete, such as designing a marketing promotion. He often uses the winning team’s work in real advertisements. Last time, the team with the first-place entry got a $500 gift certificate. We have also teamed up on similar projects with local beef producers, wine makers and other agriculture professionals.
Q: How are your students prepared for the real world?
A: Each year I take a class to either St. Louis or Kansas City to meet with representatives from major agribusinesses including Monsanto, John Deere, Osborn & Barr agriculture communications agency and Archer Daniels Midland agricultural processing company. Many students end up getting internships or jobs from these trips.
Q: How do you involve students in your research?
A: I have done research in areas such as food safety, nutrition and how consumers choose food. Recently I have been focusing on local foods and farmers’ markets. I am now working with a dairy processing plant in Mountain Grove, Mo. A couple of farmers there are trying to produce cheese, yogurt and ice cream. We’re doing a market feasibility study and business plan with them. I have had help from undergraduate students with surveys and other tasks. They even get an hourly salary for their work. These students are smart and get deeply involved: They can go to the farmers or the retailers and talk all about the project!
Q: Why is Missouri State a great choice for students interested in agribusiness?
A: Your education will combine classroom experiences with hands-on learning. Missouri State has amazing agriculture facilities, including a working cattle ranch, a rural campus dedicated to fruit production, a center with a barn and horse-riding track, greenhouses and much more. We also are uniquely located. The University is near Kansas City and St. Louis, large hubs of agribusiness. That means major corporations are just a short distance away. However, we have rural farm areas within a short drive of campus, so students can see agriculture close-up.
Q: What is the best part of your job?
A: To hear from students who say they got career opportunities because of what we taught them. For example, I heard from a former student recently. He was, like me, an immigrant; his family came from Romania. He got a job at Cargill and works in Virginia now. He called me and said, “Dr. Rimal, I really would like to thank you. Because of my degree, my salary is great and I have been here a few years and already been promoted several times.” He said he got the right degree at the right place. When I hear that kind of story, it makes me feel good because my legacy can be helping others.