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Cultivating Success

Author: Chad Sanborn | Image: Chad Sanborn

Cultivating Success

An Online Master’s Degree Journey in Plant Breeding and Professional Growth

The decision to pursue a master’s degree is a significant one influenced by various factors. Ryan Lynch is a December 2023 graduate of the online master of plant breeding program at Iowa State University. He shared what led him to an online program, the immediate applicability of course content to his daily work, and how he balanced school, work, and personal life.

Lynch found himself surrounded by growth and opportunity with his employer, Sakata Seed America, Inc., located in Burlington, Washington, in the U.S. Pacific Northwest. The company, recognizing the importance of education, provided employees with tuition reimbursement. Several of his coworkers were graduates of the Iowa State program, which motivated him to pursue it.

He highlighted the online master of plant breeding program’s flexibility as another factor that attracted him to pursue studies at Iowa State. Coursework in this program is completed at the student’s own time and pace, providing the flexibility needed for working professionals to earn their master’s degree while fulfilling personal and professional obligations.

Most importantly, he emphasized the significance of being able to implement what he studied into his daily work, citing this as a crucial aspect for maintaining long-term motivation through the program. During a selective breeding program design course, he took suggestions on altering the timing of processes within his work with spinach breeding at Sakata Seed, implemented those changes, and garnered immediate benefits. “Taking that theory and then applying it in your full-time work gives you the best of both worlds,” he said.

Lynch also shared that he found immense value in the variety of experiences and perspectives of his classmates. Collaborating with professionals in his field from across the country provided unique insights and different approaches to problem-solving.

“The diverse backgrounds of the students I was in the program with (were) really valuable,” he said. “(…)getting feedback from people who work in different fields and getting different inputs from them was really beneficial.” Lynch shared that these experiences contributed to a well-rounded education that extended beyond the academic realm into a very practical one, especially as it relates to his current position with Sakata Seed.

Lynch stated that returning to school as a full-time working professional required effective time management. Sharing his strategies for balancing work and school, he emphasized the importance of setting boundaries and committing to a structured schedule.

“I think time management in an online program can be a challenge, but the time management aspect of it is critical,” Lynch explained, “You have to force yourself to commit to a rigid schedule. Setting time boundaries throughout the week was super beneficial for me.”

While having a dedicated schedule in an online learning program was essential, Lynch also discussed the importance of allowing time away from the program for hobbies and activities that provided personal fulfillment.

Coaching youth hockey and playing hockey became a welcomed break from his studies. “I grew up playing hockey as a kid in Alaska. So, just having a physical outlet every week, for a couple of hours, to unplug and do something other than schoolwork was huge and helped keep my sanity a little bit,” he said.

Lynch’s time in Iowa State University’s online master of plant breeding program combined flexibility with real-world application in a supportive environment. Prospective students seeking a program that integrates education with professional responsibilities may find inspiration in Lynch’s experiences. Learn more about the online programs that Iowa State offers, and contact us to ask questions.

Ryan Lyncg“The diverse backgrounds of the students I was in the program with (were) really valuable…getting feedback from people who work in different fields and getting different inputs from them was really beneficial.”

— Ryan Lynch

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