Ask an Antelope: Jody Herchenbach returns to her roots as an agribusiness professor

UNK assistant agribusiness professor Jody Herchenbach wasn’t always interested in an agriculture career.

She grew up on a hog, corn and soybean farm near Leigh in northeast Nebraska and was involved in the typical ag-related activities such as FFA and 4-H as a youth. But she wanted to explore other career options when she went to college.

“I thought that would have been too easy,” she explained.

Herchenbach earned a bachelor’s degree in business management at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln because she was most drawn to the classes within that program. However, she was pulled back to her roots when she obtained a job with the Nebraska Extension 4-H program in Platte County.

“The agriculture bug bit me, and I never looked back from there,” she said.

Herchenbach then earned a master’s degree in agribusiness through a hybrid program at Kansas State University. “This put my business background and interests together with agriculture. It was the perfect fit.”

Herchenbach worked in the banking industry before deciding to continue her education at KSU, where she also earned a doctorate in agricultural economics. While there, she found research to be fulfilling and enjoyed being in the classroom.

This led to her current role at UNK, where she uses her real-life experiences to educate future agribusiness professionals. Herchenbach joined the faculty here in fall 2022.

What drew you to UNK?
UNK was the perfect fit for me! It has an agribusiness program and the entire campus is focused on high-quality teaching as well as research. The campus values faculty involvement and is student-centered. Additionally, it put me back in Nebraska and only a couple hours away from my extended family, which I highly value.

How do your previous experiences guide your teaching?
Being around youth and understanding human behaviors has helped tremendously in my role in the classroom. Additionally, all the event planning I have done in my various roles has helped me with my communication skills, volunteer management and coordinating several details. I have used all these skills both in the classroom as well as outside of the classroom organizing student events.

I had done some curriculum writing while in my 4-H role, so that has translated well. While at the bank, I learned the ins and outs of the banking industry and agricultural loan world. My research in the farmer cooperative space has allowed me to fully understand that unique model of business. This all has translated back into helping our students understand the different types of agribusinesses that exist and how they might function.

What courses do you teach?
I teach Principles of Macroeconomics, Introduction to Agribusiness, Agribusiness Management and Agricultural Finance. I also have taught Principles of Microeconomics.

What other roles do you have on campus?
I serve as an involved faculty member within our small agribusiness team of three full-time faculty. This includes advising undergraduate students, creating and setting curriculum, helping with the Agribusiness Club student organization and coordinating events that directly impact our students.

I also conduct research in the agribusiness management and farmer cooperative space and do outreach across the state of Nebraska related to my research on behalf of UNK. Additionally, I serve on a few department, college and university committees.

How does UNK’s agribusiness program prepare students for their future careers?
We are educating the next generation of producers and agribusiness professionals in our region by utilizing in-class and outside-of-classroom experiences to create an individualized learning environment. We provide opportunities for non-agriculture students to obtain a mindset that combines agriculture with business. Our students graduate from UNK with excellent job opportunities.

What do you love most about UNK?
The people and the culture. The students and my colleagues are great. It’s a supportive learning environment for both faculty and students and encourages exploration. I love that!

Share a fun fact about yourself:
I love reading any type of book that’s not a thriller/horror book. I am a sports fanatic and love following the Huskers and Kansas City Chiefs. My husband and I have several nieces and nephews, so we spend a lot of time traveling to watch them in their various school activities.

“Ask an Antelope” is a Q&A series highlighting UNK faculty and staff and their impact on the campus and community.