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Redefining the career path

Alumni Brady Spangenberg's unconventional journey combines humanities and agriculture


Global agriculture trends. Renaissance comparative literature. Business writing and translations. 

Most companies would need to hire three separate individuals to offer expertise in these three different fields. BASF Agricultural Solutions, a leading global corporation, received all three through just one employee: Dr. Brady Spangenberg ’04. 

As the senior marketing manager for strategy and services at BASF Agricultural Solutions US, Spangenberg helps coordinate incentive planning, forecasting, demand planning and campaign execution on a portfolio of over 100 products. He also has direct responsibility for private label and technical material sales to distribution. 

Sometimes his days at Simpson College – where he double-majored in English and religion – feel like a distant memory. But his unique journey through academia and the corporate world embodies the spirit of an interdisciplinary, liberal arts education. 

A Council Bluffs native, Spangenberg started out studying environmental science. He changed course after his first semester. “That’s when my love for languages and ideas developed,” Spangenberg said. 

Spangenberg earned both a master’s and doctorate degree in comparative literature from Purdue University and served as a research fellow at the University of Freiburg (Germany). He wanted to stand out from other job candidates. His continued research in comparative literature sets him apart to this day.

“The academic market was very competitive,” Spangenberg said. “I wanted a hedge, so I focused on my foreign language and business writing skills.” 

Spangenberg landed a position as the global communications manager at BASF Agricultural Solutions’ headquarters in Germany. In his 10 years at the company, he’s also held roles in business systems, analytics and market intelligence. 

While his career focuses heavily on agricultural business, Spangenberg credits his success on his liberal arts background.

“I use the things I learned in literature and humanities every day to be the swiss army knife my company needs me to be,” Spangenberg said. “Throughout my career, I’ve needed to know how to tell a good story, frame an argument and manage people. I’ve had to bounce from project to project; from being detailed-oriented one minute to being creative the next. A liberal arts background was the best incubator for that.”

Spangenberg shared his story with the Simpson community as the inaugural lecturer at the Humanities Division Speaker Series in September 2021. His talk, “You Studied What?!? Applying Humanities Lessons to the Business of Agriculture” stressed the benefits of a broad-based, liberal arts education. 

“I hope to show students that they shouldn’t be scared of studying something because there’s no direct role after graduation,” Spangenberg said. “There may be specific jobs for those who study biology, chemistry, and so on. But there will also be plenty of career paths for those that are comfortable with diving into uncertain or unknown subjects.”

This story first appeared in the fall 2021 edition of The Simpson Magazine.