The Professional Grounds Management Society (PGMS) announced that Eric Harshman, grounds superintendent at Transylvania University, obtained the Certified Grounds Manager (CGM) certification. The following is an interview PGMS conducted with Harshman:
PGMS: Why did you want to become a CGM?
Harshman: The CGM distinction is a true honor. This certification reinforces the years of both practical (hands on training) and formal (in class) education that I have dedicated my time to while in the green industry. The process of obtaining this certification challenged me to lead by example, rely on past experiences, and trust in the processes that I have established for not only for myself, but for my team of trusted and hardworking individuals.
PGMS: What inspired you to pursue a career in the green industry?
Harshman: My time in the industry didn’t come naturally. I initially worked in catalog layout/design after earning my bachelor’s degree in Business Administration/Marketing from Indiana Tech University (2006) prior to my start in the green industry. I worked in golf and professional baseball while completing my Golf Turf Management Certification from Rutgers University (2008). I spent time working at both Louisiana State University and The University of Kentucky managing Division I college athletic venues before managing the campus grounds at Berea College and now at Transylvania University. I’ve always enjoyed being outside, working with my hands in all weather environments. Building teams that take pride in what they do, creating an esthetically pleasing, safe environment for students, staff, faculty and the community to enjoy. I appreciate creating the “first impression” for people as they see/walk our campus for the first time. Those moments when photos are taken knowing our hard work is in the backdrop to these lasting memories.
PGMS: What advice do you have for aspiring CGMs?
Harshman: Don’t doubt your knowledge/abilities! Continue to educate yourself, and never be afraid to ask for help. The professionals in our industry are always willing to help a colleague in need.
PGMS: How did your mentor help you along the way?
Harshman: Vince Jagodzinski, CGM was always a phone call/text away. Routinely providing me words of encouragement for my presentation. “Add a little more emphasis on ______ or “The committee will be looking for _____.” His encouragement to dive deeper into my experiences to trust my abilities was reassuring and helped provide a light at the end of the tunnel.
PGMS: What challenges have you faced in your professional career that helped you through the process?
Harshman: We have all faced adversity at some point in our professional careers. We wouldn’t have achieved the distinction of CGM if we hadn’t! We have all been told “no,” or had our thoughts/opinions shot down. The moments where we thought, “There is no way we will get this done,” have all happened at some point in our journeys. Our persistence, the way we manage our teams to achieve the unimaginable, our resourcefulness has brought us to this moment, the place we are today. Our determination in continuous education to better ourselves and our teams so we can educate our administrations/athletic departments that we are more than just individuals who mow the grass. We are true professionals in all that we do, we are capable of so much more and that our voices need to be heard.
PGMS: How do you see the future of the grounds industry?
Harshman: There will always be a need for grounds managers. I believe the work will always be there in some fashion. It’s extremely important to stay current with new education and trends within our industry. Never be reluctant to change; change helps us grow as an individuals, and allows us to fail and to learn.