Editor’s Note: In this series, we profile various colleges and universities through conversations with key players at major institutions, as we discuss their turfgrass programs and provide insight into the industry education that is available to the next generation of sports field managers. In this edition, we highlight Iowa State University.
The Iowa State University Department of Horticulture Turfgrass Management option has an excellent national reputation and students are sought after by employers throughout the country. Iowa State University Turfgrass Management students learn all the skills necessary to maintain turf that could earn them a position as a sports field manager, golf course superintendent, lawn care specialist, or municipal grounds professional.
“The coursework focuses on the importance of soils, plant function, and the management of insects and disease,” said Barb Clawson, student services specialist, associate teaching professor and academic advisor. “Hands-on experience, amazing internship opportunities, and professional development.”
According to Clawson, Iowa State Turfgrass Management students graduate the program into jobs as assistant golf course superintendents, AIT, golf course superintendents, sports field managers, irrigation technicians, small equipment or fertilizer/chemical sales, spray technicians, lawn care professionals – some combining turf with landscape design, installation and management skills.
Clawson said that, at the beginning of the fall 2022 semester, of 154 students total in the Horticulture program, 32 were in Turfgrass Management.
According to Adam Thoms, Ph.D., assistant professor of commercial turfgrass in the Department of Horticulture at Iowa State University, students have the chance to be a part of research through various undergraduate research assistant positions.
“Our students have helped with studying the testing and development of potentially new fertilizers, helped evaluate new cultivars, and investigated new devices for cultural practices to list a few projects,” he said. “They get to work in the field, greenhouse and lab.”
To get prospective students interested in Iowa State’s Turfgrass Management program, Clawson said the Iowa Golf Course Superintendents Association/Iowa Turf Institute has sponsored a barbecue during the Iowa FFA Convention and invited students and agricultural educators for a tour of Jack Trice Stadium, as well as a local golf course.
“I participate in many career fairs and talk about all options,” she said. “I try to get students who are interested in sports already, that maybe don’t have what it takes to play the game but want to make the game better by managing a pristine field. When a student finds us, I try to get them to speak with Adam Thoms or Nick Christians on the first visit, offer them a tour of the stadium and/or a golf course, talk at length about where our students intern and find careers, and make sure they understand our curriculum.”
Added Clawson, “Our program combines the needed technical information with hands-on activities and internships to prepare our students for a rewarding career.”
For more information about Iowa State University’s Department of Horticulture and its Turfgrass Management focus, visit https://www.hort.iastate.edu/undergraduate-experience/academic-offerings/turfgrass-management/.
SportsField Management magazine will detail other college and university turfgrass programs in coming issues. If you would like your school profiled, please contact John Kmitta at email@example.com or 763-383-4405.