The University of Tennessee’s Turfgrass Science and Management program is a concentration of study in the Department of Plant Sciences that combines the study of grasses, soils, water and pests. Turfgrass managers are involved with the production and maintenance of grasses for recreational, aesthetic and environmental uses.
This program is offered to those interested in careers in golf course, athletic field and commercial turf management. With its tagline, “Careers you can grow with,” the turfgrass science and management program strives help students to thrive as new members of the industry.
“Training future turf managers requires both classroom education and real-world experience,” says John Sorochan, Ph.D, UT distinguished professor, turfgrass science. “Internships and other employment in the turf industry during their time at UT teaches the students how to do what it takes to manage turfgrass in the real world.
“In the classroom, the goal is to teach the students to become critical thinkers and to have a solid foundation of turf, agronomic, communication and business courses to prepare them for their eventual careers in the turfgrass industry. When a student graduates from the UT turf program, we don’t only want them to know ‘how’ to manage turfgrass, but also to be able to answer ‘why’ they are making the decisions to manage the turf.”
The program, Sorochan notes, offers a hands-on focus that makes the University of Tennessee program unique in its approach. “I believe what has made the UT turfgrass program stand out over others is how it has grown in recent years to approximately 54 students,” he says. “We also offer 11 different turfgrass specific classes that turfgrass majors take. Additionally, the students are able to take six credit hours of internship credit, and one of the internship opportunities during their junior year (early March to mid- August) is 5 1/2 months.”
The industry continues to grow at a record pace, and with open employment in various sports facilities and parks, there is a steady demand for technically trained management personnel. Having such a curriculum puts students in a position to become desirable applicants for hiring managers, Sorochan says.
“They want students who have had practical experience through the internship process and ones that have a strong work ethic and positive attitude,” he says. “In addition, they want them to have a solid foundation of turfgrass knowledge, which they get in the classroom.”
UT turfgrass has a notable internship program. Undergraduate students embark on challenging internships in the spring of their junior year, to high-end facilities like Fenway Park in Boston; Camden Yards in Baltimore; the All England Club in Wimbledon, London; English Premier League football stadiums like Tottenham and Arsenal; and top 100 golf courses. Students return from these internships with real-world experiences in high-pressure environments and networking contacts that will last their entire careers.
The UT turfgrass program and facilities sit within the transition zone, which allows students to be exposed to cooland warm-season turfgrasses during their studies. This prime location also allows the faculty to conduct research studies on all species of turfgrass.