Senior Program Coordinator, Fran Koppell, works her magic behind the scenes, keeping the Rutgers Professional Golf Turf Management School’s 2-year program running smoothly. Having helped thousands of students successfully navigate the 2-year program and land jobs in the turf industry, we sat down and spoke with Fran to learn more about the Rutgers "Turf School" and the turf management industry.
Fran, describe what you do:
I work on all aspects of the Rutgers Professional Golf Turf Management Programs. I meet with schools and advisors to recruit students and then work with students throughout the application process.
Once the students are accepted into the program, I help them find housing so they can quickly get settled at Rutgers and focus completely on studying turf management. When their turf program starts, I act as a liaison between the students and instructors, coordinate off-site field trips, handle students' issues that come up during the program and do much more.
What does the Rutgers Professional Golf Turf Management School offer its students?
The programs provide students with an education that puts their career on the fast track.
Many incoming students already have a foot in the industry as crew members or assistant golf course superintendents. However, our programs give them the technical knowledge, the leadership and management training and the hands-on experience that they need to move up the career ladder to become golf course superintendents, sports field managers or park superintendents.
Editor’s note: At a recent orientation, nearly 1/3 of students returning for their second year of the two year turf management program had been promoted during the break.
What types of applicants make the ideal candidate for the Rutgers Turf School?
Our students come from all walks of life, but the best ones have these traits in common:
- hard working
- love golf, plants or working outdoors
- serious about their career
- driven to succeed in life
Many of our students already work at a golf course but need to improve their agronomic or management skills in order to get promoted. For them, our program is the next natural step in the progression of their turf management career.
Some students have 4-year college degrees, some have 2-year degrees and others have no college experience. One mother told me that her son was the first person in the family to ever attend college. No matter what their educational background, they all work very hard to succeed in the program and when they finish, they (and their families) are so proud of them – and we are proud of them too!
How does the Rutgers Professional Golf Turf Management School differ from other training providers?
There are typically two types of schools that offer turf management training.
One kind of school offers training to become a (PGA) golf pro – the person at a golf course who gives lessons to players – which has nothing to do with actually maintaining a golf course or becoming a golf course superintendent.
The other types of schools offer two-year or four-year degrees in turf grass science or plant science with a turf concentration. Our two-year certificate program is most similar to these schools but with a few key differences that benefit our students.
Our two-year program…
Teaches content that is exactly what students need to become golf course superintendents.
There is no fluff and no time wasted on classes in philosophy, psychology or political science – just turf grass management all the time.
Provides maximum knowledge in minimum time.
Class runs 9am-3pm Monday through Friday for 10 straight weeks. It’s intense, but in less than 3 months, our students are done with their first year and back on the golf course applying what they learned on the job.
Offers the most "bang for the buck."
Our students learn from industry leaders and leave with a top-quality education in a short window of time, reducing the student’s time away from their jobs – and their families. The cost to attend – from tuition to housing – are also considerably less than a degree program.
Offers students an internationally recognized certificate and top earning potential.
Golf course superintendents who hold two-year certificates earn a higher salary than those who hold two-year or four-year degrees.
Do you work with students to help them find a job in turf management?
Yes, I do. They tell me what geographic area they are interested in working in, and I help by contacting alumni and networking. We also maintain an online resource for students, which contains offers from alumni and many other parties who know about our programs.
What kinds of turf management jobs do your students go on to take?
Many of our students do go on to become golf course superintendents, however there are a wide variety of industry-related jobs – from sales to sports field management to consulting – that our students have been offered. Here are some examples of what our alumni are doing today:
- Grounds crew member at Yankees Stadium
- Manager of corporate grounds for Pfizer
- NASCAR infield turf manager
- Director of Parks for the City of Wilmington, Delaware
- Assistant Sports Turf Manager for Louisiana State University
What are your thoughts on the future of the Rutgers Professional Golf Turf Management School?
Looking forward, I see nothing but growth and positive developments for the future of our programs. Student demand has been very high, with many courses selling out well in advance, which is a testament to how well respected the Rutgers name is within the golf turf industry. We are constantly utilizing student feedback to make the program better and better, and we have built a fantastic team of instructors and staff to create a great experience for our students from their initial inquiry all the way through to their graduation day.