Future of the KPU Turf Management Program

By Jerry Rousseau

The WCTA office often fields questions about turf management education options, typically from sportsfield manager and superintendent types who have someone on staff looking to further their turf career. 

As you might expect, a healthy share of enrolment in the various Canadian programs originates from those already working in the turf management industry, myself included so many seasons ago.

KPU Turf Management Lead Instructor, Stan Kazymerchyk, provides an update at the 2020 WCTA Annual General Meeting

The recent retirement announcement by Kwantlen Turf Management Lead Instructor, Stan Kazymerchyk, prompted a certain level of advocacy by this association to remind KPU brass the value and importance of their turf program, the need for it to continue uninterrupted and to drive a conversation about potential changes, improvements, adjustments, online/hybrid delivery options and so on.  

This process prompted a look at the other two major Canadian turf management programs, Olds College and University of Guelph, which we’ll get to in another article.

Following up on WCTA’s letter expressing ongoing support of the KPU Turf Management program, early this fall I met with Dean of Science and Horticulture, Dr. Brett Favaro, to discuss the program’s future and learn more about where things are headed.  Here’s what he said in point form:

•  All KPU programs are on a 7 year review cycle, turf was under review when COVID hit and they are now resuming this process starting with industry consultation
•  KPU is not planning to shut down the turf program but is concerned about traditionally low enrolment numbers for this highly specialized program and is trying to figure out how to ‘get bums in seats’
•  They need to look at this program within the totality of the horticulture program but see this as an opportunity to develop ‘Turf 2.0’

A month later, an expanded meeting included BCGSA representatives, WCTA Directors, Erika Eliason, Associate Dean and additional KPU staff.  Dr. Favaro provided an update, ie. Stan Kaz has officially submitted his resignation, the program is under review and consultation surveys have gone out.  

KPU turf renovation lab

Contrary to rumours, the program is not closing.  The key question is, “What does the industry need?”  It seems everyone has their own ideas so it’s important to consolidate these into an effective curriculum.  Stan Kazymerchyk commented, “The problem with industry consultation is pretty much everyone wants something different making it very difficult to create a curriculum,” adding, “the program was designed to put out turf managers.”

There was a question as to who surveys went to since neither association received anything nor did BCGSA President, Brett Finlayson as an alumnus.  We were told we would get to see the survey and could provide direct input through this and other meetings.

Discussion about making greenkeeping a trade, like in the UK and Australia didn’t last long.  After some initial optimism by Dr. Favaro, we were told by the apprenticeship chair that at minimum, 3 provinces need to buy-in and as an example, the Landscape Red Seal process took 8 years to complete.  Unless there is justifiable motivation, it doesn’t seem likely greenkeeping/turf will become a trade anytime soon.

It was difficult to not talk about curriculum specifics like whether or not students should learn how to operate equipment or cut pins, but some very good comments and questions floated out:

The program should focus on turf rather than golf or sportsfield specifics
How do we attract students?
What are our problems in terms of labour/mgmt?
Industry should not expect students to know everything upon program completion and keep this in mind when developing curriculum
Multiple educational paths are possible
Industry demands that we be part of the data collection for program reviews
Take a good look at other successful education models
What about establishing a turf research program?
Need to hire someone great
Accessibility/engagement is important
Keep up the field trips and outside speakers
Co-op work replacement is valuable
Education indicates a commitment to the industry
Mature students need to continue earning
What do employers want from students?
How does this program delivery compare to other industries?
Keep in mind school is only the door opening and learning continues through conferences, training, webinars, etc

At the end of the day, we as turf industry representatives presented the following priories to KPU:

1) No pause in program delivery;

2) Recognizing we need ‘bums in seats, the program needs to effectively serve the needs of the turf management industry.  On the subject of enrolment, more effort is needed to draw from people already working in the industry;

3) Regarding curriculum, KPU needs to train students how to grow grass – curriculum and delivery must be based on this.  

I believe that concerted messaging from the turf management industry, including representative associations, is key to ensuring the KPU Turf Program is successful after Stan’s retirement.  The WCTA will maintain its involvement throughout the KPU Turf Program review/reboot process and along with the BCGSA, is encouraging campus decision makers to consider factors like applying real life experiences toward course credits, adopting online/hybrid learning options and adjusting in-person course timing to better fit seasonality of the industry.  

An action plan is expected from KPU by spring 2024 while Stan 2.0 won’t start until fall 2024.  In case you’re interested, watch for the job post to be circulated by our employment notification service (ENS) sometime in early 2024.