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In Our Spotlight

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Winter School in Session for Turf Managers

Anyone who knows Jason Lanier will relate to the twinkle in his eye when he talks turf. This is especially true when he’s discussing one of the oldest programs at UMass – and among the most unique – the Winter School for Turf Managers. “November through April is really ‘education season’ for turf managers,” says Lanier, the Extension team leader who coordinates the program in addition to serving as its principal instructor.  UMass Turf winter school class of 1930 and 2023

Professor Lawrence S. Dickinson established the 'Winter School for Greenkeepers at Massachusetts Agricultural College' in 1927. The first-of-its-kind program has run continuously with the exception of a three-year hiatus during World War II. Ninety-seven years later, UMass’ Winter School for Turf Managers kicked off on January 2, and will run through March 1, 2024. Designed for professional turf managers for whom a two- or four-year degree program isn’t the right approach, the 110+ hour certificate course underscores concepts essential to producing and maintaining high performance turf surfaces, with emphasis on environmental stewardship, input reduction, efficiency, and fiscal responsibility. 

Prior to the 2021 session, a typical Turf Winter School was a six-week program held in-person on the UMass Amherst campus. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Winter School was re-imagined as a completely online program. The switch to online has caught on with Winter School’s audience, for whom virtual instruction offers a great deal of upside, including savings of time and travel expenses, along with the ability to participate without being apart from family and work for an extended period. 

“Thank you very much for providing me the opportunity to expand my knowledge and to pursue my passions. A year prior to attending classes I did not think I would be where I am now. UMass' winter school has provided me the opportunity to improve my life significantly and I am very grateful for that fact.” 

--Winter School alumni feedback 

Demand for Winter School instruction has consistently outstripped capacity, with all 70 slots filled for the 2024 term, and another 35 individuals waitlisted, according to Lanier. Those individuals who were unable to enroll in Winter School this year may be interested in a companion program – UMass Extension’s Green School. Offered in even-numbered years, and somewhat less intensive than Winter School, the 60+ hour Green School curriculum is more strongly oriented to the care of lawns and grounds (contrasted with the more advanced study for those working with intensively managed surfaces such as golf courses). Green School students may also choose a Landscape or Arboriculture track if Turf is not the best fit for them. 

Another example of demand surpassing capacity is in the hiring of Winter School and Green School alums. These programs remain a top source for turf industry talent, with a near 100% career placement rate. Many among the thousands of UMass Winter School graduates hold positions of responsibility and prestige throughout the United States, Canada, South America, Europe, Asia, and Australia.