HCS Alumni Spotlight: Amanda Folck

May. 8, 2023
HCS alumna, Amanda Folck, painting a field at Purdue

Meet Amanda Folck | OSU HCS Alumna Class of 2017

Amanda Folck is currently a Turfgrass Extension Educator for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

While here at The Ohio State University, she received her Bachelor of Science (2017) in Sustainable Plant Systems with a Turfgrass Science specialization. When asked about her time here, Amanda let us know: "I enjoyed my time at Ohio State. I would not be doing the work now without the support of Pam Sherratt, Dr. Karl Danneberger, Dr. Dave Gardner, Mike O’ Keefe, and the other faculty and staff from the turfgrass program and the Horticulture and Crop Science Department. I am honored to be part of the long list of alumni that graduated from the Ohio State University and are also involved in the turfgrass industry."

Thankfully, Amanda had the time to elaborate on what working in turfgrass is like, her time here at HCS + some advice for students considering studying turf:

How’d you initially become interested in turf?

Amanda: One of my favorite activities at the family farm, Folck Family Farm in Mechanicsburg, Ohio, other than picking strawberries, was mowing the three acres for aesthetics around the barns and house. In addition to working on the farm, I also played various outdoor sports growing up. Yet I wanted to learn more about the ecology of turfgrass management. Turfgrass is the only plant that I know of that can be mowed every day and is showcased in various sports events from Football to Golf. The turfgrass team was also located on the third floor in Howlett Hall, where my mom, Cindy Folck, worked with the Pesticide Applicators Training Program for Ohio State University Extension.

How'd you get started working with Pam as an undergrad?

Amanda: After graduating from Clark State with my Associate of Science degree, I met with Pam Sherratt and ask if she knows of any jobs or opportunities for me to learn more about turfgrass. After Pam hired me in 2015, the PowerPoint slides used for the online course had to be updated since all of Ohio State University's materials needed to update to the new branding. This led to my first experience learning how to update presentation content, then it went to working on narrating the turfgrass online courses, how to set up turfgrass research at the turf center, how to set up a conference, designing quiz questions, and other knowledge and applied skills that I would not learn in the classroom. Working with Pam was how I started to learn more about turfgrass. 

How was your internship with Arsenal in 2016 & how did that help shape your future career decisions?

Amanda: The internship at Arsenal Football Club was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. A lot of things were happening at that time during the summer of 2016. The included the Brexit vote, renovations at Emirates Stadium (the main soccer stadium for Arsenal), and living outside the United States for the first time. You can read my experience of my internship on the blog that I wrote during my internship, The Arsenal Intern. At that time, I was the only female to intern at any of the Premier League teams in the United Kingdom. Looking back at the internship, I learned a lot about the management of soccer pitches to how to live out of my comfort zone in a different place. It helped me learn about the different approaches to turfgrass management in the United Kingdom. This also encourages me, if I had to, to leave Ohio if the right job comes up to further my career in turfgrass management. 

What made you decide to pursue graduate school after spending a few years in the turf industry?

Amanda: I went back to school at Purdue University on January 2020. I was at Purdue Athletics for six months and previously at Texas A&M for two years. It was the right time to go to graduate school for my Master of Science degree because I wanted to use my experience in turfgrass management to expand my outreach further than working in collegiate athletics. My work experience in turfgrass both in the management of the fields and working with the staff and students is what lead me to want to be an educator in turfgrass management.

HCS alumna, Amanda, during her time with Texas A&M SoftballTell us a bit about your thesis project and balancing being in grad school + working?

Amanda: My thesis was on Kentucky bluegrass germination. The first half of my thesis project was seeing how many days it will take for germination to occur. This was done with 20 or more Kentucky bluegrass cultivars in the germination chamber from guidelines by the Association of Official Seed Analysts. The second half of my thesis project was a growth analysis of selected Kentucky bluegrass cultivars of any differences in growth and time in the growth chamber. This was from experience in school and work, to see if there were any newer cultivars of Kentucky bluegrass that can increase germination timing and/or growth for faster recovery for athletic fields or golf courses. 

With my previous experience at Texas A&M and at Purdue, I knew the time that it took to work in collegiate athletics, attend classes, and research. Also, the home games at Purdue in the spring were not happening until late March (compare to late January in Texas). This increased time for me to take classes without games in the first half of the spring semester. But when COVID-19 happened in March 2020, I had to adjust my thesis research and my classes to an online format. This continues throughout my time in graduate school at Purdue, but it helped me adjust to a virtual format/ hybrid learning. What I liked about working at Purdue Athletics was the facilities were not far from the main campus. That meant going to the main campus to class, back to work, and heading to the lab for writing or lab work. 

What’s a normal day look like for you as a turfgrass extension educator?

Amanda: Every day is different, and I have enjoyed that part of my work currently. Some examples that I am working on are updating the turf.unl.edu website, started researching into updating the turfgrass factsheets (called NebGuides), teaching preparations for the PLAS 427: Turfgrass System Management course, and presenting and meeting the turfgrass stakeholders and clients in Nebraska. My focus is on the commercial side of the turfgrass industry with sportsturf, lawn care specialists, sod farms, parks and recreation, and golf courses with Extension. My previous experiences have helped me in my current role at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. It has been an honor to work with Roch Gaussoin, Keenan Amundsen, and the other supporting staff in the turfgrass program and the Agronomy and Horticulture Department at the University of Nebraska- Lincoln. 

What have been a few highlights of your time so far in the turf industry?

Amanda: One highlight for me is working with students that are interested in what we do in the turfgrass industry. They are our future in the turfgrass industry. My other highlight is teaching the students the basics of turfgrass management. I enjoyed teaching the students when I worked at Purdue and Texas A&M new skills and how to manage the various athletic fields. In addition to both highlights, I also enjoy learning more about the different students and their various backgrounds. It has been inspiring to see the students that are learning in the classroom also use their knowledge and skills in the real world with turfgrass management. When you get to know more about a person, you can help them reach their goals.

Any advice for students considering studying turf and ultimately pursuing a career in the turf industry?

Amanda: My advice for students studying turfgrass and going into the industry is to keep learning. Learning does not stop after you receive your turfgrass degree. Also, be curious and ask questions. There is no such thing as asking too many questions, to get a better understanding of something. Not only will it help you, but it will also help someone else that was thinking of the same question. 

You can keep up with Amanda on Twitter!