HCS Alumni Spotlight: Cameron Stephens

Sep. 22, 2023
Cameron Stephens, Alumnus Class of 2015

Meet Cameron Stephens | OSU HCS Alumnus Class of 2015

Dr. Cameron Stephens is currently a Product Development Manager & Fungicide Lead at ADAMA based in Grapevine, Texas. He received his Bachelor of Science (2015) in Turfgrass Science from our department. 

Upon graduation, Cameron continued his education with an MS in Agronomy & Plant Pathology from Penn State University (2018) & a PhD from North Carolina State University in Plant Pathology (2021).

While Cameron is no longer in the turf industry directly, he shared "I have stayed connected to many of my friends, mentors, and colleagues who are still in that space. I would say that plays into a major highlight for me. It’s all about the people. If you read my story below you will see there have been many people that have helped guide me to where I am today. It’s a close-knit community full of great people who are professional, hardworking, smart, and passionate about what they do. It’s a great industry full of many different opportunities."

How’d you initially become interested in turf?

Early in college I struggled to find the right fit when it came to my major. I tried out a few different majors, took a diverse set of classes freshman and sophomore year, and talked to as many people as possible to try and get some direction or clarity on what I would enjoy doing after school. One thing I always loved was working outdoors. After taking Pam Sherratt’s Sports Turf Management course as a general credit towards my undecided track, the pieces started to come together. I started taking additional turf courses with Karl Danneberger and I began to focus more on the potential of becoming a golf course superintendent. I really enjoyed the course work, working on golf courses, and the professors so I changed my major to turfgrass science. Along with being a turfgrass science major came the required plant pathology courses. I really enjoyed these courses and couldn’t get enough! I loved turf, I loved plant pathology, and meeting with Joe Rimelspach and Todd Hicks showed me you can combine the two and become a turfgrass pathologist. After an internship with the legendary turfgrass pathologist, Bruce Martin, at Clemson University I was set on the track to become a turfgrass pathology and pursue graduate degrees in this field. I shifted from having the aspiration of being a superintendent to aspiring to either work in academia as a professor or work in industry for an Ag chemical company. Dr. Martin always told me the importance of being trained as a good plant pathologist, not just a turfgrass pathologist. That advice, and the guidance from HCS faculty, has been very valuable and has helped get me to where I am today.

How did your time at HCS help prepare you for your career?

I believe HCS, the professors and entire cohort, are second to none in how they prepared me for my career. The passion from the professors and their desire to see the students succeed was contagious. The strong foundation and diverse set of skills and knowledge provided to me by HCS made transitioning to graduate school then into industry very smooth. I still think and refer back to my old handwritten notes, lectures, conversations, field visits from my time in HCS. It was an invaluable experience to have gone through and interacted with all the great colleagues in HCS.

What’s the rough career path that brought you to being a Product Development Manager & Fungicide Lead at ADAMA?

Cameron Stephens, smiling & standing in a greenhouse high tunnel.It’s been quite the ride! I started majoring in Turfgrass Science towards the end of my sophomore year. Between sophomore and junior year, I did an internship at a golf course. Between junior and senior year, I did an internship at Clemson University with Bruce Martin. Then I attended the APS Annual meeting as an undergrad with Bruce Martin where I met John Kaminski from Penn State. I went on to pursue my Master of Science degree with Dr. Kaminski in agronomy/turfgrass pathology. Then, I went down to North Carolina State University to work with Dr. Jim Kerns and Dr. Travis Gannon where I earned my Ph.D. in plant pathology. As I was finishing my PhD, I started working with BASF as the Technical Market Manager on the Turf and Ornamentals Technical Service team. I was in that role for about a year and half. And now I am currently working on the Agricultural Crops side of industry as the Product Development Manager and Fungicide Lead at ADAMA where I have been really enjoying the role for over a year.

What’s a normal day look like for you?

One of the things I enjoy most about this role is that there isn’t really a ‘normal day’. Some days I am in the home office writing protocols, getting data summaries and reports back from the field, summarizing data, building graphs and presentations. Other days, I am on calls with Global colleagues from Israel, Australia, the EU, or Brazil and beyond coordinating research efforts, hearing how a product may be performing in their country, or having budget discussions for future projects. As our fungicide lead, I  am responsible for writing all the fungicide protocols and make sure we are aligned with strategy/marketing and Global colleagues. My teammates and I will place these trials with various researchers throughout the country. I also have regional responsibility to manage all the research trials for herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides in the Southeast. Once these protocols are designed by the sector lead, I help coordinate research sample shipping, payments, final reports, and site visits to see how the product is performing under field conditions. So a large portion of my time is spent visiting research trials throughout the US. This year I’ve had the opportunity to travel to many different states and see our trials in many different crops- corn, soybean, peanut, dry beans, almonds, grapes, rice, oranges, strawberry, cotton, potatoes, tomatoes, brassicas, cucumber, and apples to name a few! I’ve also had the opportunity to travel abroad to Switzerland, Brazil, and Canada this year to meet with Global colleagues and look at research trials.

Is there anything you wished you had known before pursuing your career?

I felt very prepared coming out of my undergrad thanks to all the mentors and diverse training I had. As you talk to more people you realized that there isn’t just one ‘correct’, linear path to success. There are many factors that play into where people end up. Similar to what Dr. Martin told me about turf/plant pathology, I would advise students in turf to gain as much diverse experience and training as possible—work in different labs, work at different courses or stadiums, take as many unique courses as possible, find what you do and don’t like. All of these experiences, good and bad, are valuable. You never know where you’ll end up and when you’ll need to draw on the lessons you’ve learned.

Today, we have a wide variety of academic paths for you to choose from to help you pursue a career in the turf industry…