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Interview with SPS student Rachael Cline

Oct. 23, 2020
Rachael Cline - center, first row

Below is an interview with Sustainable Plant System Major, Rachael Cline. This interview was conducted by the Office of International Programs in Agriculture. 

What was/is your OSU Major(s)/Minor(s)?

Sustainable Plant Systems with a Specialization in Turfgrass Science 

When did/will you graduate from OSU? 

Spring 2021

What is your dream career?

Head grounds manager in professional sportsturf, specifically for a professional soccer team

Where was your International Internship (City, Country)?

Liverpool, England

For whom did you work during your internship?

Everton FC

What were your responsibilities during your internship?

I worked with the members of the grounds staff who were responsible for the maintenance of the professional first team pitches at the training grounds. We oversaw 3 full size natural grass fiber-sand pitches, 2 of which were reinforced with a Desso fiber hybrid system, as well as an additional designated goalkeeper area. As a part of my internship I was given the opportunity to fertilize, spray, vertidrain, mark out, mow, and rake the pitches as well as perform other routine maintenance tasks. I had the opportunity to meet and talk with the club's agronomic consultant and follow the consultant group as they collected data for the annual pitch performance testing which included evaluations of soil infiltration rates, shear strength, traction, root depth measurements, soil organic matter content,compaction, ball roll and ball bounce performance. I was also involved in daily discussions in which we organized a daily and weekly maintenance schedule for each pitch or area.Rachael Cline at Everton FC

Did you arrange the internship yourself or did you work with an organization at Ohio State (i.e. the Ohio Program, OSU Office of International Affairs, an OSU faculty member, study abroad internship provider)?

I worked with Mike O'keeffe of the Ohio Program who first mentioned Everton FC as a club to consider interning with because one of their groundsmen was involved with the Ohio Program a few years ago and came into the U.S. to work with Columbus Crew SC, the team I was working for at the time. Because of this connection I began researching Everton and decided it would be a great fit for me. One of my trufgrass professors at OSU, Pam Sherratt, is originally from the Liverpool area which was an added comfort in choosing to go to this area. Everton's grounds department had never hosted an intern nor been a part of the Ohio Program before. Mike contacted Everton's head groundsman at the training facility, Mark Rogers, who agreed to take me on as an intern. I was the first intern and the first female groundsperson on the team but everyone was excited to have me onboard and excited to teach me as much as they possibly could in the time I was there.

What were the best and most challenging parts of your internship?Rachael Cline

Both the best and most challenging part of my internship was going through the COVID lockdown and then learning to adapt our pitch management strategies based on limited staff numbers and limited hours. It was an incredible experience to go through and most certainly a unique one at that. I believe I developed more decision making skills and developed more of a management mindset than I ever would have under a normal internship situation. The personal growth I experienced and the learning opportunities that arose as a result of the COVID situation were absolutely invaluable to me. I studied my supervisor as he worked to prioritize our daily tasks, learning to develop a new management mindset based on the current situation, I learned the importance of reaching out to people and maintaining relationships, and I discovered which things in my life hold true value and which do not. This experience allowed me to grow both professionally and personally, it challenged me and pushed me out of my comfort zone, it provided me with networking opportunities and relationships that will last a lifetime, and I believe that is exactly what an internship should do. These things will all be carried with me as I move on from Ohio State and begin my career, they have already begun to shape my future.

What effect do you think your internship will have on you after you graduate Ohio State?

By completing an internship in an unfamiliar country and learning how to live in and adapt to a new culture, I will be more confident and willing to look at jobs and work opportunities in different states across the U.S. This is very important in my chosen career path because I do not want to limit myself only to the professional sports teams in Ohio, as there are only a small number. I would like the opportunity to explore career options that will continue to grow me personally and professionally and these job opportunities may only be available in unfamiliar places. The experience of living in another country has opened me up to the potential of more career opportunities.

What advice would you give current Ohio State students who are considering a study abroad experience or an international internship?

I would like to tell them that the opportunity to travel and work abroad is an incredibly valuable one. Although it may seem intimidating or even scary, as an Ohio State student, you are never alone. There is a vast support system of fellow students, program alumni, and faculty always there to support you and help you along the way. I guarantee you will grow from this experience and you will be able to use it to help other people around you grow as well. It will be an excellent talking point for years to come. Get out there, grow yourself, explore new places, and learn new things. You won’t regret it!

What would you tell a high school student or current Ohio State student about your expereince as a Turf major? 

As a high school student, Turfgrass Science crossed my mind but I thought it was just golf.  When I found out it was professional sports turf, I switched my major. I started off as pre-med and laboratory science. Then I got a job working at the Turf facility as an Agronomy student, and then switched my specialization to Turfgrass Science. 

I’ve always been interested in science and biology – that’s what we’re studying. I like working with my hands and didn’t see myself in a career where I would be stuck behind a desk at the computer. Turf is a good balance between being outside and working with my hands and desk work – with management and planning.  

Don’t be afraid to change your major when you’re in college. If you find electives that are interesting, take them! Explore the clubs, talk to the professors and learn more.