URI Green Industry career event set for Feb. 24

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KINGSTON, R.I. – February 17, 2012 — Imagine yourself preparing and maintaining the turf of Gillette Stadium, Yankee Stadium, or even turf exported and sent to Oman, an Arab state in Southwest Asia. Envision yourself managing and assessing wine at Newport Vineyards as a food scientist. Well, for several University of Rhode Island graduates, these jobs are reality.

Students will have a chance to check out jobs in similar fields with about 30 employers at URI Green Industry Day, Friday, Feb. 24 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Center for Biotechnology and Life Sciences. The career fair is open to students in the College of the Environment and Life Sciences as well as other URI colleges.

Employers from landscape architecture, horticulture, landscape construction, arboriculture, turf management, sustainable agriculture, natural resources, and marine fisheries management will attend.

“Last week, I spoke with 20 URI grads, some of whom work for golf courses, greenhouses, and in sports turf management. They are looking for help in the summer and fall and also looking for students for longer term assignments where they can gain income and experience,” said W. Michael Sullivan, URI professor of agronomy and co-coordinator of URI Green Industry Day.

Sullivan mentioned a few URI alumni who have risen to high profile positions in the field and stadium management business–Jon Bengston, head of field operations at Gillette Stadium, Dan Cunningham, head of field operations at Yankee Stadium, and Jeff Genneralli, assistant head of operations at Yankee.

In addition, URI plays a major role in turf development, with much of the product coming from local farms. Turf from West Kingston has been used in many celebrated venues such as Meadowlands Stadium, now MetLife Stadium, for a World Cup soccer match in 1994, Soldier Field, home of the Chicago Bears, a soccer field in Athens, Greece for the Summer Olympics in 2004, and six athletic fields in the country of Oman.

“There is strength in golf and sports turf management, as it’s a growing segment in the green industry,” said Sullivan. “Because of the vast amount of youth sports, men’s and women’s sports, colleges, and private clubs, employers want qualified people to maintain the surfaces. That’s why they are coming to URI to find that talent.”

Newport Vineyards, a business run by brothers, John Nunes, Jr. and Paul Nunes both URI graduates, is interested in recruiting students as well.

“They are looking for food scientists and also a host of other disciplines involved within the winery,” said Sullivan.

From the marine sector, Caitlin Chafee from the Coastal Resources Management Council, Robert Ballou, a URI marine affairs graduate from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management’s Marine Fisheries Division, and Ken Ayars, chief of the Division of Agriculture at DEM will participate in the event.

It begins at 9 a.m. with a networking breakfast for students, during which students can meet employers. At 10 a.m., the “Growing Your Career” employer panel will begin. The panel consists of six URI grads: Jack Algiere from Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, Bob Marzilli from R.P. Marzilli & Co. Inc., Erick Koskinen from Precision Laboratories, Jim Ritorto, director of Agronomy at Foxwoods Lake of Isles Golf, James Paglerini from Central Nurseries Inc., and Seth Wilkinson from Ecological Design.

The job fair then runs from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. during which students will get the chance to speak with company representatives.

“It’s a neat collaboration of staff, employers, and students and we hope to make this event even more robust in the future,” said Kate Chroust, career advisor of URI Career Services and co-coordinator of the event. “The Office of Energy Resources, Ron Renaud, and the governor’s chief residential advisor Chris Kerns, a 2009 URI grad, have already committed to this event for next year.”

Students may register in advance until Tuesday, February 21 through the RhodyNet system. Those who meet the deadline will have a name badge available at the door when they arrive, and the ability to send their resume to employers in advance and during the event.

“Students should identify specific people, industries and do some research to be comfortable and present themselves in a networking environment,” said Chroust. “Focusing on their resumes before the event and getting help in putting together a slick, clean, professional resume is encouraged and can be offered at Career Services.”

This news release was written by Franco Lo Presti, a public relations major and intern in the URI Department of Communications & Marketing.