After working as the associate director of Professional Grounds Management Society for four years, Stephanie Bruno has been promoted to executive director following the retirement of Tom Shaner in 2017.
“I was very fortunate with the transition period I had with Tom Shaner,” Bruno says. “We had worked together for a few years prior to his retirement, which aided in a smooth transition.”
As executive director, Bruno maintains communication with the PGMS board of directors about opportunities for association growth, marketing, event planning and more. Currently, she’s following a strategic plan laid out by the association in 2015.
According to plan. The strategic plan outlines different goals for the organization and how it wants to progress. These goals fall in line with the PGMS mission of dispensing education and keeping members informed about industry changes and trends.
“We’ve spent a lot of time sitting down, prioritizing what our goals are, and what those goals are within that strategic plan,” Bruno says. “I’m very proud of that and we’re halfway through the plan.”
Along with growing membership, the plan puts a lot of focus on growing the PGMS Landscape and Operations Accreditation Program. Started in 2014, the program boosts the credibility of horticulture, landscape and grounds service components at different universities.
There are currently 11 colleges and universities accredited by PGMS, including the University of Delaware, where Bruno graduated from. Starting in 2017, universities can apply for reaccreditation and a higher star rating.
“Now that we’ve gone through our reaccreditation process, we’ve received feedback from campuses that do have that accreditation and we may modify based on that feedback,” Bruno says.
Growing the association. Growing and maintaining membership is always going to be apart of the strategic plan. Bruno says that members play an active role in shaping the direction of PGMS and the grounds management industry.
“The mission of PGMS is to disseminate education to grounds managers,” Bruno says. “Many of our members contribute to operational guidelines for educational facilities as well.”
There are more than 10 branches in the United States that are based on city, region or state. There are also branches in Canada and overseas.
Most branches meet two to three times a month to hold events of their own, including speakers and tours of universities. All branches are run primarily by the PGMS members with oversight from Bruno.
She, along with the board of directors, look at trends in the industry to help branches find interactive speakers, tours and opportunities to pass down the information. Most recently, the Cincinnati branch was able to preview new equipment at the University of Kentucky.
“It’s a great opportunity for members to ‘brag’ about their operations while educating their fellow grounds managers,” Bruno says.
Future goals and challenges. With the way Bruno talks about PGMS, one would be surprised to know that her background is in association management with a degree in international relations. But over the last four years with PGMS, she’s educated herself and grown passionate about her work.
“I want to emphasize the importance of what these green industry associations bring and what our promotion of the green industry means,” Bruno says. “Whether that be through sustainability movements or balancing traditional maintenance practices with new, innovative technologies and regulation constraints.”
As sustainability continues to move more into the forefront of consumer and industry concerns, Bruno will put more focus on it, adding it to the 2020 strategic plan.
That doesn’t come without its challenges though. Establishing environmental policies and managing resources within natural limitations is a huge part of sustainability. However, the limitations and regulations change from region to region.
“We’re a nationwide moving to international association,” Bruno says. “We have many members that are facing different regulatory issues.”
Closing the gap between non-industry and industry professionals is just another aspect of Bruno’s role as executive director.
The area where institution or stakeholders and grounds management professionals’ needs are met is what Bruno calls sustainable strategic management. It’s balancing the needs of a business with what you can do as a green industry professional.
“People don’t understand the science behind grounds management, so that’s what we focus on is education,” Bruno says.
Education will always be one of the main goals for Bruno and PGMS. The strategic plan for 2020, in addition to sustainability efforts, will include updates to the Certified Grounds Manager program. Industry guides like the PGMS “Guide to Grounds Management Best Practices” will be updated as well.
“Education and sustainability are at the forefront for PGMS,” Bruno says. “We’ll continue to adapt and respond to member and industry needs.”