Gary Bruckner, a 21-year-old hospitality management major, is on pace to graduate in near-record time, as he is slated to complete his four-year degree this August – exactly three years from when he first enrolled at the University of Central Florida. The New York native’s decision to hurry through college is largely due to the high cost of out-of-state tuition, but it wasn’t his only reason. In speaking with Bruckner, it is clear that he was anxious to resume a very promising career in the hospitality industry.

I say resume, as opposed to start, because long before Bruckner stepped foot on campus, he was already thriving in his field. Growing up in West Islip, Bruckner worked at one of the busiest McDonald’s restaurants on Long Island, where he was promoted yearly from age 14 to 18, when he left his award-winning assistant manager position to attend UCF.

“During my time at McDonald’s, I saw the potential for me to be successful in the hospitality industry, but I knew I needed the education to support it,” said Bruckner. “An industry professional gave me a list of the top 10 hospitality schools, and I chose UCF because of its resources, location and opportunities.”

Bruckner enrolled at UCF in August 2009, and despite the heavy course load necessary to complete a bachelor’s degree in three years, he excelled in his academics. The five-time Dean’s List honoree earned First Year Academic Scholar honors, recognition from two collegiate honor societies (Golden Key International Honor Society and Eta Sigma Delta), and has maintained an overall GPA of 3.7.

In addition to his academics, Bruckner has been heavily involved in the local and campus community, participating in multiple outreach programs, events and committees.  Bruckner has also chaired multiple student organizations and served as the project manager/creator for All Knight Study – UCF’s first 24-hour study space.

Now in his final year at UCF’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management, Bruckner has already secured a job with the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin resort, as a room service supervisor.

Bruckner has also been chosen, as the only Rosen College student this semester, to participate in a 10-day externship with Starwood Hotels & Resorts’ management training program in New York City this March.

“The opportunities that I have been given stem from a series of events that led to my successes,” said Bruckner. “My job at McDonalds got me interested in hospitality management, which led to me to UCF’s Rosen College, where learned and networked to achieve my goals.”

While Bruckner has worked hard towards his goals, he admits that he’s had help along the way, crediting Student Services and Dr. Wilfried Iskat with pointing him in the right direction.

“I remember knocking on Dr. Iskat’s door and saying ‘hi, my name is Gary and I need your help taking the next step in my life,’” said Bruckner. “He helped me and suggested that I attend the Rosen College Career Fair, where I started networking with employers, and ultimately that helped me obtain my job.”

Bruckner will graduate this fall with a Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Management.