Being a student member of any professional organization has its benefits, but for one University of Central Florida scholar, it has literally paid off. Nicole Cutrufo, an international graduate student at UCF’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management, was recently randomly chosen to receive a $1,695 scholarship from Skål International Orlando, after being a member of its Young Skål program for just five months.

The award will allow Cutrufo, who is currently pursuing a master’s in Hospitality & Tourism Management, to participate in the Tourism Orlando Leadership Program with the International Drive Area Chamber of Commerce.

The 10-month program provides behind-the-scenes experiences, presentations and workshops at many of Central Florida’s top tourism organizations, including the Orange County Convention Center, Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, Visit Orlando, Orlando International Airport, and more.

Through this program, Cutrufo will network with industry employers, as well as fellow participants, and gain a better understanding of Orlando’s tourism industry. Upon completing the program, Cutrufo will be awarded a “Ph.T.” certificate in tourism.

“I am really looking forward to seeing the operations of all the different players of the hospitality industry,” said Cutrufo. “I am also looking forward to meeting new people, who have the same passion for theme parks and operations, as me.”

The Tourism Orlando Leadership Program will begin in October 2012 with a visit to SeaWorld, Aquatica, and Discovery Cove. The program will wrap up in July 2013 at Walt Disney World.

Cutrufo already has multiple ties to the Disney brand, including earning a “Ducktorate” degree from the organization; completing an internship at the Walt Disney World Resort through the UCF Rosen College international graduate certificate program; worked for Disneyland Paris, while growing up in France; and currently serves as an operations management intern at Walt Disney World’s Epcot theme park.

Skål International Orlando is the local chapter of the preeminent organization for travel and tourism leaders. Young Skål is a membership category of Skål International, specifically for students and young professionals directly related to travel and tourism.

UCF’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management is the only academic institution in the region currently involved in the Young Skål program.

For more information about Skål International or Young Skål, please