To best prepare students for the expansion of the tourism industry both locally and globally, UCF is launching a new management degree that will give students unparalleled experience in the tourism capital of the world.
Beginning in Fall 2023, the UCF Rosen College of Hospitality Management will offer a bachelor’s in theme park and attraction management, which will give students a specialized understanding of the complex, global tourism industry, says Carissa Baker, assistant professor and coordinator of the new degree program. UCF will be the only institution in Florida to offer a management-focused, undergraduate degree of its kind. To start, it will be taught in a hybrid modality with a mix of in-person and online coursework.
“It will be distinguished by its interdisciplinary nature and its phenomenal location,” says Baker. “Several of the world’s most visited theme parks are right next door.”
Rosen College is just a few miles away from Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando Resort, SeaWorld Orlando, FunSpot America, the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) headquarters, dozens of smaller attractions and industry suppliers. Their demand for more workers continues to grow, with Universal Orlando alone expecting to hire an additional 14,000 employees to support its new development, Universal’s Epic Universe, that’s slated to open in 2025, says Baker.
“Those who want to specialize in theme parks will find that this curriculum is more focused on the current industry and will allow them to gain the breadth of knowledge necessary to be informed and innovative leaders,” says Baker. “It reflects current industry realities, but also looks to the future and considers the industry’s constant goal of innovating and improving the guest experience.”
ShanghaiRanking last year named Rosen College the top school in the country for research and hospitality education. Students have opportunities to intern at Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando — two of the largest internship employers for the college — as well as other attractions. They also learn from faculty with a wealth of industry experience in areas as diverse as ride operations, merchandise, food service, event management, finance, entertainment production, information technology, project management and creative development.
In addition to faculty and staff, students, alumni and industry professionals all contributed to the creation of the new degree program. Theme park and attraction management began at Rosen College in 2001 as a track within the hospitality management degree, and then later evolved into a certificate in 2020. One of the reasons it’s now growing to a full undergraduate degree is student demand, says Baker.
Kevin Joralemon ’17 and Frank Hamedl ’18, both hospitality management alums, took many of the theme park and attraction management courses during their undergraduate careers and credit much of their current success to what they learned in those courses. Joralemon is now a senior analyst of global strategy at Universal Destinations and Experiences, and Hamedl is a human resources business partner at Fun Spot America.
“The theme park and attraction management courses were easily my favorite classes,” says Joralemon. “One of the best parts about these classes is that the professors provide students with an overview of everything that goes into running a theme park, from operations, marketing, human resources, strategy, information technology and more. As a student, employee and hobbyist of the industry, I found myself constantly learning something new about the business.”
Although just a track within the hospitality management degree at the time, Joralemon and Hamedl both recognized its value and advocated for there to be more.
“When I attended Rosen College, I tried to advocate elevating the theme park and attraction management track to a minor. When I learned it could become a major, I was blown away,” says Hamedl. “This is a must for anyone looking to grow in the industry. I am a little jealous and may consider getting a second degree soon.”