The hospitality sector, one of the fastest-growing global industries, now includes diverse domains like healthcare, retail, banking, aviation, and consulting. While the industry was already projected to proliferate before the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic, it is now predicted to catapult to even newer heights. This growth, combined with the adoption of various emerging technologies, mandates qualified individuals to better navigate this evolving field. To help the hospitality sector revive and grow faster, education programs need to stop being so generic and display a more specialized curriculum for individuals to make the difference they envision.
Previously known as the Rosen School of Hospitality Management, located in Orlando, Rosen College of Hospitality Management at the University of Central Florida meets every industry requirement with its multi-faceted approach that transforms individuals into professionals fully equipped to cater to this industry. “In our college, hospitality is not only treated as an industry but also as a culture which can be transferred to other service-oriented business sectors. As a result, the hospitality concept is considered a continuum expanding from Conventional Hospitality to Hedonic Hospitality, all the way to Utilitarian Hospitality. This model not only contributes to the college’s No. 1 ranking in the nation but also to the most comprehensive hospitality curriculum in the world, which creates numerous opportunities for our students,” explains Dr. Youcheng Wang, Dean of Rosen College.
Building Better Opportunities
Having leveraged this model, the institution has witnessed a paradigm shift. Established in 2004, what started as a population of 300 students is now a whopping 3000! The programs extended to students have expanded from one undergraduate to five undergraduate degrees. The institution also offers four master’s degree programs, a Ph.D. in Hospitality Management, and over 10 certificate programs to enhance degrees for undergraduate and graduate degree-seeking students.
The college boasts of a well-equipped expert faculty panel which started with just 10 faculty members to 70 full-time faculty members today. The model also contributes to completely revolutionizing the institution’s dedicated research enterprise. Funded research has increased by more than 10 times its original level. Currently, the college faculty is working on close to USD 8 million funded research with a gamut of experts in other related fields to build interdisciplinary research opportunities to solve some of the most complex problems facing our society today.
Overall, the 300,000+ square-foot, state-of-the-art, Mediterranean resort-style campus, comprising a 159,000 square-foot educational facility and 150,000 square-foot housing for 400 students, is one of the most extensive facilities ever built for hospitality management education. The program has increased its global reach by establishing exchange or study abroad programs with over 20 universities in Australia, Austria, China, France, South Korea, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.
Penning Down Customized Curriculums
Dr. Wang explains how the institution works ceaselessly to ensure it is on par with the ever-changing industry. In tandem with this, he tells us that today most companies expect a diverse perspective among their employees, particularly managers and executives. Keeping this in mind, the institution has assimilated the concept of DEI into the curriculum. This approach assures that the future leaders produced are better equipped for a more inclusive and diverse work environment.
In conjunction with this, another key market demand that UCF Rosen College addresses, as aforementioned in this article, is the need to develop more specialized curriculums instead of just generating a common curriculum. Business foundations such as finance, accounting, HR, marketing, and management principles that are typically taught in business schools are now expected to be extended within this domain as well with a spin of hospitality perspective to it. UCF Rosen College has the advantage of being located in a major cluster of hospitality, events, entertainment, and attraction businesses. The institution offers a comprehensive curriculum with a combination of general and specialization programs to support the various facets of the most visited destination in America – Orlando. Perfectly aware that no single specific program can seamlessly meet the needs of all the hospitality industry segments, the institution extends its curriculum that prepares students with customer service orientation, strong communication skills, solid analytical thinking capabilities, and creative problem-solving skills. “If they are trained to have these foundations, they can be easily trained for more specialized and specific tasks,” elucidates Dr. Wang.
UCF Rosen College of Hospitality Management continually strives to stay ahead of the curve. While the world grappled with achieving some form of normalcy after Covid-19, most educational institutions struggled with going digital. When explicitly catering to the hospitality sector, the challenge is to strike a balance between high tech and high touch, as face-to-face human interaction in this industry is pertinent. The entire education system will be shifted towards more self-driven and self-paced learning, and one needs the right tools and capabilities to unleash its potential. UCF Rosen College is already a leader in this domain as the institution, for the last two decades, has been engaged in online teaching and learning supported by a very robust digital learning system provided by the university. The institution continually aims to innovate and maintain its leadership position in this domain. So, UCF Rosen College is gradually increasing its hybrid mode as this will provide choices and flexibility to students while maintaining face-to-face interaction.
Since its inception, UCF Rosen College has been deeply invested in delivering quality education. Highly experienced and trained faculty plays a pivotal role in achieving this. The faculty members of the college represent 18 different countries. They are known worldwide for their research, teaching skills, and the professional experience they bring to the classroom from their years of working in the hospitality industry. “Many of our faculty have served in executive roles in lodging, restaurants, theme parks and attractions, themed events, sports, festivals, and the entertainment industry,” informs Dr. Wang. Additionally, each degree program has a dedicated advisory board comprising industry leaders that extend advice on various issues, including curriculum development, guest speaking opportunities, adjunct teaching opportunities, and industry engagement events such as training workshops and continuing education programs. “While we monitor and assess needs at present, we must keep an eye on the future in terms of trends and patterns so that we can be more proactive rather than reactive in leading curriculum development,” adds Dr. Wang.
Fostering a Positive Learning Environment
Dr. Wang tells us how the institution is devoted to creating the perfect learning environment. He says, “Rosen College is an international program; thus, international collaboration is a crucial mission of our college.” Rosen College has on-boarded many international partner institutions to create opportunities for student exchange programs, study abroad programs, international student recruitment efforts, faculty exchange and sabbatical opportunities, and so on. “The goal is to make sure that graduates from the College are global citizens with well rounded worldviews and nuanced understanding of different cultures which play vital roles in the global hospitality and tourism industry,” reveals Dr. Wang.
Simultaneously, the institution serves as an arm of the international hospitality and tourism companies as an educational program provider or consultants for their business development and operations, such as projects in Saudi Arabia, UAE, Japan, Colombia, and Mexico. Rosen College constantly organizes and hosts international conferences such as the World Research Summit to maintain the global leadership role in knowledge creation and dissemination.
Rosen College treats innovation and entrepreneurship as a culture and has been emphasized in the programs offered. It is also a culture adopted in student engaging activities that stimulate innovative thinking and increase productivity. One such event is the student-organized, faculty-led, and industry experts-guided Career Fair.. “We have a twice a year Career Fair planned and produced entirely by students, which attracts about 150 employers (face-to- face and online) and 700 students and alumni seeking full-time and part-time jobs and internships. We even appoint students to create social media posts to promote innovation regularly. The pop-up food class is another example of promotion of innovation and entrepreneurship,” states Dr. Wang.
On the entrepreneurial side, the college has been formulating various platforms to promote the culture and the entrepreneurial spirit, such as the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Competition. For this event, students work in teams to devise innovative ideas to solve an industry problem or conceptualize and introduce new products to the market. Future plans include a podcast managed and facilitated by students focusing on entrepreneurship, the Entrepreneurial Speech Series, the Entrepreneur in Residence Program, the Global Center of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and the Culinary and Food Business Center.
Furthermore, there are more than 20 registered student organizations for students to engage with, including the Future Theme Park Leaders Association, National Society of Minorities in Hospitality, Meeting Planners International, and the Wine Club, just to name a few.
While most students have well-placed academic and career goals, some require financial aid to make their dreams a reality. Empowering such individuals, UCF Rosen College awards more than $225,000 USD in scholarships each year that can be applied for by new/incoming and current students. These scholarships are supported by the institution’s industry partners. Scholarships are also available to master’s and Ph.D. students. Scholarships are awarded based on academic criteria and any combination of financial need, campus/community activities, leadership positions, and work experience.
Stepping Out into the World
UCF Rosen College has been helping individuals transition from student life to becoming professionals through its robust internship programs. The college boasts of 99 percent of the students bagging jobs upon graduation. More than 1,000 students participate in the internship program each semester. The students intern in all 50 states and nine countries around the globe, including Australia, Costa Rica, Israel, Japan, Panama, and Spain. Many students are hired on by their internship employers. The college’s twice-a-year career fair for students, connects them with over 100 industry partners across the country and globally. Dr. Wang adds, “Most of our students/graduates work for the following hospitality industry partners: Walt Disney World Resort, Universal Orlando Resort, Marriott, Rosen Hotels & Resorts, and Entertainment Technology Partners.”
Mapping a Career Path
The institution enjoys the industry presence it commands today, owing in large part to the generosity of local hotelier Harris Rosen, who donated the initial 18 million dollars in money and land that jumpstarted the construction of the new campus. Soon, many other central Florida hospitality companies — including Walt Disney World, Darden Restaurants, the Universal Orlando Foundation, SeaWorld, Marriott, and the Central Florida Hotel & Lodging Association — were also contributing funds to the project. Since its establishment 18 years ago, UCF Rosen College has graduated more than 12,500 students. Dr. Wang proudly declares, “We educate the future leaders of the hospitality industry. We are not only preparing our students for their first career, but we are also preparing them for a lifetime of service in a global industry. We are here to fill our students with our core values of Professionalism, Leadership, and Service, which promotes the culture of excellence, inclusion, social responsibility, and hospitality.”
In the past two decades, Rosen College has thrived despite adversities and continues to move forward. The college can be a disciplined student when needed to learn and grow. Dr. Wang tells us that the pandemic taught them many things, and one of the most important takeaways for him was to ensure the team was mentally and physically healthy. As part of the exercise, the college has created new mental health and wellness courses. The team will also be releasing culture/climate surveys to its faculty, staff, and students to better assess where the college stands.
As a college within the University of Central Florida, UCF Rosen College follows the university’s lead in assessing a return to ‘normal’ operation. Until then, the college intends to implement a hybrid work schedule, including remote work hours and standard on-campus hours, as students have become accustomed to having access to staff and faculty outside of normal business hours. Dr. Wang concludes, “We understand that the Covid situation is not behind us completely, but we also understand that we must educate the future leaders of the industry and become the global center of hospitality education, research, scholarship, and industry engagement. Of course, we will achieve all these goals in a safe and considerate manner with flexibility and accommodation provided, if necessary, to create the best experience for all our constituents.”
For More Info: https://hospitality.ucf.edu/
About Dr. Youcheng Wang
Dr. Youcheng Wang is the Dean and William Peeper preeminent chair professor in destination marketing at the Rosen College of Hospitality Management at University of Central Florida and a fellow of the International Academy for the Study of Tourism. His research and consulting interest focus on hospitality marketing and management, destination marketing and management, customer relationship management, information search behavior, collaborative strategies, and technology management. He is the author of four books and more than 150 scientific publications. He is the co-editor of Journal of Destination Marketing and Management and is on the Editorial Board of multiple international academic journals in the domain of hospitality and tourism marketing and management. Dr. Wang has received numerous national and international awards for his excellence in and contribution to research. He is a frequent speaker at international conferences and industry forums. Dr. Wang earned his Master’s from Purdue University and his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois. He is a member of several professional associations including Travel and Tourism Research Association (TTRA), International Council on Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Education (I-CHRIE), International Society of Travel and Tourism Educators (ISTTE), and Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals (HFTP).