Two Ohio mainstays are pairing up to offer a Tourism Degree with plenty of hands-on experience for students. Cedar Fair Entertainment Company is the owner of a wide variety of amusement parks and is headquartered in Sandusky, Ohio. Bowling Green University, opening a new campus in downtown Sandusky, is joining forces with Cedar Fair to offer students a brand-new degree in Resort and Attraction Management.
The new campus is set to open in the fall of 2020, according to Cedar Fair communication manager Laurie Tardif. The agreement shares costs and educational experiences between the college and the amusement park company.
“Cedar Fair will build both a new classroom building as well as a 200-bed housing unit, an investment of $15 million to $25 million. It will also provide summer internships for students, and guest lectures and case studies for classes,” Tardif reports. “BGSU will operate the program, which will constitute the last two years of a four-year Bachelor of Science degree.”
The city of Sandusky is also a part of this new education picture, providing the land for the new campus, along with financial support such as grants and tax breaks. Also helping to support the program is the state of Ohio itself, which has already contributed $800,000 to establish the new program.
The degree program is unique in its ability to offer not only active training through Cedar Fair, but by providing jobs to students through the amusement company as well.
Cedar Fair operates California’s Great America theme park in Santa Clara, and Knott’s Berry Farm and Knott’s Soak City in Buena Park, Calif.; Canada’s Wonderland park in Vaughn, Ontario; Cedar Point Amusement Park and Cedar Point Shores Water Park, both in Sandusky, Ohio, along with other theme and waterpark locations across the U.S. The company describes its mission as becoming “the place to be for fun by providing premier regional entertainment.”
Bowling Green University is a top public Ohio university, with both undergraduate and graduate programs available. From architecture to the arts to business, the university offers prestigious programs. The new program in conjunction with Cedar Fair should nicely dovetail with BGU’s existing business curriculum, which has a strong bent toward hands-on, experiential learning.
The college describes its business-related curriculum as preparing students to become broadly educated business professionals “who think critically and solve problems logically…our programs offer an interactive and hands-on approach to learning…including interactive lab courses, to better understand global business operations.”
Moving out of the lab and into the actual work environment, the Resort and Attraction Management program offers a fresh new way to take students from undergraduates to productive members of the workforce in a field they’re excited to join. The program’s specific nature means that graduates are uniquely prepared to hit the ground running when it comes to finding a job in the amusement industry --and succeeding at it.
“The program is expected to better prepare young people for the increasing number of jobs at Cedar Fair and other resort, hospitality and attractions-based companies in the tourism industry, and also to help Sandusky transform its seasonal, summertime economy with more full-year, higher-paying jobs,” Tardif attests.
The program will offer students the opportunity to attend classes during the school year and work at Cedar Point or another Cedar Fair property for two summers.
According to Tardif, these jobs typically begin at entry level, and can quickly move up to supervisory and management roles.
Entry level positions include options such as a Rides Associate, who assists guests in safely riding each attraction, greeting, explaining limitations and restrictions, securing safety restraints, and cleaning the ride. Other entry level position areas include merchandise, food services, admissions, aquatics, games, and park services. Park Service Attendants focus on guest service from information and directions to keeping midways clean and supplies stocked; admissions staff are dedicated to getting guests safely into the park; merchandise staff work at retail shops both on the floor and stocking retail items. Seeing knowledge obtained in the classroom practically applied to a range of positions at the park helpsstudents understand the full scope of amusement park operations.
It’s a win/win: Cedar Fair gets well-trained employees who are dedicated to both their own and the company’s success; and students are driven to do great work and learn how to improve upon it and grow with the company. Students in this program will have more reason to succeed than simply keeping a high GPA. If they succeed working at Cedar Fair during the program, they can look forward to the possibility of continuing to work for the company, moving through the ranks into management, and achieving more job security rapidly after completing the program.
The Resort and Attraction Management program will include courses that are uniquely developed for the attractions and resort industry, Tardif explains. These include Management Information Systems for Resorts and Attractions, Legal Environment of the Hospitality Industry, and Operation Planning and Supply Chain Management for Resorts and Attractions.
“In many ways, amusement park general managers are running something akin to a small city. In addition to employees operating rides, they're supervising a security staff, food and beverage operations, hotels, retail and more,” according to Tardif.
Cedar Park wants its employees to have a broad and thorough understanding of all aspects of guest experience at their parks, as well as how the many different elements of running a park come together and work smoothly.
Rotating through positions at the parks will allow students to both see all these elements up close and to participate in each aspect of park operations.
The expectation is that successful program graduates, as many as 100 a year, might be hired by Cedar Point or one of Cedar Fair's other 11 parks, amusement park companies or other destinations that revolve around attractions such as ski resorts, waterparks, zoos, museums, or golf resorts.
Talk about a degree that pays off: the new curriculum from Bowling Green University and Cedar Fair is just that, for students and employer alike.