Inaugural Resort and Attraction Management class at BGSU turns fun into a career
Cedar Fair Resort and Attraction Management program is the result of a unique public-private partnership to educate students in the business of amusement parks and resorts
At Bowling Green State University, fun is not just part of the college experience – it’s also a major.
The Cedar Fair Resort and Attraction Management (RAAM) program is the result of a unique, public-private partnership that combines one of Ohio’s most unique companies – Cedar Fair counts Cedar Point among its many properties – with a uniquely crafted BGSU curriculum to launch graduates directly into the business side of fun, an already notable industry poised for significant growth.
The BGSU program is the only one of its kind in which students take courses directly embedded in a theme park.
For the first cohort of students, who entered the workforce after graduating with Bachelor of Science degrees in resort and attraction management earlier this year, the chance to be part of the inaugural class was a fulfilling experience.
“You do get that question of, ‘What is resort management?’ a lot, but once you start explaining it to people, and especially when you put Cedar Point and Cedar Fair’s name into it, people say, ‘That’s the coolest thing,’” said Alex Gillman ’22, who was among the first class of RAAM graduates and now works as the front office manager at Hotel Breakers at Cedar Point.
“It’s like you’re majoring in amusement parks. What can be cooler than that?”
Guaranteed, paid co-ops
Students in the RAAM program complete two guaranteed co-ops at one of Cedar Fair’s North American amusement parks or a similar destination. Both co-ops are paid and give students valuable experience to launch their careers even before graduation.
To provide students with the best possible mix of traditional academia and real-world application of their studies, the program is offered through the Bowling Green campus, at which students can complete their general education requirements, while Sandusky – just minutes from Cedar Point – is home to an academic facility dedicated to the RAAM program.
The setup is different than most degree programs, but so is the industry to which it is dedicated, which was part of the attraction for the first group of RAAM graduates.
Joe Prentice ’22 was among the first students to find the unique BGSU offering when he went in search of an amusement park-related major.
Now an area manager for games at Cedar Point, Prentice said he saw a world of possibilities, both within the industry and the program.
“I wanted to go to school for ride design and found this program," Prentice said. "I said, ‘Hey, why not give it a shot? It was a new program that did something different, and I ended up loving it.
“Being part of the first class was inspiring, that’s for sure.”
In their short time with Cedar Fair, both Gillman and Prentice already have obtained promotions to expanded roles in their first year after graduation.
Matching skills to future employers' needs
The first cohort of students saw up close how much it takes to run an amusement park, as the industry has needs for employees with many skill sets.
The students’ two co-ops can be done in a wide array of roles ranging from resort management, park operations, merchandise and gaming, but also specialized roles that include finance, human resources and marketing that support an amusement park’s day-to-day operations.
The opportunity to experience multiple paid co-ops allows students to find the areas of the industry to which they are best suited, all while making connections with a potential employer.
For Jim Broff '22, co-ops proved invaluable before launching his career as supervisor of parking and transportation in yacht operations at Universal Orlando Resort.
"My co-ops started my leadership career," Broff said. "I was able to get two extra years of industry experience, most of it in leadership, which made me that much more valuable after graduation. Personally, it helped me grow and encounter situations in an educational setting that I would later encounter in my professional career."
Everything in the industry comes back to one thing: Making sure guests enjoy themselves.
Though fun has a business side, the career is one with constant rewards, Gillman said.
“I love being able to help people and physically see the experience that they’re having on their face,” Gillman said. “That’s what it’s all about.”
Updated: 11/02/2022 02:41PM