“I think my prior experience working in a management-type position will help me a great deal as I work through this program. While other parks will surely be different than Michigan’s Adventure, I believe my knowledge of Cedar Fair policies gives me an advantage. Coming out of this program, I don’t necessarily have a preference on which department I would be involved in, and I think it’s valuable to have a variety of skills and understand how each department works together to achieve a common goal.”
These are the words of Matt Jensen, a supervisor at Michigan’s Adventure, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in resort and attraction management at Bowling Green State University, located in Bowling Green, OH.
BGSU has teamed up with Cedar Fair, most notably the owners of world-renowned amusement park Cedar Point, located in Sandusky, OH, to offer the degree. This provides students an on-site learning opportunity under Cedar Fair at the company’s numerous amusement parks.
“For the upcoming year we’ll be somewhere in the ballpark with majors and pre-majors for [enrollment total] to be between 140 and 150 [students]” explained Dr. Swathi Ravichandran, the Founding Director and Professor of the Resort and Attraction Management Program. “Those who are interested in this particular field really have nowhere else to go due to the major’s specificity.”
Since the program’s commencement in the summer semester of 2020, approximately 83 students have been enrolled within the program. Jensen, who has first-hand experience working in a similar environment, believes this field is his biggest passion career-wise.
“Prior to last year, I had no idea at all what field I was interested in going into,” he said. “After working for three seasons at Michigan’s Adventure and receiving promotions up into a supervisory role, I found myself enjoying my job more and more as I moved higher up. So, after my three years working at the park, I decided that the tourism industry was very intriguing to me and this program would be a perfect fit.”
BGSU requires students to take two paid cooperative positions in any of the 11 North American Cedar Fair amusement parks.
“I will be able to interact and work with current Cedar Point team members that may hold positions I one day hope to have within Cedar Fair or elsewhere,” Jensen explained. “I will receive on-the-job training that correlates directly with my classroom learning to improve my skills and knowledge about the industry.”
Dr. Ravichandran also noticed this passion with her up-and-coming students who come from similar backgrounds to Jensen.
“When some of these students came to us, they had already been working in the industry since they were 14 and 15 years old,” she said. “They all have such a strong bond with one another because of the fact they have such a passion to grow together and become the future of this industry.”
BGSU plans on putting forth its classes for this program in downtown Sandusky, Ohio in a new multipurpose facility that consists of a study hall and an apartment-style living space provided by Falcon Point Lofts.
“Our complex is only about five minutes away from Cedar Point,” said Jensen. “So, working there in my off-time is very easy with quick transport.”
Four, brief 10-week semesters make up the credits for classes that correlate with the program.
“This allows us to work at the park throughout the end of their season in late October,” he said. “As well as being able to start work right away when they open in early May to maximize our opportunity to gain hands-on experience and a great source of income.”
This program also provides students with much-needed leadership skills that will ultimately help them succeed in any given environment related to the major.
“Our vision and our goal for the program is to prepare our students to be future leaders for their respective positions within this industry,” said Dr. Ravichandran. “Everything that goes with managing this type of business correlates with our coursework, but you need to really work [within the amusement parks] to understand just how much goes into this. Students have many opportunities to check off those ‘who you know’ and ‘what you know’ boxes to be able to pick their career of choice, whether that be through interaction with guests in-class who come to assist in lectures, offered curriculum, and coursework.”
The program plans to host an annual career fair that will begin in the spring of 2022 (the time the first class in the program will be graduating) that will allow their students to help expand their network and allow them to choose within the industry what category they want to work within.
Jensen believes the multibillion-dollar corporation will have much to look forward to in terms of future management with the help of BGSU.
“I think Cedar Fair will look very positively at people who complete this program,” he said. “This program holds more value to them in particular than a basic tourism or hospitality degree. While it fits well within their industry, I believe the in-park experience and job-specific courses pair up nicely to develop each student into a qualified graduate to fill positions within Cedar Fair.”
Jensen plans on transferring during the summer after fulfilling his transfer credit via Muskegon Community College.