ORLANDO, Fla. - The University of Central Florida’s new Themed Experiences program is one-of-a-kind and exactly where it needs to be, in one of America's top tourist destinations.
It's the kind of curriculum that attracts graduate student Alex Marcello, who described for us her "dream job."
"An art director or creative director, either in theme park design or entertainment design, in general," she said. "The projects we work on are things that bring people joy and make them happy. We’re bringing stories to life that really make people happy and make an impact on their lives and things that they will remember, forever."
Think of it as a master’s in theme parks. Peter Weishar is the director of the program. He said having the industry in UCF’s backyard is an asset.
"Not only can we bring people into the classroom, but then we have this magnificent laboratory, which is Orlando," said Weishar.
The program involves courses on designing simple experiences like a kiosk or food truck, then advances to larger atmospheres like a restaurant or walk-through exhibit. By the end of the program, students are designing complete worlds like The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando or Pandora – The World of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
Weishar said many considered the best in the industry are teaching the classes.
"For example, the collaborative project studio is taught by Patrick Brennan, who is a senior vice president of Walt Disney Imagineering, worldwide," Weishar explained.
"Oh my gosh, it’s intimidating and amazing, all at the same time," Marcello added.
The degree is about more than just creativity, as students are also learning about theme park operations, engineering, hospitality, and finance, so they have an understanding of all that brings a theme park to life.
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