Upon entering, one might think they have strayed into a five-star resort. The Spanish-style architecture, wrought-iron gates, pristine fountains and immaculate hallways are not typically characteristic of a college campus. Every detail, from the wallpaper and carpeting to the knobs on the doors, was chosen to imitate a luxury hotel. Welcome to the Rosen College of Hospitality Management.
It didn’t always look like this, though.
The Rosen College of Hospitality Management began as a program in 1983. Dean Abraham Pizam was put in charge of the Dick Pope Sr. Institute for Tourism Studies, which was part of UCF’s College of Business Administration at the time. From there he began to mold the hospitality management program as an extension of the Institute for Tourism Studies.
“I was brought here 29 years ago to establish the department of hospitality management. I was hired to direct that institute and also to establish the department of hospitality management, which at that time was under the college of business administration," Pizam said. "That’s when my career was started with UCF, and the rest is history.”
UCF’s new department caught the attention of the media, which, Pizam said, facilitated his meeting with Harris Rosen.
“When I was hired, a reporter came from the Orlando Sentinel and they did a little story about UCF moving in this particular direction and establishing a hospitality department. And I got a call a few days later from an hotelier who introduced himself as Mr. Rosen," Pizam said. "He said, ‘I am a graduate of Cornell University like yourself, and I would like to meet with you and discuss how we can assist.’”
Rosen and Pizam met for the first time at the first hotel purchased by Rosen, a 256-room Quality Inn on International Drive. On that day Rosen began to donate a check of $10,000 each year as scholarship money for students within the program, Pizam said.
“Abe told me his dream of having his own college, and he was a little disappointed it hadn’t happened,” Rosen said. “And I told Abe, ‘I will build you a college. Don’t worry about it.’”
It wasn’t until years later in 2000 that the hospitality school would become an independent entity. Rosen had two conditions by which he would make the donations to support the school, Pizam said. One was that the school would move away from the main campus and be next to his new hotel since it is in the hub of the tourism zone. The second condition was that the school be taken out of the College of Business to become autonomous.
Rosen donated 20 acres of land, now valued at about $10 million, adjacent to his new resort, Rosen Shingle Creek. Along with kicking in another $10 million donation, his approximate donations totaled $20 million to the UCF Foundation. He also set up a $2.5 million scholarship fund for the college.
Rosen said that these donations were important to the dream shared by himself and Pizam — the dream that the hospitality school become autonomous.
“Orlando is certainly one of the great tourist destinations in the world, and it occurred to me that if we were going to have a hospitality management college, it really had to be the best," Rosen said. "We have so many great opportunities for youngsters here in Orlando to work for any of the attractions, the convention center, any of the hotels — and there were about 100,000 rooms at the time — and restaurants, and so I decided it was something that Orlando needed.
“If we were going to have a hospitality school, it had to be the best of the best.”
Rosen was very involved in the planning and designing of the building. Pizam and Rosen met on a weekly basis with the architect first, and then with the construction company. This was a very unusual way to do a project at UCF, Pizam said, because there is a unit called Facilities Planning and Design that, once you have the money, conducts an analysis of the needs for new buildings and hires a construction company from there. However, Rosen had a different request since he put up so much money. He requested to be involved on a daily basis, which was a new experience for UCF that saved the Rosen College a lot of money on putting together the school, Pizam said.
“Rosen was involved in everything from the wallpaper to the carpet to the furniture to the handles on the doors — everything,” Pizam said. “The intention was to create the atmosphere and ambience of a resort hotel so that the students would be immersed in that environment from day one.”
Jason Calman, a senior majoring in hospitality management, has been attending Rosen for two years. He feels that the school’s resort-like atmosphere has been very effective in instilling the values of the hospitality industry.
“It’s a nice hospitality-like atmosphere. … There is no doubt about it that this is one of the top hospitality schools in the country," Calman said. "I think that the Rosen School prepares you for life outside of school by putting students into the work environment, which is pretty bright.”
The Rosen campus opened in January of 2004. By May of the same year, Rosen College of Hospitality Management was given the status of a full college, Pizam said.
“What would normally have taken decades was accomplished in 10 years," Pizam said. “We couldn’t have done that without the help of Mr. Rosen.”
With fewer than 100 students and only seven faculty members at the start of Rosen College, today the school has grown to 3,500 students and 50 faculty members. At first, the program only offered a Bachelor of Science in business administration. Now the school also offers a Bachelor of Science in hospitality management, a Bachelor of Science in restaurant and food service management and a Bachelor of Science in event management, as well as a Master of Science in hospitality and tourism management and a doctorate in hospitality education.
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