It was his third time walking across the stage, but when he was handed his diploma, Scott Smith was the first to accomplish what no student had done before in the Rosen College of Hospitality Management’s 29-year history.
On May 4, Smith became the first student to earn a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and doctorate, all from the Rosen College, when he earned his doctorate in hospitality education. Smith, 48, entered the hospitality program 28 years ago and has been teaching at Rosen since 2003.
Although Smith enrolled at UCF in 1982, the hospitality program didn’t exist until 1983, when it started as a specialty of the business administration program. Smith, who worked at Disney and immensely enjoyed it, immediately applied to the program. Smith said that he has always been enamored with the hospitality industry.
“It was just wonderful to go to work every day and make people happy,” he said. “That makes a big difference to me. It’s not like other jobs.”
After graduating in 1987 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, Smith stayed in his hometown of Orlando and entered the hospitality industry, where within 15 years he was the general manager of a local DoubleTree hotel. But in 2002, Smith resigned from his position and took a smaller role in sales and marketing, deciding to go back to school and work toward a master’s degree in hospitality and tourism management, which he received in 2004.
“When I reached my goal, I asked myself, ‘What’s my next step?’” Smith said. “A master’s teaches you to think and analyze situations differently, and about formulating strategies for success.”
Smith found that his years of industry experience and training complemented his courses. One year after beginning school again, he was approached about teaching at the Rosen College.
“It was very fortuitous,” he said. “[As a general manager], I was always a trainer. Training and teaching worked hand-in-hand. … It’s something I enjoy immensely.”
Danielle Byrd, a junior double majoring in hospitality management and event management, took an introductory course taught by Smith and highly recommends him.
“He was completely amazing,” she said. “He explained everything in detail, and because of his experience in the industry, he was able to give a little insight into hotels and how they run," Byrd said. "… He had a story for everything he taught.”
H.G. Parsa, a professor of hospitality management at Rosen, advised Smith on his doctoral dissertation concerning hotel prices and cancellation policies.
“He’s truly one of the best [teachers] you can have in the Rosen College,” Parsa said. “He connects well with the students. They know they learn a whole lot more from him, and they love him to death.”
One of Smith’s favorite aspects of Rosen’s programs is the diverse, broad offering of multiple hospitality disciplines.
“When people think of hospitality, they think of ‘Would you like fries with that?’” he said. “But we’re all about introducing students to all different aspects of the industry: theme parks, country clubs, conventions, cruise lines … [In Orlando] we’re at the epicenter of the hospitality and tourism industry.”
Rosen’s proximity to the industry has also benefited the school, as companies such as Disney, Universal, Marriott and Darden Restaurants have contributed to the various programs in the form of scholarships, internship opportunities and donations. According to the Rosen College’s official website, The Walt Disney World Company and Darden Restaurants each donated $2 million to the college, while the Universal Orlando Foundation and the J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation contributed to the college’s library in the amount of $1 million and $100,000, respectively.
Although numerous industry partners have supported the Rosen College, none has been as charitable as its namesake, Harris Rosen, a prominent hotelier and philanthropist. In late 2000, Rosen donated $10 million in cash and 25 acres of land valued at $8 million for the school’s new campus.
“If he hadn’t done that, [the program] would have struggled for years,” Smith said. “Now, we’re not only a growing program, but a successful one. [Hospitality companies] beg us for students.”
According to the Rosen College’s website, the new campus opened in January of 2004. Today, the school boasts nearly 3,500 students.
Smith credited his success to his colleagues and family, saying that “they were so helpful and supportive of me.” He acknowledges Parsa as the “key to my success,” as well as thanking Rosen College Dean Abraham Pizam.
“He has seen me grow up from a goofy sophomore to a professional teacher,” Smith said.
Smith plans to continue teaching and hopes students will get the same thrill he did while planning conventions and events.
“There’s no feeling like it in the world,” Smith said.