A new flexible degree program at Rosen College of Hospitality Management has led to a sharp increase in hospitality graduate school and Ph.D. applicants.
Rosen has seen a 67-percent increase in graduate applications since the creation of a fully online master’s degree program, as well as two separate certificate programs. It has also seen a 33-percent increase in Ph.D. students.
“Sometimes the obvious answer is staring at you in the face and it’s like, we’re in Orlando, there’s hundreds of well-qualified graduates at good lower-management levels, we should be tapping into that easily,” said Alan Fyall, director of graduate studies at Rosen. “The bottom line is, we didn’t offer anything in a flexible format. It really is that straightforward.”
Fyall became graduate programs director at Rosen last fall and has since worked on implementing changes that would allow students who can’t attend class to still complete the program. The flexible-mode program took eight months to complete, giving Rosen time to thoroughly research the industry and survey prospective students.
Julie Leschinski was one such student who took the leap and applied. She is now a Rosen first-year graduate student.
“The flexible-mode is what encouraged me to apply to this program, and so far it has been wonderful. … I love that I am able to choose a different mode for each of my classes, and I am not required to stick to the same mode each time,” Leschinski said.
While the percentage increase in the program size seems large, the numbers themselves are still quite small, Fyall said.
The Rosen master’s program currently has 99 enrolled students, and the increase in applications and popularity doesn’t seem to be having a negative effect on the quality of the program.
“The best part about [the flexible-mode program] is that the professors have become more detail-oriented with how they grade and acknowledge the students’ work,” said Rosen second-year graduate student James Wollner.
Zhaoxiang Hu, a Rosen first-year master’s student, said the flexible mode of the courses gives the students a unique, competitive edge that allows for the feeling of a small class size, but the prestige and inspiring attitude of a major university. Rosen’s master’s program is not only inspiring students to create value in their own lives, but also in the program itself.
Leschinski said one way to make the program better would be to offer voluntary meet-ups once a semester where students could network together and share their class experiences. Wollner said he would like to see more classes offered, as well as specialized tracks available to master’s students, such as events or restaurants.
Fyall plans to continuously make changes to the program over the next couple years in order to keep momentum going, and has already looked into creating another certificate program for Hospitality and Health Care Management.
“So year on year, we will push [to improve] and at the end of the day still have, it sounds a bit cheesy, a quality course. For them to stay, that’s everything,” Fyall said. “But you know, as long as we keep doing that, we’ll keep growing.”
Alissa Smith is a Contributing Writer for the Central Florida Future.