First class to graduate from UCF's new 'Themed Experiences' program

Orlando's theme parks make it a must-see destination for families across the globe. A new degree track at the University of Central Florida is training the next generation of designers.

The official name of the new degree track is Master's of Fine Arts in Theatre, Themed Experience. 

Students aren't designing the theme park rides. Instead, they may design the lobby before the ride, so it continues the storyline. 

Places like zoos, museums, hotels, and restaurants are also transitioning to themed experience designs. 

"Orlando is the international hub of the themed entertainment industry. Disney's Imagineering is coming here. Smaller firms are opening offices. Universal Creative is already here, so thousands of jobs are opening up," UCF Professor Peter Weishar said. "This is where you go. This is why we started the program here at UCF." 

It is a three-year program. Ten students are set to graduate in the first class this Friday. The school says 80% of them will graduate with a job in the industry in Orlando.

Student Jordan Zauha says he fell in love with live entertainment when he visited Magic Kingdom as a child. Students enter the program with various degrees. Zauha had a Bachelor of Fine Arts. Other students had degrees in interior design or engineering. They'll graduate and could work as creative executives, art executives, project managers. 

"The pandemic impacted the live event industry –  theme parks, concerts," Zauha said. "We are ready for themed experiences to be the heart of everything we do. Even retail, people want a shopping experience now. I'm excited to be at the ground floor at UCF of something that I think is common place in the future." 

UCF hopes to grow the program to 90 students between this new degree and another "themed experience" degree track over the next few years.