Campus Life

Program grooms students for Service and Tourism Industry

The University of West Florida Hospitality, Recreation and Resort Management program, now in its sixth year, is attracting a significant number of students with its promises of high hire-ability and beachfront workplace possibilities.

Graduates of the program are managing restaurants, greeting tourists, planning weddings  and patrolling parks all along the Florida and Alabama Gulf Coast. The program, designed with the area’s business community in mind, is under the Health Leisure Exercise Sciences Division, College of Professional Studies. Steven Philipp is the program coordinator.

UWF Junior Ashley Burton changed her major to HRRM after meeting another student who was already in the program. “I had an epiphany. I thought ‘This is what I should be doing,’ ” she said. She wanted to be a part of  “creating this world for people”  where they are happy, pampered and treated with respect. Currently interning with Campus Activity Board and the Homecoming Committee, she hopes to become an event planner.

“When people ask me my major and I tell them it’s hospitality, recreation and resort management, some people automatically think “Oh, hotels!” said UWF senior Agatha Castellano of Pensacola. “No, it’s more than just hotels. The program does cover the hotel industry, but it also covers tourism, recreation, resort, food and beverage, conventions and even spa management.” She hopes to pursue a career in food service management.

According to Philipp, the generalist degree prepares students for work with a variety of hospitality, recreation, and resort businesses – unlike similar degree programs at other Florida institutions which are more specific and more limiting in regard to student job placement. “We have placed students in practically every hospitality, recreation and resort business in the Northwest Florida area,” he said. About half of the program’s graduates stay in the Northwest Florida-Alabama Gulf Coast region.

Requirements include completion of a 200-hour field study and a 400-hour internship. This past summer, more than 60 students were working on their degree while getting paid.

“A large percentage of our students are offered full-time employment after completion of their internship,” said Philipp, adding that at least one-third have jobs awaiting them upon graduation.

The on-site studies keep Philipp and UWF in communication with community business needs. Supervisors evaluate the students and provide feedback on their preparation for management-level jobs but also offer other suggestions to improve and enhance the program.

Phillips said he sees opportunity in the entrepreneurial spirit of the students — many of whom have expressed an interest in starting their own business someday. “This area is in the center of an economic zone poised for growth, especially for small businesses,” Philipp said.

For more information, contact Steven Philipp at (850) 474- 2595 or e-mail or visit

Written by Susie Forrester, University Marketing Communications