Arts & Culture

UCF Announces New MFA Track in Themed Experience

UCF will be among the first institutions in the country to offer a degree program dedicated to the design and creation of themed experience.

By Steven Risko |
January 16, 2019

A restaurant enclosed by glass and underwater

A themed experience goes beyond theme parks; it can be found in zoos, aquariums, retail, dining, museums, virtual worlds and exhibitions.

Orlando is known as the land of theme parks — a place that people visit from around the globe to immerse themselves in the most imaginative and fantastic worlds. Located in the international hub of the themed-experience industry, UCF is poised to become a leader in the field.

Starting Fall 2019, UCF will offer an MFA track in Theatre, Themed Experience that prepares students to be creative leaders in the themed-experience industry.

A themed experience goes beyond theme parks; it is an interaction with a physical or virtual environment designed to convey a narrative that can educate, entertain and inspire individuals, and can be found in zoos, aquariums, retail, dining, museums, virtual worlds and exhibitions.

Creating themed environments takes a unique set of skills in storytelling, design and guest management. This graduate track in the School of Performing Arts will pull from the strength and diversity of the faculty and from the direct connection to leaders in the field. Students will take classes in creating immersive experiences that include storytelling, how to visualize themed experiences and hands-on studio design.

“Themed experience is not a discipline that can reside in just one area of expertise,” says Jeff Moore, dean of the UCF College of Arts and Humanities. “Many of our faculty members have long-standing relationships with people within Central Florida’s themed entertainment industry. This track provides an initial step for us to bring it all together.”

“Our goal is to work with the parks to ensure that our students are being trained to fill the creative positions they need.” — Jeff Moore, dean of the UCF College of Arts and Humanities

With the themed-experience track, UCF will be among the first institutions in the country to offer a degree program dedicated to the design and creation of themed experience. The themed industry in Orlando currently imports talent from across the country, but UCF hopes to provide the top talent for the fast-growing industry in the future.

“The themed-entertainment industry is one of Florida’s largest employers, but the major companies currently need to recruit talent from outside the state,” says Moore. “Our goal is to work with the parks to ensure that our students are being trained to fill the creative positions they need.”

Joining the UCF faculty to lead this new track is themed-experience expert, Peter Weishar. Weishar is the founding dean of entertainment arts at the Savannah College of Art and Design, where he created the first MFA in Themed Entertainment Design. He is also the director and founder of the Themed Experience Institute, chair of Themed Entertainment Association Academic Network, co-editor of the Journal of Themed Experience and Attractions Research, and president emeritus of the International Digital Media Arts Association.

“Five of the 10 most visited theme parks in the world are located minutes away from the university. Students will have easy access to internship and job opportunities with top themed-experience companies.” — Peter Weishar, themed-experience expert

“UCF is the ideal location for this program,” says Weishar. “Central Florida is the hub of the international themed-entertainment industry. UCF has the ideal combination of students, faculty, leadership, resources as well as a prime location. Five of the 10 most visited theme parks in the world are located minutes away from the university. Students will have easy access to internship and job opportunities with top themed-experience companies and industry professionals who can mentor them as they progress through the program.”

Many graduates may work directly for theme parks, but others will find employment in specialty firms producing industry-related items like custom rides, exhibitions, retail, theatrical experiences, effects, events, and museum exhibits, as well as for companies that provide support and services for the themed-experience industry.

Individuals interested can find more details here and apply. The priority application deadline for the Fall 2019 semester is April 1. The final submission deadline for domestic applicants is July 30.