Going into the pandemic, the number of students enrolled in event management was declining at the Boston University School of Hospitality Administration, the school’s dean said.
For some students enrolled in event management degree programs in 2020, the temporary but sudden collapse of live events early in the pandemic carried a double whammy. Many, if not most, programs have internship requirements — for example, the program at the Rosen College of Hospitality Management at the University of Central Florida (UCF) in Orlando requires that students complete three internships before graduation, said Michelle Holm, a lecturer in the program and the coordinator of the event and entertainment management programs in the college’s Department of Tourism, Events, and Attractions. Typically, UCF Rosen College students have jobs in addition to attending classes, Holm said, and in addition to the loss of internship opportunities, students also lost hospitality-related jobs they were working to pay their bills.
Some students pivoted to graduate school to pursue a broader general business or marketing degree to better position themselves for when the industry bounced back, said Jeeyeon Hahm, an associate professor at the UCF program. But in order to make ends meet, Holm said, students also took jobs “in sales and got into doing things that they didn’t think that they’d be doing.”
Two years later, as events have rebounded strongly in Orlando, opportunities have been coming back, Hahm said. A full picture of enrollment patterns at the college is still emerging, “but I’m not under the impression that students have necessarily left the degree programs within the college,” Holm said. “I think students are continuing on with their education as they originally planned, but the students who were [particularly] affected [by the pandemic] are looking at it a lot differently than they used to.”
Students in event management programs, including at UCF Rosen College, learned to adapt and change quickly by hosting virtual events and hybrid events with the help of advanced technology, Hahm said. But the scope of what programs are offering students also is evolving. At the Boston University School of Hospitality Administration (SHA), “we are expanding the concept of what we think of as hospitality,” said Arun Upneja, the school’s dean. “We are including senior living, sports, and entertainment as belonging to all of this — pretty much essentially any industry where human interactions are very key to the business models.” Those fields are attracting student interest, particularly sports and entertainment, Holm said. “Everybody doesn’t want to do business events. There’s a trend toward concerts, music festivals, and larger-scale type events like that,” she said.