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Business students complete capstone project for military resort

capstone students in orlando

WCU business students who presented their capstone project in Orlando are, from left to right, Megann Holst, Charlie Andersen, Maycie Henry, Whitney Smith, Christina Shvidrik and Sean Armstrong.

By Julia Duvall

In the spring of 2022, Charlie Parrish, director of Western Carolina University’s School of Marketing, Entrepreneurship, Sport Management, Hospitality and Tourism Management, met with Lee Schmudde, outgoing chair of WCU’s Hospitality and Tourism Management board, and AJ Grube, WCU’s College of Business dean, to discuss the possibility of a capstone project with the military-affiliated Shades of Green Resort in Orlando, Florida.

“Lee presented the idea of having one of our business capstone classes partner with the resort in Orlando on a feasibility analysis for its brew pub expansion and AJ and I took that idea and ran with it,” Parrish said. “In the fall of 2022, I brought the idea to Yue Hillon who teaches the Management 404 capstone course to see if she would be interested in this for her students’ client project during the spring 2023 term.”

Shades of Green is a military-run resort on Disney property in Orlando. It was originally opened in 1973 as a golf resort and in the 1980s was renamed the Disney Inn.

In the early 1990s, Army officials decided it was time to build a new Armed Forces Recreation Center in the continental United States. Orlando was the top choice in a market survey of soldiers. The Army took the offer from the Walt Disney World Company to lease the Disney Inn, and after negotiations were completed, the Shades of Green resort opened on Feb. 1, 1994. Schmudde, who at that time was a corporate lawyer for Disney, brokered the deal.

The resort became so successful that in 1996 the Army Moral, Recreation and Welfare program purchased the resort. The resort briefly closed from 2002-2004 for major expansions and renovations. Today, the resort is self-sustaining with no taxpayer funds used for upkeep or operation.

After their meeting with resort executives and thorough research of the project, the class was committed to seeing this project through.

“With this capstone course, it is not only management students, but students from all College of Business majors,” Hillon said. “The students utilize the knowledge they’ve learned over the past couple of years to strategically think through this analysis.”

The class of 30 was broken into six teams that analyzed areas of strategic positioning, and operational and financial feasibility and sustainability. Six students were voted on by classmates to go down to the resort to present their findings with Hillon and Parrish.

The class representatives were Megann Holst, Charlie Andersen, Maycie Henry, Whitney Smith, Christina Shvidrik and Sean Armstrong.

At the conclusion of the feasibility analysis, it was determined that yes, expanding the brew pub would be a successful venture for the resort.

“There are only four AFRC resorts in the world,” Hillon said. “The resorts are located in Germany, Hawaii, South Korea and Florida. This was a great opportunity for our students to gain hands-on experience working on this project.”

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