Biloxi — Answering a nationwide search by Tulane University, Alan L. Silver has been named to lead the prestigious New Orleans school’s casino resort management program here. The state’s only such program, and among the first in the nation, it offers an associate degree or a post-baccalaureate certificate from a university ranked among the top 50 in the nation. The casino management program began its second semester last week and Silver is the first director.
Making the announcement, University College dean Richard Marksbury said, “I’m excited that our new program — and the Mississippi Coast campus in general — will benefit from Alan’s experience and enthusiasm. He brings a wealth of new ideas and approaches and his vast professional network to the program as we take the lead in providing leadership training for the number one industry in the region.”
During his career spanning more than 25 years, Silver has:
• Headed marketing operations at casinos and leading casino-related high-tech manufacturing corporations in Las Vegas, Reno, Minnesota and Georgia.
• Owned a firm specializing in marketing, advertising and public relations programs for gaming-related companies.
• Served as an adjunct faculty member at the William F. Harrah School of Hotel Administration at the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV).
• Taught at the community college and university level.
“I feel like saying ‘Pinch me, is it a dream,’” Silver said. “I’m really thrilled to be here and have the ability to expand the program and take it to the next level.”
Silver wants to see local people move up in the gaming industry, and says he hopes he’s the last person brought in from outside the state. Over 13,000 people work in gaming on the Coast and close to 40,000 in the state with industry revenues approaching $2.8 billion.
“That’s a sizeable industry for the state, and we’ve got to be willing to provide education for the needs of the community,” he said. “If Boeing Airlines came in and set up a factory, we would have to teach skills for that labor market.”
Silver, 55, hopes the Tulane program will be able to reach people working in gaming in other areas of the state through use of Internet classes. He has been a leader in distance teaching and high-tech at UNLV where some 8,000 out of 27,000 students are taking online classes.
Noting that people are being recruited from outside the state for casino management jobs because they have more education and experience, Tulane’s new director says he will take a hard look at the curriculum and needs casinos have for training. The program may change to fit what human resources directors and casino general managers say they need. He feels an internship program for mid-level managers would be helpful for the gaming industry.
“I will do research and survey gaming leaders before jumping in,” he said “I want to talk to them and ask them what they need.”
The program is centered on business and management. With about 80 students enrolled, Silver says the program is still a baby, but growing. Some of the classes offered are introduction to casino resort management, casino marketing, introduction to hotel management, marketing with databases, addictive behavior and gambling, casino resort information systems, casino resort food and beverage management and others.
“Outside Nevada, no other college in the country has this many classes,” Marksbury said. “We call it what it is. We don’t have to play games with names.”
The University of Southern Mississippi plans to offer casino management classes but has faced political and legal hurdles that may cause the courses to be classified under a hospitality program.
“Whatever you’re interested in, you can find in gaming,” Silver said. “It’s a service industry and we take that approach in teaching it.”
When he was marketing director for Leisure Time Casinos, Silver visited the Coast, Natchez, Vicksburg and Greenville scouting locations. As a history buff and former history teacher, he especially enjoyed these travels. He plans to visit a former student who works at Pearl River Resort.
“It’s always touching to see students succeed and he was an excellent student,” he said.
Silver was born in Brooklyn to Russian and Polish parents who taught him that he must have an education to get ahead no matter what field he entered. His mother died at an early age and the family moved to California. He attended Los Angeles public schools where he ran track and cross country. For three years his high school won all three divisional track championships among the public schools.
“I was a skinny kid, just right for running and a coach noticed me in the ninth grade,” he recalls. “He made an impact on me that helped my grades improve.”
Silver went on to Los Angeles Valley Junior College where he continued running and won the state championship in cross country. He earned a master’s degree in history from California State University in Sacramento and an MBA from the University of Southern California, a school ranked among the top 20 in the country.
He currently teaches casino marketing and hospitality marketing as an adjunct professor at the UNLV. His wife, Natalia, will join him on the Coast.
Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at email@example.com.