When Joe Fernandez graduated from Ocean Springs High School, he never dreamed he'd become a rising star in the casino industry.
In just two years, he's gone from parking cars and carrying luggage to training new Casino Magic employees. And he still has other ladders to climb.
"The sky's the limit," Fernandez said. "The casino industry has so much to offer."
And the man with a fine arts degree from William Carey wants to take advantage of those opportunities.
"If the casino wasn't here," Fernandez said, "there wouldn't be an opportunity for this hotel. There wouldn't be an opportunity for these restaurants. There wouldn't be an opportunity for all these little avenues that opened up by the casino."
How all those avenues connect will be taught this summer at Tulane University's Biloxi campus. Tom Brosig will use a variety of books and years of personal experience to teach a gaming management class.
"We need quality education for the up and coming casino associates that's broader than what any individual casino can offer," Brosig said as he went over his syllabus.
For years, gaming executives have encouraged Mississippi to teach gaming management at state colleges. But the legislature has always said no. So Tulane is filling that educational void with a class that could become an entire four year program.
"This isn't about blackjack or slot machines," Brosig said. "This is about marketing. And this is about management. And this is about control of finances. Casino management is about coordinating and keeping control of all the various facets that go on inside of a casino resort."
According to Tulane dean Lou Campomenosi, the casino management course will be part of the school's business studies program. He said the reason the private school is teaching it in Biloxi "is quite clear. There is a need for the gaming industry to have the education opportunities that we're going to provide to other sectors of the economy."
Because of an agreement between Tulane and the coast casinos, each property can enroll one student in the summer program. The other 18 students must pay Tulane a $672 fee.