When teaching is done for the day, the professor at Farmingdale State College on Long Island, N.Y., will often head straight for Adventureland, a local amusement park. But Martin Lewison isn’t just having fun; he’s conducting field research. A roller coaster enthusiast, the Pitt grad applied his thrill-seeking passion to an academic career—and it started in Pittsburgh.
In 1996, Lewison was working toward a doctorate from the Katz Graduate School of Business when he first visited Pittsburgh’s beloved Kennywood Park and rode the Thunderbolt, a classic wooden coaster. The ride, which sends passengers on a 90-foot drop at 55 miles an hour, rekindled his childhood love of roller coasters and inspired a unique teaching and research focus.
Today, as an assistant professor of business management, Lewison (BUS ’01G) mines the amusement park industry for the insight it can offer business and marketing students, teaching classes like Theme Parks and Tourism for undergraduates at Farmingdale. “Theme parks offer great lessons and examples on dozens of business topics,” says Lewison, who often uses industry cases in his teaching.
When he’s not on campus, Lewison and his wife, Cheryl, trek around the world to ride as many different roller coasters as they can. So far, they have traveled to 32 countries and ridden more than 1,800 coasters, including the fastest (Abu Dhabi), the tallest (New Jersey), and the longest (Japan). Each trip potentially provides new material for his lesson plans.
“It’s a great excuse to travel to another country,” Lewison says. “We hang out with locals at the theme park. We get to experience their experience. It’s exotic, yet familiar and, of course, a lot of fun.”
This article appeared in the Winter 2019 issue of Pitt Magazine.