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Six University of Tennessee students will get first hand experience on how to run a business through a partnership between UT-Knoxville and Dollywood.

Students in the UT-Dollywood cooperative course will open a pet supply store April 17 at the theme park and earn credit in the College of Human Ecology’s retail and consumer sciences program.

“Dollywood has given us one of their retail stores within the park and basically told us to go for it,” Dr. Ann Fairhurst, an associate professor who started and supervises the course, said. “The students are responsible for everything, including decisions about merchandise, staffing, daily operations, managing all the employees, and sales analysis. It is their business.”

The student shop will be housed in what was a gift store in the park’s 1950s nostalgia area.

Coe Sherrard, vice president of development at Dollywood, said the theme park is covering the project costs, and has paid for students to attend a vendor showcase in Atlanta to buy products for the new shop.

“UT and Dollywood are two of the best things about East Tennessee,” Sherrard said. “We are one of the nation’s top 20 theme parks, and through this program with UT we offer some unique job training opportunities that may not be available in other areas of the country.”

Students operating the store, all juniors and seniors, are Amanda Brewer, Pleasant Hill, Calif.; Jennifer Lane, Maryville; Lesley Lundsford, Decaturville, Tenn.; and Don Rehak, Kelly Smith, and Natalea Tucker, all of Knoxville.