By JANAYE EVANS
The Disney College Program offers the chance for students and recent graduates to work and live as a paid intern at Walt Disney World Resort for four to seven months. Staying on site in one of Disney’s fully-furnished apartment complexes, students develop skills essential to success at any job. Among them are problem solving, communication, teamwork, customer service and cultural sensitivity.
Currently at Walt Disney World, UMW has two recent graduates who were willing to share their thoughts on this unique experience. Reed Kingsmen is currently assigned to work as a bell service dispatch at The BoardWalk Inn Resort. Prior to working at Disney he had never visited the “Happiest Place on Earth” making his behind the scenes view unique.
Becoming a cast member has opened his eyes as to what excellent service entails. Those in the service sector know that a bad customer experience can make or break your day and job.
At Disney, Kingsmen learned that being yelled at by unhappy guests is part of the job, but even when these situations arise, Disney employees can never break character. “You simply do your job to the best of your ability and still try to make their day.”
When asked how UMW prepared him for this position he said, “UMW has taught me how embracing all the different types of diversity makes for better a community, and here at Disney I see that reinforced everyday. It is women wearing khimars walking with their children wearing goofy hats, families who have children with autism requesting headphones so that they can all enjoy the fireworks at the end of the night and couples from differing backgrounds holding hands as they walk up and down Epcot.”
Kingsmen encourages anyone interested in anthropology, business, or those considering being a translator to apply. Disney is a hub for international activity and allows for interactions between people who would not normally interact.
When asked his advice to people wishing to apply he made clear the need for practicality.
“You may love Disney with all your heart and know every little fact, but here at Disney that doesn’t make you special because everyone at Disney feels the exact same way,” Kingsmen said. “Remember this is a job and they are looking for people who can do their job so well that to the guests it seems like magic. If you really want be accepted he suggests doing your research, sprucing up your resume and applying for things you are qualified to do.”
On the other side of the Resort is Courtney Rodenbough, currently working at the Pop Century Resort, with the role of Quick Service Food & Beverage.
Prior to working for Disney, Rodenbough had visited the park eight times. Her first visit was at the age of two. As a member of the Disney Vacation Club, she is well acquainted with the parks, however working there is a different experience.
“It is definitely a different view, you are experiencing it from behind the scenes,” Rodenbough said.
For Rodenbough the theme and core values of Disney stay consistent. “You really start to understand how hard cast members work to make the experiences of every guest a unique, special and happy one,” said Rodenbough.
When prompted about her time at UMW and its impact on her time at Disney, Rodenbough focused on the importance of learning to work in a group. At UMW we have the privilege of small class sizes that prepare us for real world working environments.
Rodenbough described her work environment saying, “At my job, we work as a group to fulfill the customer’s wants and needs.”
More importantly, however, she speaks on the role of her alma mater, “Mary Washington has shaped the person I am today and I am able to see my full potential because of that. I have realized that maybe Disney is the place for me to actually prove myself. I will forever be grateful for my time at UMW.”
Working at Disney post graduation sounds like a dream come true. Yet every new adventure comes with new challenges. Adjusting to living in a new state, being away from friends and even Florida’s finicky weather.
The first couple of weeks of work were a challenge for Courtney, saying, “I was so nervous and just wanted to give a good first impression.”
The ability to put Disney, a Fortune 500 company, on your resume will not only look amazing, but is a responsibility. More so, the chance to make connections with people from around the world is a once-in- a-lifetime opportunity.
Courtney’s advice to those interested in the Disney College Program is to take a chance and apply. She says, “I have heard people say they loved it and people say they hated it, but so far I’m loving it. You won’t know until you try.”
Figuring out what comes next after graduation can be stressful, and the Disney College Program is just one of many amazing options accessible to UMW students. After all, Disney is the place “where dreams come true.”