Students intern with Disney
Published: Monday, December 7, 2009
Updated: Monday, December 7, 2009 21:12
Senior Allie Gran spent spring semester of her sophomore year working at the All-Star Resort at Disney World.
Gran, a hotel, restaurant and institutional management major, said the experience was valuable in getting real-world experience in the field she is studying. She worked at the front desk as a concierge through the Disney College Program.
"In our major we need to have 800 hours of work in the hospitality industry before we can graduate," Gran said. "This helped me get to the 800-hour mark."
Gran went to Disney World frequently when she was younger and said the experience of working there gave her personal satisfaction.
"It was good to make people enjoy Disney as much as I did as a little kid," she said.
To partake in the program, Gran took a leave of absence from the university. Having come into college with AP and college credits, she can still graduate on time.
"I took one class down there, but it didn't count for credit at the university," Gran said. "I took it for my own benefit."
Gran said all college interns are paid and the only real costs while participating are rent and food. Students are provided housing, but rent comes out of their paychecks.
Transportation to and from the parks is free, along with admission to all the parks.
She said working for Disney was the best decision she has made in college. When she graduates in the spring, she hopes to go back to Disney and enter their management training program, an opportunity she said would not be available to her if she had not participated in the College Program.
Gran now helps promote the program on campus as a campus representative. She said the College Program is marketed to a broad range of majors who have the option to participate in either the fall or spring program. The university typically has five to 10 students in the program each semester, she said.
"Most that apply generally get in, and of those who are accepted about 50 percent accept the offer," Gran said.
Tricia Fitzgerald, the university's associate director of Reunion and Student Programs and a university alumna, spent fall semester of her sophomore year working as a lifeguard at the Contemporary Resort in Disney World. She said she discovered the program when she went with some of her friends to an information session.
"Some of my friends were talking about it, and I decided to go check it out," Fitzgerald said. "Then they showed a video and I was like, ‘I'm ready to go tomorrow.' "
She said she worked 35 to 40 hours a week, and when she was on duty, she had to work hard and perform to her managers expectations.
"My hours were pretty standard. My shifts would be anywhere from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. along with intense training," Fitzgerald said. "We had to practice CPR for an hour every day and we had drills."
She said the experience gave her a real world education in customer relations. She said she learned the "Disney Point," which avoids pointing with only one finger, which can be considered rude in some cultures.
"I learned so much about customer service," Fitzgerald said.
She said it was the social aspect of the experience she enjoyed the most.
"I was living with seven other girls from all over the world and our whole complex was thousands and thousands of college students from everywhere," Fitzgerald said. "We could get into the parks for free, we were in Florida sunny weather and we could go to the beach on the weekend."
Working for Disney has been a dream for senior Steve Cummings ever since he was 11 years old.
"I went to Disney World on a family vacation, and when I got home I wrote Disney an e-mail and told them that when I grew up I wanted to work for them," Cummings said. "Ten years later I ended up with the company I wanted to be with."
In the spring of his sophomore year, Cummings spent five months working in the parking lot of the Magic Kingdom. His responsibilities included parking cars and giving narrations and greetings, he said.
"The way the College Program is set up, students perform day-to-day operations of the parks," Cummings said. "It is all about getting your foot in the door."
An engineering major, Cummings said even though his work responsibilities were not directly related to his major, he learned skills that have been applicable to his studies.
"I learned time management and problem solving techniques," he said. "I would have people come to me with a problem at the park. For me, it was like human resources engineering."
Cummings will graduate at the end of this semester and head back to Disney in January for a five month professional internship, he said, and will work as a sales intern for the Vacation Club.
"The professional internship is about proving myself and that I can be an asset to the company," he said. "I hope that it will lead to a full-time job and maybe at some point I can transition into ride engineering."