The Disney College Program is a semester-long internship opportunity that allows college students from around the world to live and work in the parks while earning university credit or networking with experienced Disney employees.
In recent years, the program has accepted anywhere from 5,000 to 6,000 students of all majors and concentrations.
Pamela Santamaria, GC’s Career Development Coordinator said that 20 GC students participated in the program in 2018, with 10 attending each semester.
GC senior Brandon Crouch, a business major, was accepted into the competitive program and completed his internship in Fall 2018 at the park in Orlando, Florida.
Disney has been a significant part of Crouch’s life since he was young, which is what led him to the program initially.
“It’s the perfect opportunity to give back to a company that has created so much happiness and magic for me,” Crouch said.
Senior Huntley Cowart, a mass communications major, also completed a Disney internship at the park in Orlando.
“I’ve always loved Disney and wanted to work there and thought this was the perfect opportunity to get my foot in the door,” Cowart said. “I was lucky that it worked perfectly with my schedule, and I’ll still be graduating on time.”
Cowart and Crouch both completed an extensive three-tiered interview process beginning with a web application, followed by a web-based interview and a phone interview.
The program encompasses over 18 different roles within the parks, ranging from Character Performer and Attractions to Custodial work and Parking. Cowart worked in eight different departments while Crouch focused more on his various Character Performer roles.
Although the daily roles aren’t geared toward specific careers, interns are able to gain valuable customer service experience as well as witness what Disney calls “magical moments” in the parks.
While Crouch was working as a Character Performer one day, a young boy on a Make-a-Wish trip with his family cracked his first smile in months upon seeing Crouch’s character.
“For me, I was just doing my job, but to him, I was making magic,” Crouch said.
Although, Crouch isn’t allowed to disclose exactly what character he was, he is allowed to say that he got to be good friends with Goofy while there.
From a professional side, interns are given constant opportunities to network with professionals from an esteemed corporation. Students can also choose to enroll in business and management classes taught by former Disney corporate employees that qualify for course credit at most universities, including GC.
For participants who aren’t business majors, the program offers seminars, during which students learn leadership, networking, and communication skills from knowledgeable instructors. The seminars are also competitive, however, and utilize a lottery system to select which students will have the opportunity to attend the lectures.
The program is largely aimed at providing students with ample work experience and, for some, a continued education.
However, the classes are just the tip of the iceberg to Cowart and Crouch.
“Whenever we weren’t working, we were walking around the parks looking for more ‘magical moments’,” Cowart said. “I would do lightsaber battles in Mission Space and let the kids win, take the stuffed animals off the counters and make them talk with everyone… stuff like that.”
Crouch, planning to return to the program after graduation, experienced similar moments that affirmed his decision to pursue a professional career with Disney.
“I’ll be returning next January to complete a two-year professional internship in Guest Management,” Crouch said.