“I was fourteen or fifteen when I went to Disneyland with my cousin, said Jocelyn Moya. We were watching the parades and she said you can work at Disney when you are in college. I said, no, you are crazy,” But Moya’s cousin wasn’t crazy. She planted the seed of an idea.

Moya spent last summer and fall working in the Haunted Mansion attraction at Walt Disney World in Florida. She ran the ride, learned to control large groups of people, met people from around the world and found a network of friends and contacts at Disney.

Moya is a Communications and Journalism major and says having Disney on her resume is very important. Since Disney owns everything from studios to major networks like ABC and ESPN she plans to use her Disney background to help land professional internships in the media corporations. “I saw it as a stepping stone to get there,” she said.

University of New Mexico students who are interested in learning about how Walt Disney World works can now do a paid internship at a Disney Resort and receive college credit from the university.

Jocelyn Moya at work in the Haunted Mansion.

Over the past few years UNM students who wanted to participate in the Disney College Program took a leave of absence from the university while they were at the resort, but Disney has developed educational programs that are approved by the American Council on Education. Students who successfully complete those courses, a process which means attending lectures and writing papers, can use them for elective credits that will count toward a degree at UNM.

Marissa Endicott enjoyed her internship so much last fall she is transferring to the University of Florida next semester to continue her work at the resort. As a theatre major, she worked in the entertainment area of the resort.

“I’ve wanted to do the college program since I was in middle school. I went with my family to Disney World and I saw one of the people at Animal Kingdom with a nametag," Endicott said. "But it didn’t say where they were from. It said their college. I asked the guy why it said his college and he said he was part of the Disney College Program. Ever since then I wanted to go."

Both students say having Disney on their resume catches the eye of employers, no matter what job they apply for.

The Disney experience is a complete package for students. They live in staff accommodations and work nearly full time. Moya and Endicott advise students who want to do the internship to focus on the work. “I think it helps a lot with life skills and gives you really great opportunities with the program that you can’t find in New Mexico,” said Moya.

Jocelyn Moya and her friend, Minnie Mouse.

For students who want to take courses, they are available in a range of business related areas such as:

  • Advanced Studies in Hospitality Management
  • Corporate Analysis
  • Corporate Communication
  • Creativity and Innovation
  • Marketing You
  • Experiential Learning
  • Human Resources Management
  • Interactive Learning Program

They also learned life skills. Endicott said she had to learn patience. “Also I worked in a fast paced environment in my job, so it helped me to learn how to work faster, but still get my work don – to quality level. Disney level.”

Endicott also liked the opportunity to live and work with people from around the world. “My roommates, two of them were from Hong Kong and two of them were from England, “she said. “And the rest were from all around America and one of them was from Peru. So I just learned different ways that people from around the world lived.”

Student Success Specialist Tiffini Porter is an advisor at the Anderson School of Management. She works with students interested in the Disney College Program. Porter says she can see the increase in confidence in students who complete the internships and she recommends it for students who want to experience working in a structured corporate environment.

Jocelyn Moya and friends.

“It is an opportunity to experience working for a company with rich traditions and history, a place where students get to make a difference every single day," said Porter. "Not only do students earn real-world work experience, but they are given opportunities to network with Disney executives and learn how to market themselves. There is also a fair amount of magic involved."

UNM students can get up to 15 hours of credit in connection with the internships. Some courses can be done through Disney and the credits transferred to UNM. Other courses can be completed at UNM when students return. The Disney Internship program is now part of UNM’s Innovation Academy.

Any student who wants to find out more can contact Tiffini Porter at tjp0217@unm.edu