Michaela Brown, a 21-year-old senior at Loyola, is saying goodbye to Chicago’s skyscrapers for Disney World’s sky-high castles. She landed a spot in a six-month paid professional internship with The Walt Disney Company in Bay Lake, Florida.
Brown — who’s originally from Marion, Iowa — will be working at Disney University, which is “where they train cast members and implement training programs,” she said.
All Disney employees, who are called cast members, are able to participate in these programs in order to learn different skills while working for Disney. She will be working with a team to help implement leadership programs for cast members, executives and managers at Disney to help build their resumes and further their careers, she said.
Brown, a human resources and business management double major, said she first applied for a professional internship with Disney in January and received her acceptance in April. She said she applied for three positions, but she ultimately got what she said is her “dream job” in the Leadership Development program.
“A lot of people don’t want to just stick in the same career path, especially with millennials,” Brown said. “People want to move around in today’s workplace so that would be our job.”
In spring 2017, Brown’s sophomore year, she said she took a semester off from Loyola to participate in the Disney College Program, which gives college students the opportunity to work in Disney’s parks and resorts while taking classes through Disney University.
Through the college program, Brown said she spent most of her time working in merchandise stores. The experience didn’t relate to her career path, but it’s meant as a “stepping stone” for working with Disney.
Brown said she’s loved Disney for as long as she can remember. When she was younger, she said a childhood friend’s father worked for Disney. He drew and worked on animations for shows like Phineas and Ferb and Kim Possible, Brown said.
“He would draw them out of his basement and then send them to Disney,” Brown said.
Brown took a human resources class while participating in the college program, but she said classes at Disney University aren’t accepted for college credit because they are “informal” and not as rigorous as Loyola’s courses.
“From that experience, I learned to love the parks and I got to see what it was like working in a resort,” Brown said.
In January, a recruiter from Disney came to Loyola’s School of Communication to speak with students about internship opportunities. Brown said she spoke with the recruiter, who advised her on how to improve her resume, such as adding an internship, which she got as a human resources intern at The Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Brown said many of her friends who participated in the Disney College Program decided not to continue their undergraduate education and stayed in Florida, but Brown said that wasn’t something she wanted to do.
After the Disney College Program, Brown said her plan was to “go back, get my education, then come back later if I get a job and then I did.”
Brown said she’s excited, especially because she’s already familiar with the area and atmosphere from her experience in the college program.
“I’m excited to be in warmth, it’s cold in Chicago a lot,” Brown said. “I’m excited to be doing what I love, which is training and development, in the most magical place on Earth.”
Brown said she’s also nervous because she’ll be moving and she’s unsure if she’ll definitely be offered or accept a job there afterward. But she said the unknown is also “kind of fun.”
“It’s a cool stepping stone because it’s an internship,” Brown said. “I don’t have to feel overcommitted to making this big decision that will determine what job I’m in for my life. It’s nice that it’s an internship because if I don’t like it, it ends. But if I do like it, I can keep going.”