Colorado Christian UniversityDiscovering the Disney Way - When Jiminy Cricket first crooned his famous “when you wish upon a star” line in the 1940s classic Pinocchio, the song became an unofficial anthem for children worldwide who grew up wishing on their lucky stars to experience more of Disney’s magic. In 2001, much to her delight, CCU’s Jennifer Hilzer received a letter inviting her to Florida to experience it all behind the scenes as part of a highly competitive internship.
Walt Disney’s legacy goes beyond silver-screen bliss, magical worlds, and fantastic sentiment. The man launched a multi-billion-dollar business that’s consistently revered by experts as a leader in service, strategy, and quality. Each year, scores of ambitious college students eagerly await their chance for a coveted insider’s perspective as part of the selective, semester-long Disney College Program offered in Anaheim, Calif., and Orlando, Fla. Those picked will learn from some of the brightest professionals in America.
“It was one of those moments where I prayed God would lead me either way, but was so overjoyed that He chose Disney,” Jennifer recalls.
The internship so far from home would be a stretch for a girl who’d spent her whole life in a mid-sized mountain suburb an hour north of Denver. But the opportunity was too good to pass up, and it proved to be a life-changing decision. Jennifer worked hard at Disney and her efforts drew kudos from supervisors and staff. Along the way, she discovered a variety of career options and grew to respect the company’s values on family, quality, and entertainment. Upon graduation in 2004, owing to the impression she’d made, Jennifer landed a full-time job with Disney.
By 2008, she was named among only six finalists for a prestigious Disney Ambassador role offered every two years, in which she would represent the company at corporate and community events. Jennifer didn’t make the final cut, but being selected from nearly 60,000 employees was an extreme honor to begin with. It also affirmed her belief in God’s calling her to Orlando.
And over a decade later, Jennifer still works at Disney. She’s worked in guest relations and resort management at Disney’s theme parks before assuming a role as a Senior Program Manager at Walt Disney Headquarters in Burbank, California.
“CCU taught me to be a good listener and a person who is passionate about her beliefs,” Jennifer says. Both skills have been key in her growth at Disney. As a communication major, she learned about everything from public speaking to organizational communication and group dynamics. Whether interacting with Disney’s guests, meeting the diverse learning styles of students, or leading groups through projects, she says, “every single day, I use something I learned at CCU.”
“Don’t stress about finding your direction,” Jennifer urges students. College can be an uncertain time, but she emerged with an amazing internship under her belt and a professional path to follow. “Let the Lord guide your interests and your experiences,” she says.
“Once you find your passion, it will click and you’ll discover what you’re meant to do and where you’re meant to be.”