A pipeline of sorts for internships and career advancement has grown over recent years between Lander University and Walt Disney World in Orlando. Here, Allegra Herring '10 and Ryan Wiley '11 share their experiences of turning their Disney internships into dream jobs.
Growing up in Myrtle Beach, Allegra Herring '10 was accustomed to being around lots of tourists. It was that environment, coupled with family vacations and school competitions at Walt Disney World in Orlando, which nurtured a career plan centered upon making others happy.
"I've known from the age of 2 that I wanted to work for Disney," Herring says from her office, where she now works as an entertainment manager for Disney's Epcot Theme Park. "Disney was a fundamental part of my childhood, and I remember being impressed with the level of passion put forth to take care of their guests."
As a mass communications major at Lander, Herring was accepted into the nine-month Disney College Program. "I went to Disney University, an intensive program that introduced me to the inner workings of the Disney Corporation and the Disney Model," she recalled. "So much of the Disney experience centers upon making every guest encounter a meaningful event. For example, as we meet guests, we ask about their plans for their day, what they like to do and eat, so that we can make recommendations tailored to their preferences."
After completing the Disney College Program, Herring returned to Lander to complete her degree, but continued to work for Disney during the summer months. "I was initially assigned to the Food and Beverage Department because I thought at the time that I'd like to work in the food industry."
On her own, Herring would take photographs of Disney guests enjoying the park cuisine. That initiative served as a jumping point for a promotion to the Disney Photo Imaging Department as a photographer for Disney's Hollywood Studios.
"After about a year with Hollywood Studios, I worked in just about every Disney park, and ultimately was assigned to a coordinator position with Epcot. Along the way, I helped with most of the aspects associated with the Disney experience - from greeting our guests and managing our stage shows, to taking photos of our guests and ensuring that our Disney characters are on schedule as they walk through the parks."
Ryan Wiley '11 has long had a commitment to excel. His drive for giving his best effort has led to a five-year (and counting) career with a company that bills itself as the "Happiest Place on Earth," and a budding career as a character voice actor.
While working for Hunter's Creek Golf and Country Club during his high school years, Wiley's drive to go the extra mile in providing customer service caught the eye of Dave Fezler, program director of Greenwood's WZSN (Sunny 103.5 FM).
"Dave was a regular golfer at our course, and he liked the way I consistently made sure our guests were enjoying themselves. He offered me a job at the radio station, and by the time I enrolled at Lander, I had been bitten by the 'radio bug' and decided to major in mass communications."
Once on campus, Wiley immersed him-self in the studios of Lander's radio station, XLR, and the tutelage of station manager Paul Crutcher and theatre professor Monique Sacay-Bagwell. "While on the air with XLR, I did a lot of character impressions, which I loved, and knew that I had to branch out into acting."
During his senior year, a flier advertising a paid internship with Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando caught Wiley's eye. The allure of working in the Sunshine State for an organization built upon entertainment, while further strengthening his customer service skills, was too much to pass up. "It was a good feeling walking across the stage during graduation knowing that I had a good job lined up."
Going to work first in the various Disney water parks as a lifeguard, Wiley's determination caught the attention of his supervisors. After a promotion to lifeguard instructor, Wiley was eventually named an attraction coordinator at Disney's Hollywood Studios Animation Courtyard.
One day, Wiley met Matt Hanson, the voiceover artist for Disney's monorail service. "I picked Matt's brain for ways to break into the voice acting market, and he told me you have to act."
Feeling a bit rusty with his voice work, Wiley worked online with several voice acting coaches, and ultimately enlisted the assistance of two talent agents.
An avid gamer, Wiley is finding success as a voice actor for video games and apps. He debuted as the voices for Santa Claus and the Helpful Elf in Libii Game's "Pet Christmas." In 3D2 Entertainment's "The Crowe's Eye," Wiley flexed his versatility as a villain character for the voice of William Holtwick.
Now 28, Wiley figures he's in the sweet spot of life. "I get to work at Disney - literally, the happiest place on Earth - and build my career as a voice actor."
This story is featured in the Fall 2018 edition of Lander Magazine. Read more at www.lander.edu/magazine.Back to Main News