The Origins and History of the Disney College Program

Every year thousands of students across the country and across the globe make their way to Walt Disney World and Disneyland for an internship experience. Itโ€™s called the Disney College Program. Where did it come from, and why is it so popular?

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The Disney College Program as we know it today formally began in 1981, however it wasnโ€™t the first time Disney would work with colleges in their theme parks. So to really begin we actually have to go back nearly ten more years to 1972, because that is when Disney established the Disney Entertainment Work Experience Program. As the name implies, it was a work experience program for college students who had a primary focus in the performing arts. Students in the program would spend 12 weeks over the summer working at either Disneyland or Walt Disney World as an entertainer in one of multiple groups. These groups included the All-American College Marching Band, the All-American College Singers, the All-American College Players, and a musical group called The Kingdom Kids.

In 1980 Disney decided to test a pilot program for what would eventually become todayโ€™s Disney College Program. The company reached out to the University of Georgia, the University of North Carolina, and the University of Alabama, and from those three universities they accepted 250 students who would work at The Magic Kingdom. The program, similar to the Work Experience Program, offered college credits and supplemented their employment with training seminars on business management the Disney way. They felt it was a natural balance to offset the fact that for many students, the day to the day work theyโ€™d be doing at The Magic Kingdom wouldnโ€™t particularly relate to their chosen major. The seminars however would offer a general enough education in the world of business that it would, in theory, benefit most of the students.

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