Magic Meets Management: UAF Business Students Dive into Disney's Imagination Campus Written by Ruth Prato, Edited by Adeline Berry

Above: CBSM Participants in the Imagination Campus get ready to enter Epcot Theme Park on November 13, 2023. All photos credited to Ruth Prato.

In a remarkable partnership with Disney Imagination Campus™ at Walt Disney World Resort™, students from the UAF College of Business and Security Management (CBSM) participated in a one-of-a-kind inaugural class, Creating Theme Park Magic. This innovative course defied convention, uniting students from diverse academic backgrounds to embark on a unique learning journey at the intersection of education and imagination. Students traveled to Florida to develop their professional skills through a unique curriculum and learning environment. The mission of Imagination Campus is to provide students with the tools they need to express themselves creatively and academically and to prepare them for real-world challenges.

Above: CBSM Participants in the Imagination Campus posing for a group photo in the rain in front of the Disney Cinderella Castle on November 16, 2023.

The class was taught in sections, with topics including Leadership, Teamwork, Immersive Storytelling, and Theme Park design. In “Leadership the Disney Way,” students learned about Disney's 5 Keys to Success, how to assemble a diverse team and maintain a positive attitude when facing challenges. Students also explored their leadership skills and styles while engaging with classmates to problem-solve through collaboration.

“Learning about teamwork from Disney has been inspiring. We saw how they take the tools they have and create an amazing experience for both their cast members and their guests, highlighting how important teamwork is to accomplish this,” says Naomi Greco, a CBSM student remarking on their experience with the Creating Theme Park Magic experience.

In the “Teamwork the Disney Way” section, students delved into the attributes that make teams effective. They examined personal strengths and contributions to a team setting, and how diversity of thought can strengthen a team. Communication, trust, compromise, and consensus were emphasized, along with shared responsibility.

Above: Students engaged in a hands-on assignment during the "Teamwork the Disney Way" section, with CBSM student, Chloe Chapin, going towards the activity cards on the ground.
“Thinking about everything we learned today with this workshop, immersive storytelling, and, creating this world for all these people to see and experience, I’m thinking about how I can make this set I'm designing even better given the limited resources and space.” - Mariana Beks, CBSM Student

Students were introduced to the non-traditional way of storytelling at Disney Parks that emphasizes the engagement of all five senses, explores the theme parks through a new lens, and recognizes the creative and technical roles necessary to create immersive experiences.

“In a world that can be kind of gloomy at times, it's really important for people to have emotional stories that take their breath away. Part of what makes storytelling so good is that it creates an emotional bond to share with family and friends.” - Hazel Wetzel, CBSM Student
Left: Students immersed in learning the "Disney Way" during the Leadership workshop inside the EPCOT Theme Park. Right: Students, left to right: Arthur Bishop, Sarah Kennedy, and June Wallace, exploring the beautiful streets of Walt Disney World after a day of learning.

The section, “Theme Park Design,” taught creative problem-solving, critical thinking, and analyzing specific theme park elements with intent and purpose. Students explored the value of diversity, as well as how to model and construct functional guest experiences. Special emphasis was given to predicting and investigating unique functional challenges in theme park design.

Above: A group of students working on their imaginary theme park design during the The section, “Theme Park Design."
“This course goes beyond traditional learning; it's an immersive journey extending beyond the confines of textbooks and lectures, transforming education into a dynamic and adaptive experience. This is where dreams and education intersect, where the enchantment of Disney serves as a catalyst for shaping the future of both academic and professional pursuits.” says Ruth Prato, Assistant Professor of Accounting.