Disney World is a place full of magic, hidden Mickey's and Ohio University alums. One of those alums is Baleigh McNerlin, a former Scripps College of Communication student. She spoke about her experience so far at "the happiest place on Earth."
McNerlin is a 2023 graduate of the OU communication studies program. Ever since McNerlin was young, she knew she wanted to work with Disney. She attributes her desire to work there to her family's love of Disney.
"We came to Disney every year," McNerlin said. "Growing up I feel like this was always a place that made me happy."
During her time at OU, she participated in various extracurriculars that helped her reach where she is today. She was a university tour guide, a Scripps College Student Ambassador and a member of Fridays Live. Through these activities, McNerlin learned many important skills for future positions, such as customer service, social media and marketing skills.
Even while taking classes at OU, McNerlin learned a thing or two about theme parks. One course, "Storytelling and Theme Parks," prepared her most for what would come.
"Everything that I learned there, I see every day when I'm at work," she said. "It also gave me the opportunity to do a research project where I crafted my own attraction and researched other attractions that are already existing in the park. I think that just kind of solidified my want and love for Disney parks and the want to work here."
One statement students often hear is "Bobcats help Bobcats." McNerlin believes this couldn't be more true. While participating in the Disney College Program, she met many OU alums working for the park and visiting as guests. The OU alumni network has helped her connect with various people who are always willing to help.
Currently, McNerlin is working on the custodial staff at Animal Kingdom, which she says was not her first choice. However, the job is different from what she expected it would be.
"I would say about 25% of my job is actually the cleaning aspect of it," McNerlin said. "The other 75% is guest interaction, which was something that I absolutely wanted coming into this role."
She spends her days answering guests' questions and walking through Animal Kingdom's trails. She loves it and could not see herself anywhere else at this moment in her life.
"It's great getting to wake up and work at the place that I love every single day," McNerlin said. "It doesn't feel like I'm going to work. I wake up and I'm excited to go to work because every day is different."
Something McNerlin loves about working at Disney is that leaders encourage people to move around in their positions if they have another they may want to try. Eventually, McNerlin hopes to work with the social media team at Disney World, and her leaders and other OU alums are helping her to do that.
The process for applying for the college program is straightforward. First, one must submit an application. Then, the program will reach back out if they receive the opportunity for a web interview. Once the web interview is complete, they will be notified if they received the opportunity to partake in a phone interview.
McNerlin gives the same advice to other OU students looking to get involved with the Disney College Program she gave herself.
"Just go for it," she said. "Put yourself out there. The worst they could say is, 'No.'"
McNerlin is grateful to OU for exposing her to opportunities that have helped her get to where she is today. The Scripps College of Communication helped her harness her skills and reach her lifelong goals.
"OU honestly just gave me so much character development, pushed me out of my boundaries and just pushed me to be a better person," McNerlin said. "I think that's helped me so much to where I'm at today."