Computer science major experiences magic at Disney World

Amelia McIe interacts with Mickey Mouse 

Amelia McIe with Mickey Mouse                                   

Amelia McIe spent seven months in the happiest place on earth as part of the Disney College Program.

The third-year computer science major was in Orlando from January to August. She worked as a park greeter and did audience control during the parade.

Although her days were full of fun—McIe and her friends spent almost every day exploring Disney World or nearby Universal Studios—she explored engineering opportunities as well.

Application

McIe applied to be part of the College Program in the fall of her sophomore year. She met with a Disney recruiter on campus and completed an online application and a personality test. She was interviewed over the phone and within a week she was hired.

She was one of only two Miami students to be in the program in the spring semester, and the only College of Engineering & Computing student.

In addition to being accepted into the overall program, students can apply to be in special roles. For example, students interested in acting can audition to be a character actor. McIe applied and was accepted into Disney’s Ultimate Engineering Exploration Program.

McIe dances with GoofyAmelia McIe dances with Goofy   

Engineering

As part of the Ultimate Engineering Exploration Program, McIe attended a one-time class from 8:30pm to 3:30am (after the park closed) in the Tower of Terror ride.

Most of the forty people there were mechanical engineers. McIe was the only computer scientist but she was not discouraged.

They were split into teams, and, after learning about different engineering roles in the park, the teams competed in various activities, including doing roller coaster car maintenance and wiring a sound system. Of all the teams, McIe’s was the overall winner for the night.

McIe’s favorite memory, however, was when the students stood on the Tower of Terror platform as it slowly rose into the sky, giving the students a full view of Hollywood Studios at night.

Networking

The Disney College students stay in apartments that are just a short bus ride away from downtown Orlando. It can be tempting to go out all the time. But McIe decided that she wanted her time at Disney to be primarily a professional development experience.

So when unexpected opportunities materialized, she took them.

One such opportunity began when McIe’s roommate attended one of Disney’s seminars. When she came back to their apartment she enthusiastically told McIe that McIe needed to meet the man who led it.

The man who spoke at the seminar was in charge of the accessibility department of Disney World and Disney Land in California. McIe is a disibility studies minor, and accessibility is right at the intersection of her major and minor. McIe’s roommate gave her his contact information and McIe asked him if he would be willing to meet with her.

Amelia and her family with Mickey MouseAmelia and her family with Mickey Mouse                

What was supposed to be a fifteen-minute meeting over coffee turned into a two-hour long discussion.

This meeting solidified to McIe that when she applies for a professional internship at Disney next spring—which is the next step for students after they complete the Disney College Program—she would like to do it in accessibility so that everyone can experience Disney World like she has.

Adventure

Although McIe prioritized professional experience, it was definitely not an all work, no play situation. Each day brought new adventures.

A few of McIe’s experiences included going to Cirque de Soleil during its final run; having John Stamos comment on her and her friend’s dancing during the parade (“Those kids are so funny,” he said); and making friends from all around the world.

Perhaps most significantly, she got to help her family visit Disney World too. Her mother visited Disney World once as a child, but no other member of her family had gotten the experience. A perk of the Disney College Program is that for every 150 hours of work students earn 3 free passes to the park and McIe invited her mom, dad, sister, and nephew to visit. During their trip, the family saw Mickey Mouse four times, and McIe was overall very happy she got to help her family have that experience.

The advice McIe has for other students interested in the Disney College Program is, simply, “Just apply. If they say no they say no, but it’s a life changing event. It’s the most amazing thing that has ever happened to me.”

By Paige Smith