Disney College Program Experience Reflection

My STEP Signature Project was doing the Disney College Program.  The Disney College Program is described as a living, learning, and earning internship.  This meant that I worked at Walt Disney World from the end of January to the beginning of August, took a couple of classes offered by Disney, and I lived and made many friends on Disney property.  It was a wonderful time.

The experience was one of great growth.  I interacted with people from all over the world, both as co-workers and as guests.  People are so unique, yet they share many commonalities in terms of what makes the best interaction.  During my time at Walt Disney World, I worked in Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Africa at the Harambe Theatre.  The Harambe Theatre is home to The Festival of the Lion King – the number one show on property.  This meant I got to interact with a large variety of guests with a large variety of attitudes, and my coworkers were just as unique as well.

I gained greater insight into myself.  For example, I knew before that I don’t like dealing with workplace drama involving coworkers and I would stay away from that kind of conflict as much as possible.  However, I learned that I don’t have a problem dealing with an unhappy or angry guest, in fact, I welcome the opportunity to try to solve their problem and make their day better.  I also realized how important my positivity and hard-working attitude is.  They greatly affected the workplace dynamic.  Positivity rubs off on people.  I can say that because I was told by both guests, coworkers, performers, and stage technicians how I would make them smile and how they looked forward to my attitude and dancing skills.  Through it all, I realized how important working with others and interactions with others are to me.  I had known from a previous job where I had worked alone and had few interactions with other people that I didn’t really care for that.  But when I got assigned positions where I was alone at Disney, it cemented the idea that although I can work alone, I thrive when working with others whether I’m working by myself with a guest or working with other co-workers.

A specific situation that made me realize how much I like to solve guest problems was on a regular July day.  In Florida, rain showers in the afternoon during the summer are very common.  This will often cause a slight issue when trying to get the guests to leave the covered areas of the theatre to go outside into the rain.  One day, when the show was finished and the guests had exited the theatre, there were still guests taking shelter underneath a covered part of a ramp we needed to use to get guests into the theatre for the next show.  My coworker could not get them to move to a covered area further down so they wouldn’t be in the way and needed our coordinator’s assistance but he was unavailable.  The guests were very angry with her and would not listen.  At that moment, I was available to help, so even though I wasn’t who’s help asked for over the headset I went.  I approached them with a smile and explained the situation to them and how we just would like them to move to a covered area further down the ramp.  I listened to their concerns, as they did not believe me and believed my coworker to be rude.  I apologized and at that time the rain had become a drizzle and so I offered to walk them down and show them exactly where they could stand so they could remain dry.  One of the party followed me and the rest stayed behind because they were still doubtful I was telling the truth, I showed her the location where I wanted to direct them, and we went and got the rest of the group to bring them down to the different sheltered area.  I thanked them for moving and all was well.  This might seem small, but in the end, I was able to solve both the problem for them and for my coworker and everyone was happy with the end result.  This story is just one example of the many conflicts I was able to resolve that left everyone feeling good.  In this situation, I was able to use a tool that Disney taught me named LAST.  It stands for listen, apologize, solve, and thank.  Every time I used this technique when dealing with an unhappy guest, the situation could usually be resolved happily and if not, then at least it was better than when we started talking.  However, this situation was different than many of my other conflict resolution ones because of multiple realizations that resulted from it.

In addition to realizing that I don’t have a problem working with an unhappy guest, I realized how much I valued in making others happy.  In this situation that meant solving both the guests’ problem and my coworkers’.  But I was able to make people happy in many ways.  I followed the rules, so, for example, I didn’t let more people into the theatre that was allowed for safety reasons even if it was the last show of the day and the family was dying to see it.  But I would do my best to make people happy.

One of the guests’ least favorite part about getting their seats, is that the seats are benches that aren’t divided so the operations cast members have to ask people to slide and fill in all available space to make more seats.  I would always try to make the situation fun by bouncing around, dancing, and just being very exuberant when asking guests to slide.  I was asked countless times if I was a cheerleader because of my energy and positivity.  (The answer is no.)  One day at work, our coordinator came over the headset and was asking someone to slide the warthog section, and I did my bouncy “slide to the right, slide to the right, slide to the right, to the right, to the right!”  The guests moved a significant amount, and when I was finished, our coordinator came back on the headset and she asked, “Kalina, can you do that to the giraffe section?”  I did, and I opened up more seats.  Earlier in the day, another coworker had asked me to do the same thing to the lion section because she had tried, and they didn’t move.  She asked me to go “work my magic”, and sure enough, some seats became available.  It felt wonderful being able to help both my coworkers and the guests, creating a more positive experience for everyone.

Through sliding sections, guest conflicts, and other situations, I learned what times of interactions got people to listen to you and how it varied depending on the situation.  When trying to get people to slide down the benches to make more room for more guests, they responded better with enthusiastic or funny employees rather than monotone ones.  My sliding earned me the nickname of the “sliding queen” because the enthusiasm and cheer that I used motivated people to move when other coworkers yielded no results.  However, my positive attitude didn’t just affect the guests, it affected my coworkers as well.  They enjoyed working with me because of my optimism and cheer, but also because I was good at my job and did my best the whole time I was working.  I would make sure we got as many guests in as possible for each show.  I loved working at the Festival of the Lion King and I am so extremely grateful for the experience.

The Disney College Program helped me learn more about myself, develop who I am, and experience and learn more about the world.  It showed me that I like working with people, whether that is dancing as I try to get people to slide, working together to solve problems, entertaining a child by teaching her a game that she can do to pass the time or some other situation.  I learned that even if at the start of the day, I’m not feeling one hundred percent joyful, all I need to do is put on a happy face and soon enough, I’m feeling much more positive.  Despite what may happen through the day, I am resilient.

Professionally, the experience showed me so many types of jobs that are in my field that I never knew about before, and ones that I might consider pursuing.  Last year, before the program, I realized that I wanted to pursue a career that involves both business and entertainment.  Working at Disney solidified that job aspiration.  I also learned of many jobs at Disney that would allow me to do so, which is good because the program made me realize that I want to come back and work for this company.  This was an idea I thought of beforehand, but the college program confirmed it.  I loved the culture of the company and the challenges.  But that does not mean that I will be trying to head straight back to the Walt Disney Company, however, during my program I discovered many professional internships that I could pursue to get my foot in the door, and the internships are not just ones offered by Disney.  There are many avenues and paths I could take as I continue my life journey.

My future is an uncertain one because I allow it to be.  But I know that I have the tools to succeed and when I complete my schooling I will be ready for the challenges that come and face me.  This is in part due to the experience STEP enabled me to have.

My Summer Internship at Kohl’s Corporate in Milwaukee, WI

My STEP Signature Project consisted of a 10-week summer internship as a Merchandise Analyst in the Women’s Plus buying office at the Kohl’s Corporate Office in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Throughout the summer, our intern class was fortunate enough to learn from amazing teams every day, hear from executive speakers about their experiences in retail, and work on projects that truly affected the business.

While completing my STEP Signature Project, I discovered many things about myself I did not know prior to leaving Columbus, Ohio. One of these was that I have a deep love for exploration and trying new things. The opportunity to live in a new city, to get to know people from across the globe, and to learn how to adapt to & ultimately thrive in an unfamiliar environment was transformational for me. I am at my most engaged, most curious, and most joyful when I am able to embrace a new location and take part in unique experiences.

Additionally, I learned that one of the best ways to conquer a new challenge is to observe what’s going on around you, seek guidance from those you wish to emulate, and persevere through the difficult days. I was able to understand the connections between different parts of the business much better (and more quickly) through observing small interactions between members of my team than I ever would have studying a PowerPoint or reading an instruction manual. It was apparent to me from my first day at Kohl’s that those I was working alongside were also people I wanted to emulate in my future career. Speaking with each team member about their personal journey and how they achieved success was truly eye-opening – it seems there is no straight path to a “successful” career, but there are many avenues to a dynamic & fulfilling one. This internship further reinforced the importance of perseverance. Not every day was easy, and not every concept was effortless to understand or apply. What drives the expansion of knowledge is not choosing to focus on what comes easily, but continuously pushing yourself to remain engaged with even the toughest of subjects. Just as I was, you may be surprised by what you are capable of.

Many experiences contributed to my transformative summer in Wisconsin. Broadening my horizons and allowing me to take in the best the city had to offer, Kohl’s as a company did a fantastic job organizing activities for the interns to do together outside of work hours. We were able to attend a Milwaukee Brewers baseball game, watch our favorite artists perform at Summerfest (one of the nation’s largest music festivals), and even volunteer our time at a local Boys & Girls Club. These events allowed me to picture myself living in Milwaukee, enjoying the city life and giving back to the community. They also allowed me to connect with other interns, some of whom would end up being great friends of mine by the end of the summer. These opportunities inspired me to live outside of my comfort zone and consistently say “yes” to further exploration throughout my time at Kohl’s.

Within my role at the corporate office, my interactions with my team truly transformed my view of the retail world. My team members were very supportive, answering any questions I had while also encouraging me to figure things out for myself. I was always included in whatever was on schedule for the day, whether that be a vendor meeting to run through the assortment for the spring line, or a budgetary review where my Buyer & Planners would meet with divisional leadership to discuss potential strategies for the current season. The ability to have firsthand exposure to discussions that may shape the company was empowering and motivated me even further to excel when working on my own projects.

Thankfully, several projects were assigned to the Kohl’s Merchant Interns throughout the summer in order to familiarize us with not only our individual office’s business, but also to prepare us for future presentations if we were to return to Kohl’s as full-time analysts in the fall. When thinking about the importance of perseverance, the project that comes to mind is my final strategy project. This project was focused on improving the productivity of the Women’s Plus essential tees business, and required me to present my findings to upper management at the conclusion of the summer. My strategy presentation was without a doubt the largest and most time-consuming project I have ever worked on. I was challenged to examine data based on style, climate, & more, as well as to think critically about ways to improve the business going forward by suggesting real-world changes that my office could implement. Finally, completing this project taught me how to effectively manage my time, utilize my resources, and consolidate my findings into a concise package for my presentation to divisional leadership.

My summer as a Merchandise Analyst Intern at Kohl’s transformed my previous plan for the future. A new priority of mine is to be fully invested in the city I call home; to love not only living in the place I work, but also to love the people I am fortunate enough to live & work with. I plan to commit my time to a company that values its employees, encourages and enables their professional development, and cares about the community within which it operates. It is important for me to eventually become a mentor for whom others can lead on as they begin their career journey, offering a kind ear or helpful advice when needed. Finally, I want to have a career with many twists and turns. I don’t need to be on the same career path or even employed with the same company for decades at a time – I am excited about the possibility of constant learning & reinvention in my career & in my life, and I can’t wait to get started.

Kohl’s Corporate Office with Fellow Interns

Inside Kohl’s Photo Studio

Picture on Last Day with Kohl’s CEO Michelle Gass

The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center Internship

This summer, I was an accounting intern at the Comprehensive Cancer Center here at OSU. On the day-to-day, I helped audit various cancer research accounts and interacted with supplier companies. Monthly, I reconciled each doctor’s fund to the amount they had reported spending. I also helped the Pelotonia team in our office fundraising initiative.

Throughout the summer, I realized that accounting was so much more than crunching numbers. On nights, I volunteered throughout the week in the James Cancer Hospital’s Emergency Department. This truly brought the numbers to life for me. The numbers on the screen weren’t just numbers, they were opportunities to save the lives of people like my mother, who unfortunately passed away from breast cancer herself over ten years ago.

My view of the health care system as a whole evolved as summer went on. I was fortunate enough to see patients on multiple occasions whose condition actually improved. Although the work I was doing had no direct effect on these patients, I still felt connected to them. Whenever I was able to more appropriately allocate funds or stop unnecessary spending (like on Jeni’s ice cream instead of cancer research), I helping to make sure the money donated by thousands of families in honor of their loved ones was going to a larger purpose. This truly helped put the larger workings of the health care system in perspective for me.

There was no one moment, no hallelujah, no big project for me during the internship. And if anything, that made the experience even more poignant. Everyday heroes take everyday actions to help better the lives of others. It doesn’t take a huge scientific breakthrough or epiphany to make a difference. Sometimes, just showing up and being supportive of those around you is enough.

One of the most valuable lessons I learned this summer is the power of positivity. When it comes to auditing, there is a lot of repetitiveness. You perform the same tasks in the same way on the same day every month. This helps ensure accuracy of reporting and helps prevent mistakes, but is still nonetheless boring. If I had not been fortunate enough to work on a team of funny, intelligent, engaging and down-to-earth individuals, my summer would have been very different and very unenjoyable. However, through staying positive and trying to get to know those around me, I was able to hear incredible stories.

Everyone has their own reasons for working where they do, but at the CCC it was a little different. Even though not everyone showed it, the majority of the employees had been directly or indirectly affected by cancer. And yet, it was one of the most uplifting workplaces I have had the privilege to be a part of. Tough times tend to bring tough people together, and this most definitely held true at the James.

This experience and series of realizations has definitely helped to shape my worldview. Although bad things sometimes happen to good people, greatness often come from such tragedies. Being a bit cliché does not make this any less true. If I had not had the opportunity to work at the CCC this summer, my outlook towards the future would be drastically different – and definitely not as bright.

Internship at The Ohio Statehouse

This summer I had the opportunity to use my STEP signature project to complete an internship at The Ohio Statehouse located in Downtown Columbus, Ohio. I began the summer as a Legislative Page working for all members of the Republican Party. After a week, I got promoted to becoming a Constituent Aide for Ohio House Representative Andrew Brenner. I was responsible for scheduling his meetings, speaking with and helping his constituents and writing commendations for his district.

When I began my Second-Year Transformational Experience Project I was under the assumption that politics just were not for me. I applied to work at The Ohio Statehouse in hopes of gaining the government experience that helps when interviewing with and applying to other government entities. I viewed government figures as rude, disconnected and boring. During my time working at The Statehouse with Representative Brenner I realized that I had misjudged the people who lead our state government. I learned that the Representatives that we elected have real concern for our wellbeing and are very conscious about supporting and promoting bills that their constituents stand behind.

While using the money granted to me by STEP I was able to continue living comfortably in Columbus, Ohio. Due to this, I had the time and available resources to make lasting connections and relationships with the people I encountered at The Ohio Statehouse. The networking I did with many influential and respected individuals will help me in my future endeavors. I went into this internship just to have the government experience on my resume to help me in my future career but I left with a great recommendation letter for graduate school and many other open job and volunteer opportunities.

On my first day, I was dreading interacting with all the government officials. I had the preconceived notion that I would be extremely bored and looked down on. To my surprise, I was welcomed with open arms and the Representatives were very down to earth. Instead of me getting Representative Brenner lunch and coffee he would bring me coffee in the morning or grab me lunch from the events that he would attend. He treated me as an equal and viewed my time as just as valuable as his. I ended up loving the people that I met and actually enjoying myself while on the job.

During my time as Ohio House Representative Andrew Brenner’s Constituent Aid I was able to benefit from his social connections in public health. Representative Brenner allowed me to attend any event he was invited to on his behalf. I was able to attend a round table discussing the opioid epidemic in Ohio. At this event I was in the presence of many professional public health figures and met doctors who specialize in this field. I am so happy that I had the opportunity to work with Representative Brenner; he has helped me better understand politics and actually become interested and involved in what is going on today.

The connections I have gained from working at The Statehouse and the change in opinion have helped shape my future. I now am considering working more closely with the government and possibly getting involved in policy work for public health. Also, I have gained much more respect for those who represent us. I now know that they care about their constituents and are always working hard on their behalf. Lastly, this job has solidified my thoughts of wanting to work in an active career and not enjoying a desk job. Without the grant from STEP I would have never gained these experiences and met so many wonderful people.

Summer Internship – Maddi Weiler

For my STEP Signature Project, I chose to do a summer internship in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Throughout the three months of my internship, I served as a community engagement intern for JVS Career Services. During my time, I provided a range of job seeker and employer services. These various services included providing local organizations with access to top talent, recruiting, coaching and outplacement services, in addition to assistance with preparation of resumes and cover letters, organization of a job search plan, and improving networking and interviewing skills.

Throughout my STEP Signature Project, I realized a lot about myself as well as my understanding of the world during my internship. The biggest realization was my perception of the business world and everything that it entails. Every business/corporation has an area of behind-the-scenes work that outsiders typically are unaware of. In most cases, the behind the scenes work is the most vital aspect to keep the business running. This realization allowed me to have a greater understanding and appreciation for those who, in a sense, are the most important part of the company and do not always receive recognition for their diligent work.

During the duration of my internship at JVS Career Services, I experienced a lot, I accomplished a lot and I learned a lot. All of these actions could not have been completed without the help of my peers as well as the activities and events that took place. I personally believe that as a result of my internship, I have grown as a person because of the events, interactions, relationships and activities that took place during the three months.

The biggest transformation for me developed as a result of relationships that I built during my internship. Within my office are only 10 employees, one of which includes myself. Because of that, it was hard not to become connected on more than a coworker level. I was able to connect to each of my coworkers individually. Whether it was eating lunch together, assisting me with a project or talking from across the office, I was learning more and more about each coworker in addition to myself. They helped me to grow professionally but also individually.

In addition to the relationships that aided my transformation, the interactions that I made with clients on a daily basis truly allowed me to transform. For the 2-hour consultation appointment that each new client endures, I realized how crucial the steps taken after the client leaves are. The responsibility relies on the career coach, and sometimes myself. It is their duty to ensure that the correct information goes into Salesforce, a customer relationship management platform, to assist with finding the client a job at some point down the road – typically sooner rather than later. Without the correct information, nothing would get accomplished. From the clients perspective, it may not cross their mind that this information is the deciding factor of how their job search develops. This idea all goes back to the concept of my realization of how imperative the behind-the-scenes work for each company remains.

This transformation is very significant to my future career goals. When I graduate college, I hope to develop a career within the medical sales division of sales. With that being said, medical sales is a lot of behind-the-scenes work. Although the sales representative may not be the integral part in performing a surgery, for example, they still remain the right-hand man to the surgeon when deciding which piece of equipment is necessary to use for the specific operation. In addition, the medical sales representative is also the person that instructs the doctors how to use the particular device, technology, equipment, etc. Even though my internship was not related to anything in the medical field, I still was able to gain valuable information that one is unable to gain without the experience itself. I learned to appreciate the behind-the-scenes work that goes unsaid without being directly influenced by it, which will help me with my future endeavors toward my career goal.

Interning at Sexual Civility and Empowerment

This past summer, I was awarded the opportunity to intern at The Ohio State University Office of Student Life – Sexual Civility and Empowerment, made possible by an educational grant from Ohio State’s S.T.E.P. Program. My internship entailed researching, writing, and implementing a civility education program for The Ohio State University Marching Band, of which I am a proud member. Because of the work which I completed as a part of my S.T.E.P. Internship, have seen encouraging growth both within myself and within my community in the following ways:

In myself…

Recognizing and fulfilling a need in my community

The Ohio State University Marching Band has been through a lot of changes over the past four years. When I earned a spot in the marching band for the first time in 2015, the only thing I knew about them was that they were, in fact, The Best Damn Band In The Land; however, I had no idea what it was like to be on the inside. Under the stress of high-scrutiny which accompanies membership in the OSUMB, I began to notice that incivility and misunderstandings within social relationships between band members off-the-field could sometimes impact our productivity and ability to execute our responsibilities on-the-field. I found myself becoming frustrated and wondering “what can I do to make this better?” S.T.E.P. provided the answer – through the flexibility offered by S.T.E.P.’s educational grants, I was able to create my own internship position through the Student Civility Program at Sexual Civility and Empowerment, where I was tasked with researching, writing, and implementing a civility education program for The Ohio State University Marching Band. This was my way of recognizing the band’s need for improved civility and doing what I could to meet that need.

Practicing financial responsibility

S.T.E.P. provided me with a grant which covered the cost of my living expenses while I completed my internship this summer. This experience forced me to plan and maintain a personal budget and to spend my money conscientiously. I’ve since gained confidence and experience in the financial realm, and have learned strong budgeting skills which I still use in my personal accounting.

Establishing professional connections

Through my internship at Sexual Civility and Empowerment, I was able to connect with professionals in the field of Student Life who guided me both in the responsibilities of my internship and in my future career development. My supervisor, Natalie Fiato, inspired me to begin looking into fields of post-graduate study which I had never before considered. As a result of the connections which I was able to establish during my internship, I was offered a student position to stay working within Sexual Civility and Empowerment throughout the school year.

Learning to speak up for myself with confidence

During my internship, I also participated on the OSUMB’s Student Advisory Council – a hand-selected group of student leaders within the band who help organize and execute off-the-field duties. Within the Student Advisory Council, I headed the Life Skills Education Committee – a committee responsible for meeting with on-campus experts to plan education seminars for the marching band. My membership on this committee and my role as content creator through my internship put me in an interesting position – I was responsible for creating the civility education program; however, I was also subject to the scrutiny and input of my peers on the committee. While the input from my peers was often helpful, there were times when I felt my authority was being challenged, and I had to learn where to draw my own boundaries for accepting constructive criticism vs. sticking up for myself and defending my work – a skill which I am sure I will need to tap into as I begin my career as a professional woman in the workplace.

Within my community…

Practicing more consistently civil communication

While my committee is still processing the quantitative data regarding the civility education program’s success, I have noticed a significant change in the quality of daily interactions between band members. Members treat each other with more dignity, respect, and civility than ever before. I have also noticed members addressing conflict or violations of personal boundaries more directly and more constructively, as they were taught through the civility education program. While I know that our problem of incivility isn’t “fixed” and that cultural change takes a long time, I have confidence that the direction in which we are headed is a positive one.

While my internship may be over, I am proud of the results which have amounted thus far and am confident that I will continue to stay involved in improving a culture of civility and respect, not only within The Ohio State University Marching Band, but also in any community which I should join in the future.


Photo courtesy of Ed and Karen Crockett.

Please find a copy of the slides from my presentation below:

OSUMB Civility Presentation 2017

Internship with Beatty’s Builders

My STEP project was an internship back in my hometown, Dover, Ohio. I was a marketing intern for a Pole Building company. My job was to generate leads using email, snail mail, SMS messages, and social media. I spent most of my time organizing the thousands of inquires in an online database, Ontraport. The program helped me prioritize the leads and figure out the best way to market back to them.

Before my internship I was under the assumption that being the owner of a business or head of a department would be nothing but overwhelming and full of responsibility. I have always wanted to start my own business, but I have been held back by the idea that I won’t be able to handle the pressure. My internship was for a small sole-proprietorship owned and operated by Carl Beatty. I worked very closely with Carl and learned the ins and outs of owning a business. I was surprised to learn just how many people had a hand in making this small business run.

Through my marketing role alone, I had contact with at least ten different third parties that assisted our business. I emailed and called on our webmaster and domain host when I needed help solving a website issue. I had contact with an Ontraport technician when I set up our account. I emailed a specialist who managed our SEO. It was relieving to see that I didn’t have to do all the jobs even though the business was small. Carl knew how to manage his money well enough and spend it on his priorities.

I was really touched by the Ontraport Technician who helped set up our account. She talked me through the automation process and helped me realize just how many people it takes to make even the smallest business succeed. I came to the realization that the broad field of marketing can be segmented into many specialized fields, like Customer Management, lead generation, Search Engine Optimization, and many more. Although Carl made it clear that all of the marketing responsibilities fell on me as the in house marketer, I trusted all of the third party specialists I worked with to help our business succeed.

I also had the chance to build a relationship with our salesman, Mark. Mark had been involved in business for many years but was only recently hired by Carl. It was interesting to see how our jobs where different, yet intertwined. As a marketer, I advertised to our target market and used repetitive, open marketing to get the information of a prospective lead. The end of my part of the process overlapped with Mark’s. He would contact the customer to be and I would continue to market to them until Mark sold them our product.

Even though I am a marketing major, I have always been worried about the stresses that come with working in the business environment. I have especially been worried about the stress that comes along with having responsibility in a business. This internship has helped me understand how responsibility is shared by everyone in a business, not just managers and owners. That being said, I feel much more comfortable with my career choice and am actually excited to continue my studies. I’m glad STEP gave me the opportunity to have this internship that has changed my mindset. If I ever own my own business, I will look back at this project as what made it happen.