University News

Disney Class Continues at WIU

April 29, 2016

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MACOMB - When a student's description of a Western Illinois University course starts with "Best. Class. Ever" you know you're onto something. That's exactly what Emma Reeder, a junior communication major, from Milan (IL), said of Instructor David Zanolla's Disney World Communication Culture course (Communication 379).

This was the seventh trip for Zanolla, a senior associate faculty member in the WIU Department of Communication. Over Spring Break, he and 10 students traveled to Walt Disney World in Orlando (FL). The trip included a visit to each of the four theme parks, including Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney's Animal Kingdom and Disney's Hollywood Studios.

Students participated in masterclasses, examining the theme parks and resorts with Jeff Kober, customer service consultant and author of the class' textbook. Students also got to experience the 'Keys to the Kingdom' backstage tour and take a Disney-led session on leadership.

The course begins with eight weeks of classroom study about the organizational culture and communication of the Disney parks and is highlighted by the trip to Walt Disney World.

Students participate in six-eight hours of educational activities each day, keeping a journal, which prompts them to seek out examples of the Disney practices they studied in the classroom. Students also turn in assignments and observations every day, while the remainder of their time is free for the students to enjoy the theme parks and resorts.

"I am forever grateful for having the opportunity to take part in WIU's unique 'Disney World Communication Culture Class,'" said Victoria Hall, a sophomore communication major from Knoxville (IL), of her experience. "This class taught me that there is so much more behind Disney than just crazy roller coasters and cute characters. I got the chance to examine and interpret how important an organization's culture is to running a successful business. This experience taught me fundamentals that I can apply to any career I plan to pursue in the future. This course is exciting, fun and beneficial to anyone and everyone, no matter your career path."

Zanolla has plans for expanding next year's course to include Disney and Universal Studios, because many students have requested to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Participants will compare and contrast how two organizational cultures attempt to do the same job.

Additionally, the 2017 trip will be in May, after the semester concludes. This will allow more students to participate who may have obligations over Spring Break.

The course is open to all major and minors. For more information on the 2017 course, visit for updates or email Zanolla at

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