Making Magic: Campbell Alumni at Disney

Elise participates in Disney College Program

What happens when two camels start working for a mouse?

While the question may sound like the beginning of a punchline, it’s answer has a basis in reality for Campbell alumni Gray Barnhill (’19) and Elise Karriker (’18). Both Barnhill and Karriker are recent graduates of the Disney College Program (DCP), a five to seven month work experience that allows college students or recent graduates to work for the Disney company. The program is known for its focus on networking, career development, and effective communication.

Barnhill and Karriker echo the importance of their participation in the program, but also note the ways that their Campbell education prepared them for their experience working for Disney.

There are several common threads that both alumni note in their experiences as Campbell graduates in the Disney company. First, Karriker and Barnhill both note the ways that Campbell prepared them for the cultural diversity they would encounter during their time on the DCP.

“In both classes and events, Campbell taught me that there are many types of people in the world.” Barnhill explains, adding that his work in the Communication Studies department taught him how to understand and interact with people, even when verbal language was not available.

“One of my favorite things to note while I’m working is body language” Barnhill says, “Some people at Disney are stressed from everything that they try to do in a short vacation and I can tell, which gives me the opportunity to make their vacation just a little more magical!”

Karriker also speaks to the importance of diversity, and how her Campbell education prepared her to be an inclusive member of the Disney team. While working as a merchandising cast member, Karriker was able to use the skills learned in a Campbell American Sign Language (ASL) course to make a family feel seen and understood.

“A family approached my merchandise cart, and they didn’t say anything to me, but were signing to each other.” Karriker explains.  “I signed, “Hello! Do you know sign language?” and their faces lit up…you could just see the joy in being able to communicate with someone in their own language.”

Karriker and Barnhill also cite their Campbell extracurriculars as important stepping stones for their time with the Disney College Program. Karriker, who served as a member, chair, and vice president on the Campus Activities Board (CAB) during her time at Campbell explains that her role in CAB gave her leadership and public speaking experience that was crucial to her work in merchandising, and will continue to support her work as a real estate professional.

Barnhill’s experience leading Ignite student ministry and co-anchoring a student led talk show, Wake Up CU, helped him develop networking and communication skills that he found extremely helpful in his work at Disney’s Boardwalk Inn. He specifically speaks of the importance of Wake Up CU, stating that the practice of communicating campus news to fellow students is something that impacted his skill set in college, and will continue to influence him in the future.

Despite all the skills learned and opportunities afforded, both Barnhill and Karriker emphasize the relationships formed at Campbell above all else.

“The thing that I cherish the most about my time at Campbell is the people.” Karriker says. She explains that her relationships with fellow students, her sorority sisters, and her professors gave her a foundation of love and support that made it easier for her to make connections and thrive at Disney.

Barnhill speaks of a similarly relationship-oriented view of his time at Campbell, concluding that “Every single person that I crossed paths with at Campbell impacted my life, and my time there with those people is still something I look back on every single day.”