Students wish on stars for Disney class

Nicholas Ebelhack

 Western Illinois University students may have the opportunity to take a trip to Walt Disney World in the 2016 spring semester by logging on to STARS.

 Next spring, David Zanolla, a communications professor, will be offering a Disney communication culture class (COMM 379), which students will learn about how Disney World applies communications concepts to create its park.

 Zanolla said this class is designed to give students a new perspective on Disney World and how it is organized to provide guests with the Disney experience.

 “The job of the class is that we study the organizational culture of Walt Disney World,” Zanolla said. “Basically, what that means is that we look at why they do what they do and how they create a way of life from a communications perspective.”

 Some of the core concepts of the class include the inside operations within Walt Disney World and how the theme park is able to deliver on its promise as “the happiest place on earth.”

 “What we study before we leave is how all of that is supposed to work, how it was designed, what the purpose of the culture is, how they go about training their employees to meet the needs of their customers, what kind of research has been done in the past,” Zanolla said. “It’s a lot of learning about what is supposed to happen. And when we travel, we ask the question whether or not this does work, or if it only works in the way we read about it.”

 Zanolla said that students that take the class are not just getting a college credit trip to Disney in Orlando, . Students understand how Disney portrays its culture first hand through individual experiences.

 “It’s really interesting to see a couple of days in after our tours and master classes how they connect it to what we did back at Western,” Zanolla said. “Students will come up to me and say, ‘Wait, is this a good example of this concept we talked about in class,’ and then it is cool for that light to click on while they are there.”

 Students who take the class will get time to spend in the park on their own, in addition to going on special tours that focus on the aspects of communications within Disney World.

 “I could walk them around the park and show them all of this stuff that we talk about in class, but it is really cool to see them make connections on their own and see those examples themselves,” Zanolla said. “When they each do that in their own time I think it really becomes fun for me to see those ideas fire off on their own.”

 All students are able to take Zanolla’s class. Zanolla said that one of his favorite parts of the class is seeing students from different majors understand concepts that pertain to their interests.

 “I have had all kinds of majors come take this class,” Zanolla said. “That’s the neat thing about Disney is that there really is something that anyone can take from the trip, and I like to be able to make connections with somebody pursuing any kind of major. There is still a possibility for non-majors to see how Disney’s culture can be applied to any field.”

 Zanolla said that he personally enjoys seeing how his students share the information that they learn from this class with their friends and families.

 “My goal is to help them understand that learning doesn’t just have to happen in the classroom, learning can happen outside of it,” Zanolla said. “I want to help them understand the basics in the classroom to understand the basics of the culture, but once you are there it is really neat to see that students come back to Disney with their family and that they can show their family what happens behind the scenes at Disney.”

 Students can sign up for Professor Zanolla’s class next fall during registration. Any questions can be directed to Professor Zanolla at