The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

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The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Cox sends students to Disney World

The Cox School of Business sent students in its MBA program to study at the Disney Institute in Orlando, Florida via its MBA Business Leadership Center in December of 2007. The opportunity for any MBA program to study at Disney only recently opened up as of 2005 through the Cox School, which became the first MBA program allowed in.

The program features an in-depth look at the operations and design of the Disney theme park and presents the students with the reasoning and decision-making behind many aspects of the park’s operation.

“The theme is service culture” MBA student Wes Holloway said. “They really expose you to how they create an environment for their employees. They call their employees cast members and they set from the very beginning that feeling.

“They create that environment and atmosphere so that people will seem pretty happy – that was a key factor. They treat their employees the same as most places and it’s kind of amazing to see from minimum wage on up,” he said.

The students were given a day in the parks to go on the rides and explore but were also given questionnaires to learn more about how specifically the parks are designed.

“Everything they do is strategically placed in the park, even down to the trash cans,” Holloway said. “The people that led the orientation really dove into the things you wouldn’t know have meaning. You get over the façade of it just being a park, it’s very intricate and there are a lot of little things that if you keep going, you’ll notice and there’s a lot of strategy in what they do.”

The qualifications for admission into the program begin with being a Cox MBA student, then completing 10 three-credit-hour seminars, which feature, as Holloway describes, “things that you might not get in a classroom,” like management skills and teamwork. Ten of such seminars in the MBA School earn students a place in the Cox Leadership Forum, and the opportunity to apply for the trip to Orlando.

This year, the school started something new in offering scholarships in the program directly correlative to the applicant’s grades, the maximum offer being $1,800 for students with a 3.2 GPA or above, as well as a $2,500 scholarship to the student who wrote the best application essay.

“They were picky about who they took because they were looking for specific things,” MBA student Angela Simmons said.

Holloway said that he “wanted to experience how a company tries to treat their customers,” adding that, “Walt Disney is pretty good about that.”

He and Simmons agreed that there was a good mixture of different MBAs in the program and that the way that the different groups worked out allowed for connections to be made, especially between full-time and part time students, which might not normally have been made.

“You have the young, full-time students, you have people who have kids, and some of the people had their families come down after the last day to spend time together at the parks,” Holloway said.

He described his experiences as “beneficial.”

“I didn’t know what to expect going in, but after getting there it really piqued some interest. In the business world many people tend to forget the service side of things and how you treat your employees,” Holloway said. “Disney has found a way to attract employees and retain employees who really enjoy their work.”

“The other good thing about the Disney program is Paula,” Simmons said regarding Paula Strasser, Director of the BLC. “Her passion for it makes people who would have thought it was a little geeky or goofy just love it. She’s perfect for that job, they hired a good woman.”

The group stayed at the Grand Floridian Hotel, with whom the Cox School has just recently signed a contract to stay at again during next year’s program. Students who have already participated are not allowed to go twice.

“We had a blast, it was great. Any chance I get to go there, yes, absolutely, I would go, even if I had to pay my own way, I still would have gone, because it’s that important to me.”

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