As Disney cast members, recent college grads learned invaluable skills
By Rebecca Berfanger // Photography submitted
When two Franklin Central High School alumni, class of 2018, who met in middle school and started dating in college, wanted to pursue their careers at Disney after college, they decided to apply for the Disney College Program. The program, open to college students and recent college graduates, focuses on giving participants work experience as cast members — what Disney calls their resort employees — within the Disney World park system.
While Jordan Roach applied first, she encouraged Preston Seiter to apply. Both were accepted to work at Walt Disney World in Orlando starting in June 2022. Both also requested to work in the food and beverage areas of the park.
Roach, a 2022 IUPUI graduate, earned her degree in computer graphic technology with a focus in animation, worked at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort. Seiter, graduated in 2022 from Indiana University with a degree in game design that specializes in art, worked at the various festivals at EPCOT, including Food and Wine, which ran from July through November, and Festival of the Holidays, which started around Thanksgiving.
Their common interest in art and Disney goes back many years.
“When we were in high school, I was aware he wanted to go into a game design related field,” Roach said of Seiter.
“I knew she liked animation, a lot of 2D,” Preston said of Roach. “I assumed from all of her great drawings that she wanted to do 2D art in general. She wanted to do 2D animation specifically.”
As for Disney, “I’ve always wanted to get my food in the door with Disney, so I thought the college program would be the best solution to that. There were a lot of opportunities in the Disney College Program,” Roach said.
And while this program would be Roach’s first time visiting the Orlando parks, Seiter has been going with his family for many years. His family — as well as Roach’s family — came to visit them while they were working at the park.
“I was already looking forward to working there because the world showcase at EPCOT was my favorite place in Disney World in general,” Seiter said. “To be able to work there was an honor in itself. Our family used to go there in the summer. When we were kids, the summer was an opportunity for us to go as a family for an extended time on vacation. We’ve been going every other year for about the past 20 years or so.”
In his role working food and beverage for festivals, Seiter wore a uniform of a green button down shirt and shorts, and would spend much of his days working at one of the many kiosks for the Food and Wine festival.
Although he had experience at a small restaurant, the magnitude of this event was not something he had experienced before. He got an insider’s look at how it’s all pulled off, including a smaller number of items — the kiosks each only had about five food and/or beverage items, making for “very quick transactions. Because there were always people coming into the line, we had to get the food out quickly, get transactions done quickly, and all the health issues out of the way and whatever else may come.”
He added that the experience also gave the guests an opportunity to try something new — food and beverages from all over the world which they might not have considered had they not been at the festival at EPCOT.
He later took on a role as a stocker — helping keep enough napkins, utensils, ice or other items well stocked in the kiosks.
“I’m a person who enjoys moving around, getting stuff done, and actually constantly working.
We had constant communication. We all had a group chat with leaders and coordinators and stockers about what can be done in case we missed something,” he said.
He added that the communication skills he learned in that role were just some of many transferable skills for other jobs.
“The biggest thing that I learned and will also take away, is how vital communication is, especially within Disney as a company. It’s important to know what’s going on at all times. If someone wasn’t doing that, then they would make sure they were on top of it. Making sure if a leader sent a message, that everyone would thumbs up that message or let them know they saw it,” Seiter said.
“I ended up meeting a lot of good people along the way that really helped get my social side out because I was exposed to so many people,” he said.
In her role, Roach served guests at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, where she worked at Landscape of Flavors wearing a blue shirt, blue pants and an apron with colorful Disney characters.
The comprehensive menu included a variety of breakfast items, as well as pizza, burgers, salads and other options, Roach said.
“In our stations, we could do up to probably 10 different tasks a day, depending on what our coordinators needed us to do. Anything from taking dishes to the dish room or serving guests directly through the cafeteria area,” she said.
She added this role helped her see the importance of time management, something she planned to use in other jobs.
“The way my area worked it was like a conveyor belt, streamlining processes
for [serving] food. For example, whenever we had pizzas to make, they would have to tell the guests your pizza is going to be out in about eight minutes. And then we’d have to get those out according to what we told the guests,” Roach said. “To make the guests happy, that’s the main goal.”
Roach and Seiter also wanted to recognize Disney’s allergy chefs, another way to make guests happy.
“The allergy chefs were always amazing with the guests. The allergy chef would prepare anything from our menu,” Roach added.
In addition to meeting various guests at the restaurant where she worked and learning how to make a memorable experience for each one, including when they came in wearing various buttons that stated if they were there to celebrate a birthday, anniversary or other milestone, she enjoyed meeting her fellow cast members.
“The people I worked with, personally there was a really talented group of people. I got to see people from all walks of life, all different college majors and different colleges and states. It was a really fun environment,” she said.
While both Roach and Seiter were expected to work hard, being at Disney also meant they got to play hard.
“The lucky thing for cast members is we got free admission into the parks,” Seiter said. “Unless we had something specific planned, we’d just go to the parks and change up which parks we’d go to each day. Because there is so much to do at each park, we never got bored.”
And their favorite rides?
“Unlike Preston, my first trip to Disney ever was when I actually got into the program. My first ride was the Guardians of the Galaxy ride at EPCOT, Cosmic Rewind. And It just blew my mind,” Roach said of the indoor, reverse rollercoaster.
For Seiter, “Avatar: Flight of Passage” in the Animal Kingdom in the Pandora area is his favorite ride.
“The seats move, you can feel the Banshee breathe on your legs, and you can hear wings flap. You can smell the environment, there is water that hits your face. It’s like crossing Pandora and it’s a really cool experience. I love that ride. I needed to sit for five minutes after the first time I rode it,” he said.
After returning to Indiana in early January, Seiter and Roach said they continue to want to work for Disney. Both are looking for remote professional internships within the company. Roach is also planning to attend Purdue University in West Lafayette starting this fall for a master’s degree in animation.