This course is an in-depth examination of communication in and about the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, FL.

Specifically, the course will examine nonverbal communication in the theme parks, organizational communication utilized by the company, and computer-mediated-communication revolving around Walt Disney World. Each unit will provide a basic introduction of a communication concept/area which will then be applied using examples from Walt Disney World.

The class will meet for the first eight weeks of the semester and over spring break will visit Walt Disney World where they will immerse themselves in the culture of the theme parks and resorts.

Learn More...

David Zanolla... will be telling us a bit about himself soon.

FROM: Communication Around the 'World' A Disney Dispatch Feature

Class Begins: Reading Assignments

No course is complete without a couple of textbooks, but in David Zanolla's course, the textbooks are slim and fun to read. If you want to follow the course, you'll need the textbooks. David provides brief reviews of each.

David Zanolla teaches an advanced honors course at Western Illinois University called Communication Around the "World". Disney World! In addition to standard lectures and projects, students will spend a week at the happiest place on earth. Cool, eh?

You can't come on the trip - sorry! - but we've reserved for you a virtual seat in David's course. There's the (virtual) bell!

When I was asked to contribute a column about my experiences teaching a class about Walt Disney World, I was hesitant at first.

I love to teach about Disney World and communication, but here at Western Illinois University I have a two-hour block in which to do so. The constraints of a weekly column would by necessity dilute the information presented in class.

Therefore, I figured the easiest way to chronicle the happenings of my Communication Around the "World" class was to simply provide key talking points from each class session.

My class of seven students has met three times thus far, with the first meeting primarily covering details about the travel program to Orlando and, as one student keeps asking, "Will anyone be forced to go on the Tower of Terror?" (The answer: It will depend on my mood at the moment - a mood easily altered by a cold Diet Coke and a box of popcorn.)

Reading Assignment: The Wonderful World of Customer Service at Disney

By the time of our first class meeting, the students already had reading to do (I know, I'm evil). They were assigned to read 'The Wonderful World of Customer Service at Disney' by Jeff Kober, who will be leading two of our master classes while in Orlando.

Kober's book does a phenomenal job of simplifying the organizational way of life established by Walt Disney World. By making the Disney World organizational model so accessible to his readers, Kober allows both veteran and first-time students of Disney the opportunity do understand "how they do what they do." In doing so, he shows readers that service standards and basics are not merely words to be recited but guiding principles in the "creation of happiness".

I have also quizzed the students twice (and will do so every week) regarding the Disney World service standards and service basics. In addition to the service theme "we create happiness", these principles form the foundation of the Disney World organizational culture.

Kober's book offers some fantastic application of these service standards and basics which will prepare us for similar activities we'll complete while at Disney World in March.

Reading Assignment: Designing Disney

Our other main text is John Hench's 'Designing Disney'. If you've never read this book, I strongly recommend grabbing a copy. Hench provides insight into the process of themed design at many of the Disney parks.

I've often heard people say, "I've read a certain book many times before, but this time, it was like I was reading portions for the first time."

Those words rang very true when my beat up, highlighted copy of Hench's book revealed an undercurrent I'd never noticed before: how "Guest-focused" Imagineers are during the design process.

I would expect such a theme in Kober's book, because it revolves around customer service, but I never expected it to come through so strongly in 'Designing Disney'.

The first commandment of Imagineering is "Know Your Audience", but it never became as evident as with my most recent reading of Hench's book.

Key Idea from Our First Two Weeks of Class

The areas of Disney World's organizational culture and "Disney design" may seem miles apart, but after some excellent discussion with my students, I realized that Disney World's motto of customer service ("we create happiness") and their motto of Imagineering ("everything speaks") fit together perfectly in the following statement:

Everything speaks so that we can create happiness for our Guests.

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