Katherine Heacock ’13 (archaeology) makes magic for guests from around the world as a cast member at Walt Disney World. She credits Dickinson with providing a strong foundation for her work, noting that the diversity she discovered at the college prepared her to embrace the rich and varied cultures and beliefs she is exposed to on a daily basis at the “Most Magical Place on Earth.”
Can you speak to how Dickinson’s useful liberal-arts education helped you along your career path?
I grew up in a suburb of Philadelphia where there were many families that shared very similar economic backgrounds and views. Dickinson was really my first introduction to a diverse group of people from all over the country and the world. While at Dickinson, I had many of the ideas and beliefs with which I’d been raised challenged, and I grew as a person. The Walt Disney Company is much like Dickinson, but on a much larger scale. Walt Disney World alone boasts 70,000 cast members from many countries around the world, from many backgrounds, with different beliefs and aspirations. My growth at Dickinson helped me to approach those differences with acceptance and appreciation and helped me to embrace the diversity of the Walt Disney Company, as I had to learn to embrace the diversity of Dickinson.
What was your favorite activity/organization at Dickinson?
I loved founding the Dickinson Quidditch Team. It was amazing going through the process of raising a new program from nothing: petitioning Student Senate, raising funds, recruiting team members, building equipment and networking with other teams. Now, I still look back at the Facebook page, and I’m so proud to see those members who were recruited as first-year students leading the charge and building on what my co-founder and I were able to start.
What jumps out as a great memory from your time at Dickinson?
That would definitely be Wing Nights with the Dickinson Department of Archaeology. Being able to take over the back room of the North Hanover Grille and getting to invite our professors and interact with them on a personal level was a great way to bond as a department and form relationships that lasted beyond Dickinson. One of the people who I met at a Wing Night is now one of my good friends here at Disney!
How do you stay involved with Dickinson? Why do you think it’s important?
I like to check in with the school’s website and talk with my friends who are still at Dickinson. The way any college grows is by maintaining a strong network of alumni. It helped me get my job, and I frequently talk to current Dickinson students interested in the Walt Disney Company.
How did you get interested in your work, and what about it excites you most?
I first learned about the Walt Disney Company and the Disney College Program through a fellow Dickinsonian, Danielle Kelly ’12. With her help, I was accepted, and since joining the company, I’ve had a great many roles, including being on the opening team of Walt Disney World’s transformative MyMagic+. Whenever I look for a new role, I always look for roles that allow me to interact with the guests of Walt Disney World on a personal basis. My most exciting role has by far been a VIP tour guide with Disney Special Activities. It’s exciting to be able to take our guests around the parks and “show off” a little. I’m proud of what we do at Walt Disney World, and the best part of the job is always “making magic” for our guests.
What does your current work entail?
Currently, I am with FriendShips, providing watercraft transportation service between Disney's Hollywood Studios, EPCOT and the EPCOT area resorts. I am also a VIP tour guide with Disney Special Activities, where I serve as a personal guide for guests and celebrities of the Walt Disney World resort.
What is the most challenging part of your work?
Always keeping a smile. Although we try our best, there are still some “un-magical” times, whether it’s raining, a ride is shut down for technical issues or even a guest has just had a difficult time and is frustrated. I won’t say I’ve never been yelled at because then my nose would grow like Pinocchio’s, but a Disney cast member always smiles and, more importantly, has the power to turn any situation around. Guest recovery is something that doesn’t come easy to many cast members, but when they succeed, that’s when the true magic happens.
What comes to mind as something unforgettable that you’ve done since you graduated?
Without a doubt, it would be getting to serve as a VIP tour guide for Star Wars Galactic Nights. I am a huge Star Wars fanatic, and I was in heaven all night, surrounded by the stars of Star Wars and even getting to ride the special Star Wars-themed Rock n’ Roller Coaster. It was one of the coolest nights of my life, and I couldn’t stop grinning the whole time.
If you could have dinner with anyone famous, living or dead, who would it be?
Walt Disney, of course! Walt never got to see his vision of Walt Disney World realized. I’d want to ask him what he thought of the resort now, what his plans would’ve been. Could he have imagined it would become what it is today, that his Mickey Mouse could be recognized by so many around the world?
You just built a time machine: where and when do you go?
I would go into the future. Everyday I’m excited by some of the technology we are creating and what scientists and engineers around the world are striving to achieve. SpaceX wants to create a colony on Mars, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I would love to see what our future descendants could dream up. These days, not even the sky is the limit.
If you could change one thing about your life, what would it be?
I would love to have gotten into scriptwriting and film production. Being surrounded by the worlds the Disney Imagineers cook up, I would love to be part of it, providing my own ideas and fantasies.
Published November 30, 2017