Day 5-6

A major reason for this trip was to inspire ideas for Manchester. How can a small liberal arts university in rural Indiana learn from the happiest place on earth? Well, there’s a lot of ways.

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One example is a certain code in Disney parks. Staff are cast members. When they are interacting with guests, they are “onstage” and when they are working behind the hustle and bustle of what the guests usually see, they are “offstage.” It not only maintains the idea that Disney is selling an experience, but it also makes conveying a message to your coworker or higher up seamless. Everyone is on the same page.

Disney also places a huge emphasis on user experience. They test and experiment and try and sometimes fail, but in the end it’s about whether or not the customer is getting what they paid for. Throughout the trip, Marcie compared this to a study she’s been working on, asking professors what they think students need from a college, and asking students what they think they need. The ideal state is somewhere in the middle, combining years of real-world experience with desires from the “customers” those professors serve.

We had our last day in Disney, meeting with Jamal Taylor of the Youth Education Services (YES) program, who gave us some insight into how he climbed his way up from food service as a young man. Food service helped him get to know the right people, from celebrities to those higher up the corporate ladder, because everyone needs to eat.

Jamal also talked about the importance of finding a mentor — someone who will tell you what you need to hear instead of what you want to hear. And on that note, I’d like to thank my at-work video and photo mentor, Dan Chudzynski, helping to set this trip up. Thanks to Scott Ochander for setting some of the wheels in motion and, of course, Marcie and Rusty for being so accommodating and welcoming this whole week. Last but not least, the students. A great group that are naturals in front of the camera. I’m pleased to say I think I have 17 new friends on campus.


Day 4

In lieu of a written post today, enjoy this video about some of the group’s inner Disney character:

Day 3 – Hollywood Studios

Good leadership is an intangible thing. It’s sort of like confidence — you know when somebody displays those qualities, and it often seems to come naturally.


Our conference today was all about leadership. Students had a chance to enter the Hollywood Studios before it opened to the public. They got the opportunity to take charge of different tasks and lead their peers in some exercises before getting a tour behind the scenes of the costume shop at Hollywood Studios.




One of the best examples of leadership during this conference though has been right with us at Manchester the whole time — Marcie and Rusty Coulter-Kern.

“Their enthusiasm makes it so much more fun,” Ashley Kann, a Psychology and Business major from Warsaw said. “They don’t mind taking the extra [time] out of the day to teach us.”

Michael Boards, a senior Psychology major from Indianapolis has been taking classes with the Coulter-Kerns since his sophomore year.

“They’ve honestly prepared us really well for grad school,” he said. “I’ll be able to go into grad school and start my own research projects with no problems at all.”


Also, quick shout-out to our wonderfully snarky server Elizabeth at the Prime Time Cafe!

Day 2 – Epcot


A student commented to me today that in addition to a trip to Florida, I’m getting a free Psych course. It’s already changed the way I’m looking at this whole experience.



Students are keeping track of how Disney presents itself and how they’ve accomplished running such a successful business model for decades, as well as watching each of the guests, staff and themselves in this type of environment. One thing that’s really taken off is the phenomenon that at times, one thinks more people are watching them than actually are — it’s called the “Spotlight Effect.” For example, if you’ve got a really bad hair day, you’re bound to think everyone you pass on the street is staring at you. In reality, they probably didn’t notice.

Students have taken to calling out “Spotlight Effect!” any time one of them slips or trips or stumbles.


They’ve taken to analyzing everything — the placement of guard rails on rides, how the audio on rides can’t be heard on other rides, how far away trash cans are from each other, why they phrase things certain ways, the convenient technology of our wristbands that open doors and act as a ticket into the parks or onto rides, to watch out for people with strollers because they’ll probably run you over. All things that are part of the Disney experience.




I’ve got to go to bed now, we have a leadership conference very early tomorrow morning. Stay tuned for more!

Day 1, Magic Kingdom

Hi all! My name is Clay, I am Manchester University’s marketing photographer and videographer. As much as I’ll try to refrain from making this blog a chance to rub in how amazing the weather is here, I will say that there was a noticeable difference the second Rusty and Marcie Coulter-Kerns’ psychology classes landed in Orlando.




The goal of this trip is to study the social and organizational psychology, and where better to do that than the most visited resort in the entire world?




Stay tuned for some stories from the happiest place in the world, brought to you by the best psychology department in the world.