Disney Cohort Impacted by COVID-19

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Disney Cohort Impacted by COVID-19

The 2020 Disney Cohort was, without a doubt, our most unique ever. Forty students arrived on a cold January morning from six of our university partners:  BISU, Sun Yat-sen University, Nankai University, Jinan University, KHU and Sejong University.  They looked forward to taking four courses with us:  Strategic Management & Leadership, Entertainment Arts & Events, Wines of the World & their Internship course.  With five adventurous months ahead of them, they happily settled into their Disney apartments and began the first of two Disney roles.

Shortly after beginning classes, one of the students fell critically ill and was in need of emergency surgery. She did beautifully with it, but it was an unnerving experience nevertheless.  Her bravery was incredible, and without missing a beat, she was back keeping up with the Cohort within days.

The group had just completed six weeks of classes and had attended our Spring Career Fair when their dreams began to crumble under the weight of the COVID-19 pandemic. Their program was quickly cancelled by Disney and they were given four days to move out of their residences and travel back to their home countries.  At the same time, Rosen College (face-to-face) classes transitioned to a remote platform. This was unprecedented.  Disney and Rosen College provided the careful guidance and support the students needed, and they were all able to successfully return home and even continue their online courses within a week.

Classes were continued remotely and attitudes evolved over the next few weeks into quiet resolve and a mature understanding of the gravity of the pandemic situation.  Students worked hard (some under less-than-favorable quarantine conditions) to complete their Rosen College courses and almost all of them were able to successfully complete all aspects of the program. Thankfully, they had clocked enough work hours at Disney to qualify for the Internship credential.

In lieu of a traditional graduation ceremony, as we have had in the past, with gowns and a luncheon on campus, we held a “virtual” event for the graduates on Zoom.  The event included Disney representatives and university partner coordinators. It was held on Wednesday, June 17, 2020. It was well-attended and heartwarming for us all. It was so wonderful to see each other again, reminisce about the short time we had spent together, and honor the sacrifices and hard work the students had endured.  The students signed on to the event, proudly wearing their Mickey Mouse ear hats and huge smiles.  Their positivity and inspirational attitudes assured us that the short time they were allotted with us had meant the world to them.  It was apparent that this experience, although traumatizing, had made them stronger and better equipped to deal with any new challenge they would face in their lives. As Dean Wang aptly quipped, ”They turned lemons into lemonade!”