Students Explore the World on Spring Break

Spring Break is one of the busiest times of the year at Walt Disney World, but very few of the guests crowding the hotels, restaurants and lines for attractions are allowed to peek behind the scenes.

This March, students taking the course, “Disney: Behind the Scenes” in the department of communication and media culture were able to do just that. With their suitcases stashed in a room at the Pop Century Hotel and Magic Bands encircling their wrists, 14 students accompanied by Cynthia W. Walker, Ph.D., associate professor and chair, Barna Donovan, Ph.D., associate professor, and data science graduate student Chris Walker ’18 spent a week exploring WDW’s four major parks in Orlando, Fla. They attended classes about leadership, teamwork and the culture of excellence, explored the utilidors, the tunnels running underneath the Magic Kingdom, and wandered through the rows of micro-chipped costumes waiting for employees at Epcot. They also saw the special events room at the Living Seas, spoke with a staff member of Imagineering and competed in a scavenger hunt.

“This was my first time going to Walt Disney World,” said Christian Guzhnay ’18, “and it was an amazing experience learning how the park operates.”

“My experience throughout the travel course was, to be cliché, magical,” observed Olivia Monahan ’18. “I loved going behind the scenes to see what cast members have to go through on a day to day basis.”

Two other spring break travel courses, “Doing Business Overseas” and “Global Business Cultural Experience” traveled to India with twenty-four graduate and undergraduate students and two alumni. The tour was led by Professors Chanaz Gargouri, M.B.A. ’98 and Louis Ruvolo, ’80, ’08 M.B.A., director of graduate business programs. The itinerary included visits to a Tata Motors plant in Pune, where they received briefings on Tata’s sustainability and corporate social responsibility programs and the Turner Construction office in Mumbai, where officials discussed the challenges of doing business in India.

In Delhi, students met with American Embassy officials who discussed opportunities for American business in India and U.S.-India relations, including student exchanges. The group also visited Amity University in Delhi, a private university founded in 1996 with eight campuses in India and centers around the world. Cultural events on the tour included visits to the Taj Mahal in Agra, Amber Fort in Jaipur, two Gandhi sites and celebration of the Holi Festival, one of India’s biggest holidays. The trip culminated with a tour of the Dhariva slum in Mumbai, a site of desperate poverty but also thriving micro-businesses.

Across the world in Europe, Rachel Wilfall, Ph.D., associate professor of English, lead of group of 24 through Shakespeare’s Italy. During the trip, students considered how the poetry and drama of William Shakespeare, who lived and worked during the English Renaissance, was influenced by the art and thought of Ancient Rome and the Italian Renaissance. They spent 10 days exploring Italy, from Venice to Florence, Assisi, ancient Pompeii, Sorrento, the island of Capri and Rome.

Meanwhile, forty-two students traveled in Ireland, Wales and England on the “Comparative Criminal Justice Systems Travel Course.” In this class, students learned about criminal justice and policing in these countries where most officers do not even carry firearms. At a lecture in London, a local law enforcement professional demonstrated live-action scenarios that are used to interview aspiring policy academy recruits.

“Our quick-thinking students passed with flying colors!” said Scott Keller, director of the Center for Global Learning, adding, “Of course, the group also had time to take in some amazing castles, cathedrals and even Shakespeare’s birthplace.”

In total, 104 students led by 13 faculty and staff members visited four countries abroad, England, Ireland, Italy and India and 1 destination in the United States, Disney World.

“My great hope is that these short but unforgettable travel course experiences inspire our students to travel more, to learn another language, to interact more frequently with people who do not look like themselves, and to venture regularly outside their comfort zones,” said Keller.

See pictures taken on the trips by students by searching #PeacocksAbroad on Instagram. Interested in learning more about studying abroad? Scott Keller can be reached via e-mail at, by phone at (201) 761-6028 or visit for more information.