Have You Thought of Doing A Disney Internship?

I love “The Land” at Epcot.  It’s one of my favorite attractions and I have to go on it at least once each time I go to the park.  I’ve even taken the Behind the Seeds Tour twice!  So when I stumbled across Caroline’s work, I was floored.  I didn’t know internships like this were available!  There are a bunch of different disciplines that offer internships for students and recent grads and can you imagine how great of an experience that must be?  Plus, to say you worked for Disney on your resume would be quite the feather in the cap.

Caroline spending time with the boss - Mickey Mouse!
Caroline spending time with the boss – Mickey Mouse!

Caroline Hooks had the chance to work in the Professional Horticulture Internship Program and was gracious enough to let me interview her about her time with Disney.

Thanks so much Caroline for allowing us to interview you about your experience with Disney and the Professional Horticulture Internship Program. It sounds super exciting and lots of fun! You mentioned a few different options – the summer program, the spring program, and one specifically for “The Land.” What are the differences between them?

“The Land” has agriculture science internships for aquaculture, biotechnology, entomology, and plant science. These interns specifically work and lead tours at the Land Pavilion. The Professional Horticulture Internships are through the horticulture department. During the summer they have about 30 interns, and during the off season they have about 2 interns. The off season internship is more managerial, much of it involves the Flower and Garden Festival.

In your video (which was really well done by the way), you mentioned that each intern submits a project that may actually be used in the parks. Can you share with us what your project submission was and if it might be used?

Thanks Craig! For my assigned project, my partner and I conducted an experimental trail of a new integrated pest management technique. It was an interesting and successful trail, and the practice is probably being used.

The video was my other project. Most of the other professional internships had promotional videos, but somehow ours didn’t. I have always wanted to make videos and I wanted to document my time at Disney, so it was a really exciting opportunity. The horticulture department will be using it in intern orientation, hopefully, for many years to come.

I love that Disney is a “no kill” company and that they are very involved in environmental safe practices. Certainly it isn’t always cheaper to go that route. What in your opinion is the reason Disney makes that choice?

All theme parks create a lot of waste and are far from sustainable. No company is perfect, but Disney has been making an effort to reduce waste and improve practices for years. They have big ears to fill and are striving to be socially responsible. Money doesn’t seem to be a limitation for efficient, sustainable practices. Many times these practices can be more economically efficient as well.

For years, they have used trees to naturally filter effluent water from their waste water treatment plant. They convert tons of sewage sludge into soil conditioner, and they use many different pest management practices to prevent resistance. The UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability has shared statistics on Disney Parks’ sustainability efforts. “Solid waste sent to landfills in 2010 was 44 percent of the total waste generated in 2006.”

(This means that four years later, Disney reduced its waste output by 56% just by instituting these environmentally friendly measures)

Some of the work done by the horticulture department at Disney
Some of the work done by the horticulture department at Disney

What other interesting things could you tell us about pest management at Disney?

Anytime pesticides are applied, they comply with EPA, state, and territorial laws. Applicators are all certified by the EPA and state.

During Florida’s summer months, mosquito populations are high in areas with a lot of moisture and vegetation. They aren’t really a problem in the parks, but they are at the golf courses. They take refuge in the woods on hot summer days, and are more active as the sun goes down. Mosquito populations decline as the weather gets cooler in the fall. Nearly every county in Florida has sentinel chickens to help monitor the mosquitos.

I imagine the program at WDW is pretty competitive. Any advice you’d share with prospective candidates who might want to apply? How has participating in the program helped to shape your future career goals?

The internship programs are great. I wish I knew about them when I first started college as a freshman. If you aren’t accepted on your first try, keep applying! They give merit to repeat applicants. After completing an internship, you can apply for the same or a different one again. Good employee records always help in the re-hiring process.

Working with Disney’s horticulture has shown me new possibilities in landscaping, and the value that gardens can add to a space. In an environment full of competing elements, the gardens add continuity. They break up the “sets” and provide smooth transitions, making a walk-through more natural and flowing. The landscapes are so beautiful and enveloping, sometimes you forget you’re in a theme park.

I met many inspiring mentors in both the horticulture and pest management departments. I strengthened my passions for integrated pest management and horticulture education. I’m preparing to pursue a master’s degree in integrated pest management or plant pathology. My ultimate career goal is to own a horticultural production/retail business that specializes in native plants. I want to help people design and maintain their gardens sustainably, to minimize ecological impact and support the contribution of beneficial ecosystem processes. Another goal of mine is to be a curator of a botanical garden, designing horticultural displays to educate guests about the importance the world’s biomes and botany.

Again, thank you so much Caroline for sharing your thoughts with us and best wishes for the future!

  • If you want to read more about Caroline’s adventures at Disney be sure to read her blog!

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