Newman alumna Madison McCollum is taking the phrase, “I’m going to Disney World!” to a whole new level.
McCollum arrived at the Disney College Internship Program on May 20, where she will stay for six months to take classes such as leadership and communication. She will also work as a lifeguard at Typhoon Lagoon.
McCollum recently graduated cum laude from Newman University with a Bachelor of Arts in communication with a minor in journalism. She not only excelled in the classroom but also in the Newman community.
Along with being an active member of the Honors Program, McCollum was a resident assistant for three years, a writer and editor for the Vantage, Newman’s student-run newspaper, a First Year Experience director, a Student Government Association senator and a self-proclaimed “regular” up in Student Support Services.
McCollum did all this while holding a part-time job at ALDI, being known as the “ALDI girl” by many customers and friends.
Audrey Hane, Ph.D., professor of communication, said that she feels it is this experience that has prepared McCollum for her internship.
“Having worked in the retail industry, Madison understands customer service,” she said. “This internship will offer her the opportunity to see how an organization infuses this value into every interaction with their guests.”
Hane said McCollum is “eager to observe how a healthy, vibrant culture grounded in its core values can impact its organizational members and those that the organization serves.”
McCollum first found out about the opportunity when Ariana Esparza, a 2018 Newman graduate, got accepted in the program. But McCollum thought she did not have a chance, so she pushed the thought to the back of her mind and continued with the rigors of her day-to-day life.
Esparza said that overall the program has been incredible for her and that she hopes everyone gets the chance for a little magic in their lives.
“Try to find the good in the occasional difficult moments while on the program,” Esparza said. “Most importantly, pause and appreciate the spectacular moments even when they are happening all the time.”
McCollum said her turning point happened when the 2018-19 midterms were approaching, adding she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do with her life at that point.
“During a brainstorming session in response to a small almost-graduate breakdown over, ‘what the heck will I do with my life,'” McCollum explained, “my best friend Lex was like, ‘Dude, apply for Disney. It would be perfect for you.’ I told her I didn’t have a chance. But she told me to think about it, and I ended up applying the day before applications closed.”
McCollum found out only 30 minutes after applying that she had made it to the web-based interview portion. A day later she was accepted to have a phone interview, which took place a few days later.
“They told me I would know in early April via email whether or not I was accepted into the program,” she said.
McCollum said it seemed like a lifetime before she heard the news.
“I was at a journalism conference when I found out — I literally screamed. Leeanne beside me gave me the wildest, most concerned look and all I could do was blurt out a little, ‘I got into Disney.’ I road on a cloud the whole day.”
McCollum said that finding an environment where she can really be herself and discover all that life is to her is essential.
“My biggest goal in life is to find a company I’m passionate about and that I can support. I used to stress a lot about what that meant and felt like I had to figure my life out before college was over. Now I’m just exploring and experiencing life to its fullest.”
McCollum said these adventures wouldn’t be possible without help from all the people that have pushed her to this point.
“I’m really grateful to my family, friends and mentors that not only celebrated with me but helped me get here. This isn’t a cheap gig, especially starting out, nor is it easy to move away from everything you know, even if you’re adventure-seeking like me,” she said. “There’s no way I would have been able to be sitting on a bed in Florida if I didn’t have the support group that I do.”
McCollum said that she thinks her time working at Disney will help her in the long run, even if it is just to make her life a little more magical.
“I feel like anything and everything I learn here can be applied to any field I try to go into,” McCollum said. “You work hard, have high expectations and grow as a person, and that’s something I think I can take with me.”