Creating Special Moments

Creating Special Moments

Editor’s Note: Western Illinois University Department of Communication Instructor David Zanolla is on sabbatical to broaden his understanding of organizational communication. Zanolla teaches Communication 379, “Disney and Universal Communication Culture,” a course that begins with eight weeks of classroom study about the organizational and communication culture of the Disney parks and culminates in a trip to Walt Disney World so students can observe the Disney communication culture in action.


img_9449

Hong Kong Disneyland on Lantau Island

Hong Kong Disneyland was definitely the smallest of the theme parks I visited while in Asia, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t provide a wealth of material to help me better understand the organizational culture of the Disney Parks.

One tenet of the Disney Parks’ culture is the importance of creating special moments for guests. Specifically, they refer to these opportunities as “Magical Moments.” It doesn’t matter how many times I visit a Disney Park, these moments where special attention is paid to me as a guest are always noteworthy.

At this particular park, I was looking forward to visiting Mystic Manor, an attraction that’s at the top of many Disney fans’ bucket lists.  The attraction is very similar to the Haunted Mansion rides in the American parks, but is done using state of the art special effects, including having ride vehicles running without being secured to a track.  Both the outside and inside of this attraction are gorgeous.

img_9173

The exterior of Mystic Manor.

While waiting in line to board the ride, a cast member asked my travel partner, Doug, why I was taking so many pictures. He explained the reason for my travels and my anticipation for getting to experience this attraction. She asked our names and then put us into a ride vehicle.

To make a long story short, the ride did not disappoint. The story, music (by film composer Danny Elfman) and ride effects all worked together perfectly.  As we were exiting our ride vehicle, the cast member approached us and handed us a certificate to commemorate our visit and first ride on Mystic Manor. In addition, she asked if we wanted to immediately ride again. We accepted without hesitation and were placed back in a vehicle without having to leave the building and come back through the main entrance.

img_8363

This free certificate is now in my office..

However, our positive experience with Mystic Point (the land where the ride was located) didn’t end there.  Doug and I decided to grab lunch at the fast food neighboring restaurant called “The Explorer’s Club.”

 

We had a fabulous lunch and, once again, I took a large amount of pictures of the interior of the restaurant. An assistant manager img_9539by the name of Simon came over and asked why I was taking so many photos (by now I should have just handed them a card).

After he talked with us about our travels for a few minutes, he asked if we’d be in the park the next day. When we told him that yes, we would be back, he asked if we wanted to come back for lunch. Having loved our meal, we immediately said that we’d love to come back.

Simon then said, “It’s going to be very busy tomorrow, so come back at 12:30, and I’ll have a table reserved for you.”  img_9492

Again, I must stress that I realize this gesture was nothing fancy, but being foreigners studying the culture of the international Disney parks, it was a perfect offer.

The next day, we returned to the restaurant at 12:30 and Simon was waiting for us. He brought us to the front to order and then to our table. He chatted with us again for a few moments and thanked us numerous times for coming back to the restaurant. As we were getting up to leave after finishing our meals, he asked if we would wait a minute before leaving.  Soon after, he came out with another manager and presented us with a complimentary dessert.

img_9384

We then asked if we could take a picture with him and the cast member that decorated our plate, and they were happy to oblige.

Why do I tell this story? Nothing overly grand took place. The dessert was simple and the gesture was even more so.

That said, it made us feel comfortable and special in a park in a country that was obviously not home.

img_9382Are there any opportunities for your organization to enact the principle of creating special moments for your employees or customers?

Obviously, providing free dessert may not always be fitting in your organization, but how can it be done where you work?

It didn’t take Simon and his crew very much time or money to make us feel special, but the fact that I’m writing about it once I returned home means it had the desired impact.


My Disney & Universal Communication Culture course (COMM 379) will be offered during the Spring 2017 semester.  For more information, visit the course webpage.

COAP Employee Spotlight: Dana Vizdal, WIU Center for International Studies

Dana Vizdal (second from left) and international students at the 2016 International Bazaar at WIU

Dana Vizdal (second from left) and international students at the 2016 International Bazaar at WIU

Traveling to and staying in a foreign country can be one of the most exhilarating experiences you can have. It can also be one of the most daunting, particularly if you’re a young college student.

Luckily, at Western Illinois University, international students have a well-developed support system that is the team of committed individuals who work in WIU’s Center for International Studies (CIS).

And although it’s not quite yet time for International Education Week (that occurs in November, and is set from Nov. 14-18 this year), it’s never too early to recognize the work that international educators do. Over the years, I have had the pleasure of collaborating with a few of the staff members at the CIS. I quickly picked up on the fact that they take their jobs—working with the many international students who come to Western—very seriously.

One of those dedicated staff members is CIS Assistant Director Dana Vizdal, who once was an international student herself during a semester-long study abroad program in Europe. So with International Education Week just around the corner, and to recognize Western’s commitment to international studies for both American and international students, this month, for the the Council of Administrative Personnel (COAP) Spotlight, we’re featuring Dana.

Below, she talks a bit about her background and what she does here for the many individuals who travel tens of thousands of miles to come and study in Macomb at WIU.

Q. How did you end up working at Western?

Dana: I actually grew up in Macomb and earned both of my degrees from WIU. I was fortunate to study abroad in Spain for a semester, which really got me interested in international affairs. I have had the opportunity to work at WIU as a student worker, a graduate assistant, a civil service employee and now as an administrator in my current position.

Dana Vizdal and Western Illinois Univeristy international students visiting the Illinois State Capitol Building in Springfield.

Dana Vizdal and Western Illinois University and a group of international students visiting the Illinois State Capitol Building in Springfield.

Q. What does a typical day at work at Western look like for you?

Dana: There really isn’t a typical day for me. I work closely with my graduate assistants, collaborate with many offices across campus, and help students with any questions or issues. It’s important to me that the international students know there is someone advocating for them and someone they can always approach. My door is always open, and if it’s not, there is a note on my door saying when I’ll be back.

Q. What is your favorite on-the-job memory?

Dana: I love following our students on Facebook and witnessing them experience real American culture. Seeing their reactions to and pictures of their first autumn experiences or snowfall in the Midwest is priceless.

Q. What has been your most rewarding professional experience in your career at WIU so far?

Dana: One of the most rewarding experiences was learning that a student decided to attend WIU because I spoke with his sibling at a recruitment fair abroad!

Q. What are your favorite activities outside of your job?

Dana: When I’m not working, I love traveling, eating good food, and spending time with my boyfriend, family, and friends.

Q. What is your favorite quote or quotes?

Dana: I really like “It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences,” by Audre Lorde, as well as “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much,” by Helen Keller.

•••

Follow Western’s Center for International Studies on Facebook at www.facebook.com/WIUCenterforInternationalStudies/.

Who are your organization’s MVPs?

Who are your organization’s MVPs?

Editor’s Note: Western Illinois University Department of Communication Instructor David Zanolla is on sabbatical to broaden his understanding of organizational communication. Zanolla teaches Communication 379, “Disney and Universal Communication Culture,” a course that begins with eight weeks of classroom study about the organizational and communication culture of the Disney parks and culminates in a trip to Walt Disney World so students can observe the Disney communication culture in action.


img_0150

The Partners Statue and Cinderella Castle in Tokyo Disneyland

Upon returning to Illinois after visiting the Disney Parks in China, Hong Kong and Japan, one of the most common questions I’m asked is, “So, what did you learn?”

To be honest, this is a question that turns out to be difficult to answer because I experienced so much. I walked 168 miles while touring the four Asian Disney parks.  I communicated with people who had never been to the United States and only spoke simple English phrases.

When I visit the American Disney parks, I am the “local,” but this time, I was on their turf and I was the outsider. In spite of all that, I enjoyed myself immensely and gained valuable insight into how a tried-and-tested organizational model was implemented outside of the U.S.

The final parks I visited were in Tokyo, Japan (Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea). As a fan of Disney parks, it did not take long for me to rank these destinations at the top of my list. While the rides were spectacular and the entertainment was top-of-the-line, the thing that impressed me most was a group of employees who most would tend to overlook.

Who were they?  The custodial staff.

img_9714

Mount Prometheus: The park icon of Tokyo DisneySea

These parks were immaculately clean.

A friend I spoke with shortly after returning echoed this sentiment.

“I seriously would not have been afraid to eat off the ground,” he told me.

While that statement may have been a bit tongue in cheek, I agreed with his thinking. However, the ability to keep the parks physically clean was not the only reason the custodial staff is worth noting. Cleaning is, of course, part of all their jobs, but it’s what they did to go above and beyond their job expectations that made them the MVPs of these two parks.

It seemed as if you couldn’t walk more than 50 feet in these parks without seeing a custodial cast member. Their presence was noticeable in every area of the park, as were their interactions with guests.

img_0479

Look closely… Can you find three custodial cast members (in white) in this one picture?

img_1444

I saw custodial staff constantly stopping to take photos for guests. At one point, a custodial cast member had formed a line of people for whom he was taking photos. He didn’t seem to be frustrated that he got stuck taking photos; he seemed to enjoy the ability to interact with guests. In fact, I marveled at his ability to have fun with one couple while taking their photo.

In this instance, he set them up to snap their picture, and I watched him fiddling with one of their phones. As a spectator, I assumed he was having trouble finding the shutter button. Instead, I learned he had taken a picture of the guests first and then flipped the camera around to “selfie” mode.

Imagine the hilarity that ensued when he showed these guests the photo he had taken for them, only for it to be of his face instead. The look of shock on their faces was quickly followed by him showing them the “real” photo of them he captured.
img_1446I spent nearly 15 minutes watching this custodial worker make these guests smile through the simple task of taking a photo. I then got in line and, when it was my turn, I didn’t ask for a photo of me alone… I asked him to pose in a photo with me. He seemed surprised and honored.

More evidence to showcase the contribution of the custodial staff is found in the broom art created by this group of employees. In the pictures below, not only can you see the custodians creating these drawings using their brooms, but you can see the group of visitors putting rides on hold while they watched this art come to life.

img_0470

img_0471

To me, the custodial staff members were the unsung heroes of the Tokyo parks. You don’t think about them being important, but them fulfilling their roles in the organization is crucial toward their culture being a success.

This is true in all organizations.

Who are the MVPs of your organization? Who is often overlooked but without whom your culture would not be maintained effectively?


My Disney & Universal Communication Culture course (COMM 379) will be offered during the Spring 2017 semester. For more information, visit www.wiu.edu/comm/disney.

It’s All About the Students… COAP Employee Spotlight: Tracy Scott

Editor’s Note: After a bit of hiatus, the Council of Administrative Personnel Employee Spotlight is back. This month features Tracy Scott, who was named the COAP Employee of the Year (EOY) in 2016 and was recognized at last week’s (along with other award-winning employees) 23rd annual Founders’ Day celebration at Western Illinois University.

Right before the semester got underway this fall, Tracy Scott, the director of Western Illinois University’s Student Development Office (SDO), posted this to his Facebook profile:

Tracy Scott Facebook Post: "Seeing returning students who see each other for the first time since last semester never gets old! Love the hugs and the squeals!"While he’s been at WIU for nearly 30 years, it’s clear he still loves what he does at Western—most of which involves working with students. In his answers below, he explains his history with one of his alma maters and demonstrates why he was nominated for and ultimately chosen as COAP EOY.

Tracy Scott: WIU COAP Employee of the Year

Tracy Scott (center), director of the Western Illinois University Student Development Office, was named the WIU 2016 Employee of the Year by the Council of Administrative Personnel (COAP). He is pictured here with his two nominators, Vian Neally, assistant director of marketing at Campus Recreation, and Associate Vice President for Student Services John “JB” Biernbaum.

Q: Tell me a bit about your background: When did you start at WIU? What kinds of roles have you served in since you’ve been employed at Western?

Tracy: I first came to WIU in the fall of 1988 as a graduate student in the public communication program. I had an assistantship and primarily assisted with the Communication “Public Speaking” 241 course. For my thesis project, I worked on developing a brochure on cultural diversity to enhance the undergraduate admissions marketing plan. I also took graduate electives in WIU’s college student personnel program.

One of my favorite memories during this time was having then WIU President Ralph Wagoner co- teaching one of my courses. After receiving my master’s degree from WIU, I was hired by the Admissions Office as an admissions counselor.

Later, I was promoted to the assistant director of Admissions, where I was responsible for the reception center. After that, I was selected as the assistant director for the Student Development and Orientation Office (SDO) and then became the director of SDO in 2001. I also supervise the LGBT*QA Resource Center and serve as the Emergency Consultation team chair and co-chair of the Threat Assessment Team.

Q: On any given day, what kinds of tasks/duties do you undertake at WIU?

Tracy: One of the things I love most about my job is that every day is different. My day typically consists of assisting students in some form of crisis and helping them through that crisis. I also love the daily interaction of working with graduate students who are preparing for a career in higher education.

Q: What are some of the best parts of your job? What are some of the most challenging parts of your job?

Tracy: The best parts of my job is advocating for students and empowering students to take control of their challenges and watching them grow. Some of the most challenging parts of the job include working with situations of suicide, sexual assault, and other psychological situations that arise. It is also very challenging to work with students who have limited support.

Who We Are, What We Do: Piletic & Janisz

Tracy Scott came up with the idea of the “Who We Are, What We Do” series of posts about Western Illinois University employees. This installment featured Cindy Piletic and Michelle Janisz.

Q: Tell me about the “Who We Are, What We Do” campaign. How did this idea come about for you? Why do you think it’s important?

Tracy: I had the privilege of serving on the President’s Staff Roundtable this past year, and during one of our meetings we were discussing ways to counter all the negativity surrounding the state budget crisis. My idea was to highlight many of the positive things/people that we have in this community. I thought about how successful the ALS Facebook challenge was and thought could we do something similar where those with connections to WIU could share their stories and create interest while promoting positive stories during such a difficult time. I think it’s important because we have many, many success stories, and even in difficult times we have good things to be thankful for.

Leathernecks lapel pin

How do I stay on track to get good grades? What are my responsibilities as a student? How can I get involved on campus? These are common questions often asked by new college students, and a Western Illinois University committee, comprised of student services staff, came up with a “one stop shop,” so to speak, that provides direction and guidance to incoming students. The new site, wiu.edu/welcome, answers these questions and much more, and all new students were given a Leathernecks lapel pin, complete with the website on the pin’s card.

Q: Recently, you were part of the team who implemented a “Leatherneck Pin” and website resource project designed to support new students at Western: Tell me about how this project came about and why you think it’s important to provide resources like this for new students.

Tracy: Over the past several years, there have been several of us in student services who have come together in a collaborative effort to get important information to our students. We moved to creating one publication, the Student Planner/Handbook; however, due to the budget situation this year, we wanted to save money but still find a way to get the information out to new students. As a result of this, an online “Welcome” page was developed. As we were having discussions on how to inform students about this page, the idea of a Leatherneck Pin was mentioned. It is a way to have new students take pride in being a Leatherneck and share the message of what it means to be a Leatherneck, as well as provides a way to drive students to the Welcome page.

These things are important because we want our students to be proud to be here and to be a member of this community and we want them to have the information they need to be successful.

Q: What do you enjoy while you’re away from work?

Tracy: There are many things I like to do in my time away from work. I enjoy getting together with friends/family, having dinner, a game night or listening to live music. I also enjoy golfing with my dad and my favorite thing to do is spend time with my son, Tanner.

Q: Do you have any go-to advice for those who work with college students?

Tracy: Embrace each moment. We are very fortunate that we get to work with college students each and every day. We have the opportunity to have a positive impact on their development and in return they have a positive impact in our development, as well.

WIU Athletic Training Alumna at “Heart of Action” at Rio ’16 Paralympics

WIU alumna Mary Vacala and the U.S. Men's Paralympic basketball team.

WIU alumna Mary Vacala (on the left, short hair) and the U.S. Men’s Paralympic basketball team.

A Western Illinois University alumna was “at the heart of the action” at the Rio 2016 Paralympics, which wrapped up last weekend in Brazil.

Mary Vacala—who earned her undergraduate and graduate degrees in exercise physiology and athletic training  in 1979 and 1980 from WIU— serves as the head athletic trainer for the men’s Paralympic basketball team.

A recent article on the ADVANCE Healthcare Network’s website, “Going for the Gold: A PA’s Journey to the Paralympics,” highlights Vacala’s contributions to the team and tells her story about working with Olympic and Paralympic athletes since 1993.

“These athletes have changed me forever and made me a better clinician,” she said in the ADVANCE article by Autumn Heisler. “[They] have taught me the real definition of hard work, athleticism, perseverance and teamwork. I will be forever grateful for the experience and friendship.”

Mary Vacala, PA-C, ATC, MSPAS, Chatham Orthopaedic Associates

Mary Vacala, PA-C, ATC, MSPAS, Chatham Orthopaedic Associates

According to the Paralympics Team USA’s website, “The men’s win in basketball marked the first time since 1988 – or 28 years – that the U.S. men’s wheelchair basketball team won a gold medal.”

When she’s not working with the Paralympic athletes, Vacala works as a certified physician’s assistant at Chatham Orthopaedic Associates, which is based in Georgia.

“Mary is a published author, international speaker, and holds numerous awards in sports medicine and Physician assistant studies. In 2008 she was awarded The Distinguished Fellow Award of the American Academy of Physician Assistants,” notes the Chatham Orthopaedic Associates’ website.

 

Learning from the Past

imageAs I enter this, my 12th year as a faculty member in the Western Illinois University Department of Communication, I am taking a sabbatical (technically called administrative leave) to broaden my understanding of organizational communication.  In addition to teaching a course in Organizational Communication, I also teach a special topics class about the communication culture of the Walt Disney theme parks.  This class, Communication 379, was born here at Western.  The class is only offered at this institution and offers students the opportunity to not only learn about the organizational communication of the Disney parks, but also allows them to immerse themselves in the world of those parks through a week-long visit at the end of the course.

My three-week journey to six Disney theme parks in four countries (the United States, China, Hong Kong and Japan), begins at Disneyland in Anaheim, California. Disneyland opened over 60 years ago in July of 1955 and was Walt Disney’s first theme park. As a result, the park is nearing the end of its ‘diamond’ celebration event. There are images of diamonds everywhere and homages to the history of this ground-breaking park at every turn. Even after 60+ years, this park and its employees (Disney calls them cast members) don’t want you to forget where it all started.

image

I think that’s an important lesson for us to remember whether we work in academia or elsewhere. The history of your organization is important, not only to see the successes, but also to learn from the mistakes. Since none of us have a DeLorean that can travel back in time (as far as I know), our way to learn from those that came before us is by learning the history of our organizations. It may not involve a massive year-long celebration complete with nightly fireworks like Disneyland, but the past is important, nonetheless. I believe each organization has its own unique way of life (often referred to as its culture) and, like a family, there are stories to be told about that life and its growth. As I learn about the culture of the Disney Parks, I hope you’ll find some time to learn about the history of your organization as well.

image

Success by Design: Internship Adds to Graphic Communication Repertoire for New WIU Alumna

Mariah Bartz, a brand new alumna of Western Illinois University, with the Pokémon Go map she designed for WIU's Macomb campus.

Mariah Bartz, a brand new alumna of Western Illinois University, with the Pokémon Go map she designed for WIU’s Macomb campus.

What experiences in an internship can help make it “awesome” for a college student?

Just ask Macomb native and brand new Western Illinois University alumna Mariah Bartz. This summer, those of us who work in University Relations had the great pleasure of working with Mariah—she has been in our office every morning since May 24 working to complete a design internship, the final requirement for her bachelor’s degree in graphic communication.

“Working with University Relations allowed me to utilize my skills in a real-world setting. I had to apply many things I had learned in my courses, and this served as both continued practice and as a reminder for the tips and tricks I needed to make something look the way I imagined it to be,” Mariah noted. “During this internship, I designed posters, postcards, birthday cards, advertisements, booklet pages, maps, and a social media directory webpage and a blog directory webpage for Western’s website. I was fortunate to be given such a wide variety of projects during my time there, and it was particularly awesome to get to work both with page layout and web design.”

Throughout much of her time at Western, Mariah has truly embraced the University’s core values of educational opportunity and personal growth and has the projects/creations now under her belt to prove it. Not only has she created a number of real-world projects this summer we’re using in University Relations—e.g., the Pokémon Go map for campus and she completed a much-needed update to our social media directory—but she also has been doing so since at least 2015 as a Western student.

Mariah with the Rocky statue she was selected to paint the 2015 edition of the Rocky on Parade campaign.

Mariah with the Rocky statue she was selected to paint the 2015 edition of the Rocky on Parade campaign.

In the fall last year, Mariah was selected to design the 2015 holiday card, which features an original watercolor lithograph of Sherman Hall. The card was sent to more than 750 friends of the WIU Foundation. Also in 2015, Mariah was chosen to design and paint the Foundation’s Rocky statue as a part of the 2015 Rocky on Parade campaign. Bartz’s “Molecule Dog,” featuring the chemical symbols for love and happiness, is now situated by the flagpole north of the University Union.

Mariah, who has also had her artwork featured at the Juried Student Exhibition at WIU, the Evanston Art Center (Evanston, IL), and the Figge Art Museum (Davenport, IA), shared a bit more about her background and her experiences at Western below…

Q. Where did you grow up? What are your interests outside of work/school?

Mariah: I grew up here in Macomb, so WIU has been a part of my life for a long time. Outside of work or school, my interests include doing small art projects, playing video games, and watching movies. I am very much a homebody.

Q. What have been some of your most memorable experiences as a student at WIU?

Rocky on Parade statue painted by WIU alumna Mariah Bartz (pictured here with Mariah's aunt, grandmother, and mother) on the north side of the Western Illinois University Union.

The 2015 Rocky on Parade statue painted by WIU alumna Mariah Bartz (pictured here with Mariah’s aunt, grandmother, and mother). The statue is located on the north side of the Western Illinois University Union.

Mariah: The most memorable experience was getting drafted by the WIU Foundation to paint their Rocky sculpture for Rocky on Parade in 2015. It was fun for me to paint it, and now that my “molecule dog” is under the flag post by the Union, it’s fun to see people interact with the dog and take photos of it.

Q. What are your career plans?

Mariah: For the future, I plan to move into a city to get a broader use for my degree, with either printed media or web design. I may also consider continuing my education—if I later feel that it would be a good direction for me to go.

Q. How do you think your studies have prepared you for your career?

Mariah: I feel like many of the courses I took benefitted me greatly, and I had some excellent instruction from a few teachers along the way. There are some good habits I have formed through my advanced design classes that have made me prepared to handle a variety of professional circumstances.

Q. What advice do you have for current and future WIU students?

Mariah: Between my sophomore and junior year, I ended up taking some time off from school. For me, this was a benefit, because I needed to sort of recharge my batteries. When I returned to WIU, I was more motivated and dedicated, and it absolutely paid off then.

If you are a student who feels stressed or pressured, please understand that everyone’s life is different, and that if you want to progress somewhere, you can do so when the time is right for you.

•••••••••

Although we’re proud that Mariah seemed to enjoy and benefit immensely her time with us here in University Relations this summer, we’re even more proud that she chose Western and she will go forth and represent her alma mater well… yet another WIU Success Story!