Ad Campaign Development Class Takes Learning Beyond Campus Borders to Disney World

Sarah Colomello, Senior Director of Internal Communications
The Ad Campaign Development class at Magic Kingdom over winter break. Photo courtesy of Mindy Stockfield, Visiting Professional Lecturer, School of Communications.

February 6, 2024 — With backdrops of Cinderella’s castle and Star Wars’ Millennium Falcon, students taking Ad Campaign Development this semester couldn’t have asked for a better classroom. 

The course didn’t begin behind desks but with an excursion to Walt Disney World in Florida over winter break, where they were immersed in one of the most iconic brands in the world. Their task? Study Disney’s audience, brand, and core values, then pitch their own Disney advertising campaign. 

For the Spring, a special section of Ad Campaign Development became an attachment course — a type of Study Abroad program where Marist students learn in the classroom and go to a destination that enhances classroom instruction through hands-on learning. In this case, the visit to Disney came first.

Equity in the Marist Experience
Funding made the travel program possible for four out of the 13 COM 423 students. They had their Disney expenses paid through the Presidential Equity Fund in the Marist Experience, established by Kevin and Beth Weinman to help students where financial constraints are a barrier to their participation to study abroad and or take internships. This is a distinctive Marist opportunity. 

Image of Lily Petruzzo ’25 posing with Minnie Mouse.
Lily Petruzzo '25 poses with Minnie Mouse during her attachment course to Walt Disney World. Photo courtesy of Petruzzo.

“When I got the email that I was accepted, I started crying,” said Lily Petruzzo '25, a communications major and global studies minor from Westchester, N.Y. “I couldn’t have gone without the scholarship.”

Former Disney VP turns Marist lecturer
Who better to lead Marist’s first attachment course to Disney than Marist’s Professional Lecturer Mindy Stockfield. She has worked in Vice President roles for The Walt Disney Company as well as in senior roles for Scholastic, MTV, and Cartoon Network.

“I wanted to simulate assignments they might get while working for Disney, so that they could really understand the brand as if they were on the job,” said the strategic marketing executive, whose niche has been media and entertainment, and who won an Emmy for her work.

Image of Lily Petruzzo '25 working with her Ad Campaign Development classmates.
Lily Petruzzo '25 (top right) teams up with her Ad Campaign Development classmates to design their own theme park. Photo courtesy of Caitlin Paul, Marist Abroad.

“Disney – it’s unique,” said Study Abroad International Program Coordinator Caitlin Paul, who chaperoned. “We typically deal with international destinations. Hawaii and Alaska are two examples of domestic programs, but Disney is a destination of its own.”

First-of-its-kind experience
While Marist students intern at Disney, the Marist Band performed in Downtown Disney, and our athletic teams have competed at the ESPN Wide World of Sports, the Ad Campaign Development class is the first attachment course to head to the mega theme park in recent history, Caitlin said.

It wasn’t Lily’s first time to Disney; it was probably her 15th time, she said, noting she’s lost track. The experience, however, was one-of-a-kind.

Image of students in groups outside of the Disney Imagination Campus.
The Ad Campaign Development work in groups outside of the Disney Imagination Campus. Photo courtesy of Mindy Stockfield, Visiting Professional Lecturer, School of Communications.

Lily’s class studied at the Disney Imagination Campus, where workshops taught by cast members centered around using imagination to solve challenges in widely creative ways.

They designed a theme park and built it out of blocks. They tapped into their leadership styles while designing a pretend Epcot Center eatery. 

“They are college students who have talked a lot about teamwork and leadership, but these workshops paint a picture for them in creative ways that resonated,” Caitlin said.

Image of the attachment class doing team-building exercises in Disney World.

The attachment class does team-building exercises in Disney World taught by Disney Imagination Campus staff. Photo courtesy of Caitlin Paul, Marist Abroad.

Pushing embarrassment aside, they had to mimic animals in sync with each other, which required high-performing teamwork. 

“This was very relevant because when you develop a campaign, you work as a team,” Mindy said. 

Tight bonds formed
Not only relevant, but the travel component brought the class together, which Lily said is not the normal classroom experience.   

“You don’t get to interact with your classmates and professor like we did. We all got so close and I’m really excited to go back to the classroom setting and spend time together,” she said.

Image of the class standing in front of the Millennium Falcon from Star Wars.

The class stands in front of the Millennium Falcon from Star Wars. Photo courtesy of Caitlin Paul, Marist Abroad.

Then there was the wow factor.

“Here we are taking class in front of the Millennium Falcon and you just say, ‘Oh wow!’” Mindy said.

Each day spent in a park, the students were also given field work related to research and content to help them develop their ad campaigns. From creating TikToks to sampling Dole Whip treats, this foundational learning and materials were instrumental to Mindy’s weekly lesson plans, she explained.

Lily marveled at how Disney goes above and beyond to make each person feel special. 

“You may lose interest in the Disney princesses as you grow up, but the Disney magic goes beyond that,” she said. 

Disney even makes learning about advertising magical.

Browse the Presidential Equity Fund Impact Report.


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