From WKU to Disney World: the profession of a communicator

Carly Mathews

Former Vice President of Global Relations of Disney and WKU alumnus Craig Dezern students on Tuesday night about his career in communications.

“Always carry your red towel with you,” Dezern said to a standing-room only crowd.

Dezern said this meant having his towel with him when opening the Shanghai Disneyland, much to the humor of those surrounding him. For the most part, however, this also meant having the skills and education that he acquired at WKU with him throughout his professional career, whether as a reporter or a public relations executive.

“I had decided what I wanted to do by the sixth grade,” Dezern said. “I wanted to be a reporter.”

As a double major in English and journalism during his time at WKU, Dezern honed his skills as a reporter and in the journalism field by participating in four different internships, at four newspapers, and eventually becoming the Editor-in-Chief of the College Heights Herald. His vast experience led him to The Orlando Sentinel, starting out as a night cop reporter and eventually going on to win awards and recognition in feature writing, environmental reporting and public service.

Dezern went on to cover the “Disney World beat,” and despite doing some “tough reporting” on the company, was later offered a job in public relations with Disney. During his time at Disney, Dezern had a variety of roles, his final being the Vice President of Global Public Relations, where he led the public relations events surrounding the grand opening for Shanghai Disneyland.

“I never took a PR class, never took a marketing or a business class either,” Dezern said. “A commitment to lifelong learning is necessary in communications, and I found that out pretty quickly through working at Disney.”

Lifelong learning was just one of the commitments that Dezern touched on during his presentation, others being commitments to writing, technical expertise and storytelling. He also encouraged students to get experience, whether through an internship, the College Heights Herald and the Talisman or through any other opportunities available on WKU’s campus.

“Write in a way that will challenge you and in a way that will be meaningful,” Dezern said, in reference to commitment to writing. “Strong storytelling and putting together a story that will be meaningful is a skill that can translate across any form.”

Morgan Duling, a communication studies major from Louisville, said she appreciated Derzen’s career advice and life advice, and thought that he was the “perfect speaker to come to WKU.”

“As someone that’s about to enter the ‘real world,’ it was encouraging to hear him talk about how he happened upon an unexpected and fulfilling career,” she said.

Dezern will be starting a new job this Monday in Washington D.C., and despite being the least “pixie-dusted employee” at Disney, he said “the magic of working with Disney” will be something that he will definitely miss, along with his favorite ride, the Haunted Mansion.

“Disney is a great place to work and I got great experiences, from red carpets to riding Star Tours with George Lucas, and I never took it for granted,” Dezern said. “I’m ready to move forward, though, and ready to get back to seasons.”

Reporter Carly Mathews can be reached at 270-745-6011 or [email protected].