Disney Veterans Institute Event

Disney's Veteran's Institute

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the Disney Veteran’s Institute Event at Walt Disney World.

What is the Veteran’s Institute, you ask?

Let me tell you, because I am so excited about it!

About a year and a half ago Disney began a special program to hire veterans called Heroes Work Here, which they kicked off at career expos for vets at several locations nationwide. Disney committed at that time to hiring at least 1000 returning U.S. veterans over the next three years. By the one year mark they had hired more than 1300!

Inspired by their great success they decided to do even more to help those returning to civilian life. Disney decided to both inspire and share all they’d learned about hiring vets with other companies in a one-day seminar called the Veteran’s Institute. Due to my long association with Disney Military Programs I was invited to attend.

First announced on 10 September as a one-day workshop designed to help small- and mid-sized companies build effective veteran-hiring programs of their own. Interest was so great that many large companies attended as well to learn from and be inspired by Disney. Attendees included: Apple, Google, Pepsico, Quicken Loans, AT&T, Circle K, L 3 Communications, Glaxo Smith Kline, many major universities, the U. S. Chamber of Commence as well as many local Chambers, and many medium and small companies. Over 500 participants were on hand.

A Morning of Speeches and Panels

The Event kicked off with an address from Meg Crofton, President of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Operations US and France. Meg talked about the Disney Company’s long association with the military stretching back to Walt and Roy’s World War 2 service.

Disney's Veteran's Institute Attendees

Disney’s Veteran’s Institute Attendees

Next came an Expert Resources Panel featuring, Colonel Rich Morales (USA) Executive Director Joining Forces, Dr. Susan Kelly Department of Defense Transition to Veterans Program Office, Theresa Gerton Department of Labor Veterans Employment and Training Service, Rosye Cloud Department of Veteran Affairs Office of Economic Opportunity, and Eric Eversol Vice President U. S. Chamber of Commerce Hiring our Heroes. The panel discussed  many programs designed to help veterans with training, employment, and business opportunities.

Disney's Veteran's Institute VIP Panel

Disney’s Veteran’s Institute VIP Panel

Some of the resources discussed were:

Next a panel of Disney cast members who were all veterans discussed their service and how it applied to and helped them with their Disney careers. The veterans represented all services and ranged from 3-year enlistees to a 30 year retired O-6. Some keywords and topics were: Professionalism, Leadership, Adaptability, Integrity, the challenges of Business attire, the misconception of what  female military member’s look like, Rank versus Responsibility, and the misconception of Military skills.

Disney's Veteran's Institute - Cast Member Panel

Cast Member Panel

After a break Bob Iger Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Walt Disney Company spoke. Bob discussed how well traits military members possess, such as adaptability, flexibility, and honor work so well in the civilian workplace. He also stressed Disney’s comitment to help returning veterans not only with the Heroes Work Here program, but also with its public awareness campaign to encourage employers across the U.S. to hire former military service members and also through the company’s support of  non-profits that support the military.

Disney's Veteran's Institute - Bob Iger

Disney’s CEO Bob Iger

Disney Supports:

“Veterans deserve everything this country has to offer and deserve our help to get it.”

-Bob Iger, Chairman and CEO, The Walt Disney Company

Disney’s CEO then introduced the day’s special guest speaker, First Lady Michelle Obama, who shared the story of Glenn, a Disney Cast member and veteran, showcasing how military skills are very transferable to private sector work:

“Glenn was a manpower expert…and for every mission he was assigned, he was responsible for figuring out the exact numbers and types of troops needed for the mission to succeed – from the pilots, to the engineers, to the medical personnel. Then he’d locate those troops and help get them where they needed to go. So when Disney was looking for someone to manage the menus in Disney properties around the world…and then figure out the exact quantities and types of ingredients needed for every recipe at every meal…and then get that information where it needs to go…they knew that Glenn was their guy.”

Disney's Veteran's Institute - First Lady

 After Lunch – Training

After lunch the participants broke up into several groups, each led by the Disney Institute staff. The Disney Institute is the professional development arm of The Walt Disney Company. The Disney Institute shares the company’s time-tested best practices in leadership, management, creativity/innovation, brand loyalty and customer service with professionals from around the world.

Today they shared all of Disney’s knowledge and experiences in recruiting, hiring, and acclimating veterans into their company. Topics included:

  • How to develop a veteran’s initiative
  • The company culture
  • Establishing values and vision
  • The importance of a company’s culture in hiring
  • The veteran interview
  • Translating military experience to business needs
  • Training
  • Communication
Disney's Veteran's Institute - Employer Training

Disney’s Veteran’s Institute – Training

Participants were given a bound handout book containing the training material with extra tips, and a toolkit with resources to use later.

The Wrap Up

Disney's Veteran's Institute - Bob Woodruff

Boob Woodruff Speaks to Disney’s Veteran’s Institute

ABC News’ Bob Woodruff closed the event with an emotional story of being struck by an IED while overseas covering the War on Terror, his recovery, and the foundation he’s since established to support injured veterans.

Afterwards participants attended a social where they met representatives from many organizations dedicated to helping veterans with the job search and in other ways. The organizations set up booths to share their mission and distribute their material.

Among the Organizations were:

Disney's Veteran's Institute - Mixer

A Fabulous Event

It was a fabulous day! I was truly inspired by the outpouring of support for returning veterans by the attendees and of course Disney too. The volume of those leaving or retiring from the service continues to grow and won’t peak for many years. It is comforting to know that American businesses have our backs!

Are you looking for your post military career? Leave a comment on how your search is going!


  1. Amy says

    Great article!! Although I still have 4 years until retirement I am already researching jobs and looking for things I’d like to do when I grow up, lol…My plan has always been to work for Disney after retirement; even before I joined the Navy!! It’s great to know that Disney is on board with taking care of Veterans! Makes me feel that much better about working for a company like that after retirement!

    • Steve says

      I’m so excited about how supportive they are!

      The culture is a bit of a shift, different yet alike in many ways. But they are just as dedicated and committed. Start talking to their recruiters in “Casting” well in advance Amy.

  2. says

    Just shared this blog entry with our LinkedIn group Project Transition USA. Teaching LinkedIn workshop for transitioning veterans today at MacDill Air Force Base, and I wanted to provide some links to resources like resumeengine.org that are included in the post. Great job with this!

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