Disney Expands Relationship with the American Indian College Fund through Enhanced Scholarship Program

In January 2024, The Walt Disney Company hosted students and staff from the American Indian College Fund (the College Fund) for an immersive site visit to Walt Disney World® Resort. This visit builds on Disney’s history of supporting aspiring storytellers and innovators in collaboration with the College Fund and is part of the Disney Future Storytellers initiative.

Disney works with the College Fund to make a meaningful impact on American Indian and Alaska Native students pursuing higher education through The Walt Disney Company American Indian College Fund Scholarship Program. Launched in 2015, the program provides Native American and Alaska Native students who have financial need with multi-year support to attend tribal colleges and universities nationwide. Tribal colleges and universities (TCUs) offer higher education opportunities, usually on or near Native American reservation lands. These institutions not only predominantly serve Native American and Alaska Native students, but they also seek to preserve Native cultures. In addition to providing scholarship support, Disney aims to provide College Fund scholars with unique Disney experiences and access to career development opportunities. Disney funds 13 scholarships annually.

The January 2024 site visit to Walt Disney World is the second visit for the College Fund and the first as part of the newly launched Enhanced Scholarship Program, which builds upon the successful relationship that The Walt Disney Company has built with the American Indian College Fund. As part of the Enhanced Scholarship Program, four College Fund scholars have the opportunity to return to Walt Disney World this summer to take part in the Disney College Program and will also have the opportunity to join a post-graduation program in 2025.

We are excited to introduce the Walt Disney Company American Indian College Fund Scholars selected to be part of the first-ever Enhanced Scholarship Program! The scholars are:

  • Aiyanna Tanyan – a Junior studying Environmental Science and Natural Resources at Haskell Indian Nations University from the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma
  • Audrey Hall– a Junior studying Environmental Science and Research at United Tribes Technical College from the Three Affiliated Tribes of the Fort Berthold Reservation (Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara Nation)
  • Justice Black-Williams– a Junior studying Environmental Science and Research at Northwest Indian College from the Lummi Nation
  • Lawrence Village Center III – a Senior studying Environmental Science at Sitting Bull College from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe of North & South Dakota

The visit to Walt Disney World provided the Enhanced Scholarship Program scholars an opportunity to learn about businesses relevant to their majors. Additionally, Disney was able to hear from the scholars about their unique experiences and learn how Disney could continue to support Native voices and communities.

Day One

The site visit kicked off with a tour of Flamingo Crossings Village to preview the living accommodations that the scholars would be able to call their home this summer if they chose to return for the Disney College Program experience.

During their visit, scholars received an overview of what to expect during the Disney College Program and even got to hear from former Disney College Program interns during an interactive panel discussion!

After lunch, the scholars were treated to a special “Behind the Seeds” tour of The Land Pavilion in EPCOT where they toured the greenhouses within the Living with the Land attraction. With each of the scholars pursuing degrees in environmental science, this experience showcased how their field is an active part of creating the magic at EPCOT and how Disney works with respected industry leaders to develop new techniques in horticulture.

The tour continued over at the American Adventure Pavilion where the scholars received an overview of the American Heritage Gallery’s exhibit, “Creating Tradition: Innovation and Change in American Indian Art.” The exhibit features Native communities from seven geographic regions across the United States and was developed in collaboration with the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture and the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian.

No day at Walt Disney World is complete without fireworks, so the scholars were treated to a reserved viewing of EPCOT’s new nighttime spectacular, “Luminous The Symphony of Us.”

Day Two

Day Two began with a visit to Disney’s Animal Kingdom with an overview of Disney’s Animals, Science and Environment team and the vast scope of their work. Vice President, Operations Management at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Maryann Smith, greeted the scholars and made sure they felt a warm welcome from the company.

The next stop was Disney University where the scholars received a tour, a 1:1 resume writing workshop, and a mock interview session. They also got to meet with members of Disney’s NAATV BERG, a Business Employee Resource Group that fosters community and belonging among Native American/ Indigenous employees and allies. This opportunity provided the scholars with a taste of what the workplace culture at Disney is like.

Over the two-day site visit, the College Fund scholars received a robust introduction to The Walt Disney Company and specifically, Walt Disney World. These scholars have the opportunity to come back in a few months as part of the Disney College Program to make some magic of their own.