As a kid, Sam Polczynski had what he described as “a crazy dream to go work for the Mouse.”
Mickey Mouse, that is.
As a sophomore at Illinois State University, the dream became a reality when he participated in the Disney College Program, which provides students with paid internships at Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort.
“While I was there, I got to work in some of the stores on property and meet a lot of amazing people,” said the native of DuBois. “I also took this time as an opportunity to meet with employees in the marketing department. After leaving the company to finish school, I stayed in contact with them and even went to visit them before my last semester.”
His networking efforts paid off, and after graduating from Illinois State in fall 2018 with a degree in integrated marketing communications and advanced marketing analytics, Polczynski moved to Florida to work in marketing strategy for Walt Disney World Parks and Resorts.
The Redbird alum’s skills and work ethic were recognized, and he recently was offered a new position within The Walt Disney Co. Within the last few weeks, he moved to California to serve as a strategic security communication specialist for the global security department.
“In this role, I work with a variety of security partners to provide information to cast members and employees all over the world. This information can range on guidelines for protecting confidential information to physical security when journalists for ABC travel to another country,” he said.
Polczynski especially likes the variety the position provides: “No two days are the same. I also have the opportunity to work with partners in every inch of the company—from Parks and Resorts to Marvel to the newly acquired 21st Century Fox.
“I never know what the day holds in store for me when I walk in the door. It makes working here an awesome adventure. Despite not working in the Parks business anymore, I definitely still feel the magic of Disney. Working on the Studio Lot is a phenomenal experience! I walk past Walt Disney’s office regularly, and seeing actors and actresses is a common occurrence. Plus, I am only 45 minutes from Disneyland, so whenever I want an extra dose of the magic, I can drive on down!”
The Illinois State graduate said his time at the University helped to prepare him for his post-college career.
“Not only are there plenty of friendly faces in the student population, but the faculty and staff are phenomenal,” he said. “I had amazing professors that were always available inside and outside of class to support my education. They truly care about you and want you to succeed—so much so, that I still stay in contact with many of them still!”
When asked what advice he has for current students, Polczynski spoke about the importance of building relationships with faculty members.
“Go to their office hours and introduce yourself,” he recommended. “Cultivating this connection is great and once professors know you, they can better help you learn the materials. Also, sometimes professors can connect you with alumni at companies you might be interested in.”
He also emphasized the importance of getting involved on campus.
“This is the time to try new things, fail and then try again,” he said. “Join different organizations. Meet people with different viewpoints than your own. Don’t be afraid to mess up, because that is really when we learn the most. Getting involved truly adds more to your life and gives you opportunities that you didn’t know you’d be interested in.”
For his part, Polczynski followed his own advice and stayed active on campus during his “three-and-a-half jam-packed years” at Illinois State. He served in the professional business fraternity Delta Sigma Pi, volunteered with other Honors Program members during Alternative Spring Break, participated in Business Week programs, and worked for The Vidette.
As he settles into his new role with Disney in California, Polczynski feels grateful for the support his family, friends, professors, and mentors have given him as he pursues his dreams.
“Because they supported me, challenged me and, above all, believed in me, I was able to push myself and accomplish this goal. Like Walt said, ‘All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.'”