STEPHENVILLE (March 16, 2015) — Spring break for a group of Tarleton State University students and faculty combined learning with lots of fun at Walt Disney World as part of the Department of Social Sciences’ first Applied Learning Experience (ALE) course offered in the history section.
Eight students and two assistant professors, Dr. Michael Landis and Holly Karibo, spent four days in the world-famous theme park near Orlando, Fla., as part of Tarleton’s history course (HIST 4385) “Disney’s America.” The spring break study-away course was scheduled as part of the students’ semester project, in which they analyze some aspect of Disney’s business, brand or culture and conduct field observations in the parks.
According to Landis, Disney films and products present a version of American history, culture and consumerism. “The course examines the history of the company and its products and how they have shaped American society,” he said. “Significant attention is paid to race, gender and branding. As one of the world’s most powerful corporations—and certainly its most recognizable—Disney’s influence over consumers, particularly children, is undeniable. In order for us to understand our place in a hyper-capitalist American society, we must carefully scrutinize all forms of media and the messages they deliver.”
While on the trip, students observed Disney World’s four parks, including Magic Kingdom Park, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studio and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park, and the downtown Disney shopping area and Disney resorts. The evidence from their findings will be collected into a major semester project that will manifest in both a written essay and an online portfolio.