WKU graduate Craig Dezern returns to his alma mater this evening (Sept. 5) for a lecture sponsored by the Department of Communication. In From WKU to Disney’s World: The Profession of a Communicator, Dezern said he plans “to share highlights of my years in the industry and what I have learned about the commitments demanded by a career in communications.”
His presentation will begin at 5 p.m. in Gary Ransdell Hall Auditorium.
Dezern earned a bachelor’s degree with a double major in journalism and English and served as editor of the College Heights Herald in the fall of 1984 and spring of 1985. He won the William Randolph Hearst National Writing Championship in 1985, the only WKU finalist to win the national writing championship.
He offered the following comments on the impact WKU has had on him and his career:
“As a student in the WKU journalism program, I had internships every summer, including The Grayson County News-Gazette, The Courier-Journal, St. Petersburg Times and Dallas Morning News. I give a lot of credit to the WKU journalism program and Student Publications. The instructors were extraordinarily talented and demanded a lot of students. They instilled a belief in the power of storytelling and the fundamental need for accuracy and balance.
“After graduation, I took my first job as night cops reporter for the Orlando Sentinel. During my nine years at the newspaper, I was the state rover (looking for enterprise stories across Florida), political reporter, investigative reporter, Disney beat reporter and finally editor of the Sunday commentary section. I also earned a Master of Studies in Law from a journalism fellowship at Yale Law School.
“I moved to Walt Disney World PR in 1996 -- an unexpected move, as I had never considered a career in PR. But the role was fascinating, and I moved up through the ranks at Disney over time. In 2001, I was named Director of PR for Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. Four years later, I was promoted to a newly created position of Vice President Global Public Relations, overseeing all of Disney Parks domestic destinations (including Disney Cruise Line and Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa in Hawaii) and engaging teams in London, Paris, Hong Kong and eventually Shanghai. During my final two years at Disney, I added promotions and broadcast marketing to my responsibilities.
“Twenty years at Disney represents an awful lot of magic. Looking back, I'd have to say my favorite moments included the 25th anniversary of Walt Disney World (my first big event) and the grand opening of Shanghai Disney Resort, the first Disney theme park on mainland China. These two events bookended my career at Disney.
“I left Disney recently and am moving to the Washington, D.C., area to begin a new role (as yet unannounced) soon.
“It would be hard to overstate the importance of WKU in my success. This school both nurtures and challenges its students. As a first-generation college student, this combination was just what I needed. Over the years, I developed personal relationships with professors that continue today.
“I recently joined the WKU Department of Communications Advisory Council, and I'm looking forward to engaging more with WKU in the future.
“My daughter, Georgia, recently came to the Hill as a freshman, and I'm hoping she'll have the same incredible experience that I enjoyed -- a chance to grow personally, academically and professionally.”