Southwestern prides itself on producing well-rounded individuals who are prepared to tackle the various challenges of life outside of the University. Jaime Hotaling ’23 exemplifies this as she navigates the magical world of Walt Disney World as an entertainment stage technician. Hotaling’s journey from Southwestern to Disney is a testament to her dedication, passion, and interdisciplinary skills.

During her time at Southwestern, Hotaling was deeply involved in campus life. She was a part of many organizations, such as the Honor Code Council, and was president of Mask and Wig and Omicron Delta Kappa. However, her heart belonged to the theater department, where she immersed herself in different roles, from the Alma Thomas Theater production manager to a French horn player in the wind ensemble. Her diverse engagement on campus laid the foundation for her multifaceted career at Disney.

In her current role at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Hotaling’s responsibilities encompass a wide range of tasks, from daily operations to nighttime spectaculars and special events. Whether she’s ensuring the seamless execution of shows like Beauty and the Beast or Fantasmic or assisting ESPN’s productions by setting up for cheer and dance competitions or marathon races, her role is dynamic and ever-changing. She works tirelessly behind the scenes to create magical experiences for guests, leveraging her expertise in lighting, audio, and pyrotechnics.

Hotaling credits her time at Southwestern for preparing her for the challenges of her dream job. The liberal arts education she received equipped her with a diverse skill set, essential for thriving in Disney’s fast-paced environment. Her involvement in student-faculty research projects, such as exploring the integration of digital technology into live performances, honed her technical abilities and enhanced her problem-solving and collaboration skills. “During my time there, I did a lot of research with Professor of Theatre Sergio Costola. We worked on a project for three years looking at digital technology and how that can translate into theater,” Hotaling recalled. “We even produced a play that we took to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, so I learned a lot of skills, which I’ve ended up using here as well.”

Reflecting on her journey, Hotaling emphasizes the importance of networking and asking questions. Her proactive approach to seeking mentorship and guidance, including attending industry conventions and engaging with professionals, has opened doors to opportunities she had only dreamed of. She encourages current students to embrace networking as a powerful tool for personal and professional growth, reassuring them that everyone starts somewhere and that asking questions can lead to unexpected paths. Looking ahead, she wants to continue her journey with Disney while delving deeper into the world of effects and pyrotechnics. Regardless of where her career takes her, one thing remains constant: her unwavering passion for her work and dedication to creating memorable guest experiences. “A lot of people who go to Walt Disney World are first timers, statistically. So, creating a magical moment for someone, seeing their face, and knowing that what I am doing is creating a lasting impression means all the world to me. It’s the most rewarding experience I could have; I love my job.”

Hotaling is a shining example of the transformative power of a Southwestern education and the limitless possibilities that await those who dare to dream big and pursue their passions. As she continues to light up the stage at Disney World, her journey serves as an inspiration to all who aspire to turn their dreams into reality.