It Was Love at First Site (Visit)

February 28, 2024

Last semester, we took to the skies for our first ever out-of-state site visit. We were convinced that nothing could top our Wisconsin adventure, but this most recent site visit might take the cake. We’re thrilled to share highlights from the NMI’s trip to “The Most Magical Place on Earth”!

Our fleet of mini-vans, carrying 18 students and 5 faculty members, left Athens with a 4-day itinerary packed full of behind-the-scenes access and alumni networking. But before we could leave Georgia, a stop at Buc-ee’s was penciled in because who can resist a supersized gas and convenience store run by a giant beaver offering your choice of snacks? Not us!


First stop: an exclusive backstage experience at Disney World’s Epcot. We kicked off day one with an early morning ride on Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind. There’s nothing quite like being launched into space to the tune of “I Ran” by A Flock of Seagulls to wake you up! And to notch up the ride even more, the Imagineers that brought the new attraction to life rode alongside us!

With wide eyes full of excitement, we continued the day with a presentation and panel discussion with the ride’s creatives at Walt Disney Imagineering in Backstage Epcot. In the session, students and faculty gained insights into how the team implemented Mickey’s 10 Commandments into their design process. Later that night, dinner at Disney Springs brought a delightful reunion with NMC Alumna and NMI Advisory Council member Aniyah Norman, who shared her experiences as a Disney Software Engineer.


Day two found us at Universal Studios, with the promise of a “thrilling morning” that certainly lived up to expectations. We kicked off the day with a hair-raising ride on the iconic Velocicoaster, where we had the opportunity to discuss various aspects of ride design with Kiefer Persaud, Associate Media Producer with Universal Creative.

Afterwards, we met Grady alum Eric Baker, Senior Creative Designer behind Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter and and Galaxy’s Edge at Disney World. Walking through Diagon Alley with him was a highlight, as he shared his insights into set dressing and park design! Eric then provided a VIP escort onto Escape From Gringotts where we could see even more of his team’s work in action.

Before wrapping up our visit, we went backstage for a panel discussion with creatives from Universal’s Destination and Experiences team. The upcoming Epic Universe park expansion had just been announced and questions swirled about the design process for a project of that magnitude and the opportunities that new technology provides to elevate immersive experiences.

Exploration continued on our last day with an opportunity for students to choose their own adventure. And now that we are back and have had a chance to catch our breath and debrief with our students, it is safe to say the NMI is officially committing to another year of industry trips – both near and far. Thanks to continued donor support, we have big plans and we can’t wait to share them soon!