Where [culinary] dreams come true for young alumna

During the mid-May Commencement ceremonies, the newly graduated Hilltoppers stood up to wave their custom “Class of 2017” red towels. While the paths of the young alumni differed, for Hannah Martin (’17), her path led to Florida and more specifically, Walt Disney World.

After multiple applications at Disney, Martin joined the opening team for The Market at Ale and Compass at Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club Resort. As a long-term goal, she hopes to one day head a restaurant for Disney.

“I love restaurants, I love working in them and everything that goes into them,” Martin said. “I especially love themed-experience dining, and I would love to be a part of the new Star Wars Land opening in the next two years at Hollywood Studios.”

After Martin’s high school graduation, her parents surprised her with tickets for a weeklong mother-daughter trip to Disney World.

“I’m the eldest of four children so having just mom-and-me time never happens,” she said. “I was blown away by the customer service, the atmosphere, the attention to detail and everything that goes into a guest’s experience at Disney.”

Because she loved her time at Disney so much, her mom suggested she look into working there. That’s when Martin discovered the Disney College Program and later participated during her freshmen year. After her College Program experience, she became a seasonal worker with the company to keep her foot in the door for post-graduation opportunities. To do that, she had to work full-time at Fresh Food Company at WKU to save money to go to Florida in the summers and take 18 credit hours a semester to catch up on hours she missed while participating in the Disney College Program.

From working at Fresh Food Company to her catering class during her senior year, Martin credits WKU for giving her the knowledge she needed to open a new restaurant or to fix existing issues in an established one.

“It really solidified what I already knew about myself and gave me that extra push I needed to know that this was what I wanted to do,” Martin said. “My job at Fresh taught me a ton about the industry, and the knowledge I gained there was invaluable to my education and career.”