Auburn Spotlight, Tyler Tidwell '16

"Stepping out of college and walking into a project of this size is unreal, almost unimaginable."
Tyler Tidwell '16
Project Management Intern, Walt Disney Imagineering

Spotlight Interview

Tyler Tidwell graduated from Auburn University in May 2016 with a bachelor's degree in architecture. The Americus, Georgia, native is now working at the place "Where Dreams Come True" — Walt Disney World. Tidwell is a project management intern assisting the rockwork team in creating the “Pandora – The World of Avatar” project. While the project has to maintain a level of secrecy until it opens, Tidwell was able to share some of what he's doing. His role is to help oversee elements of the construction of the new land, which will be located in Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park at Walt Disney World. 

How did you land your internship with Walt Disney Imagineering?
The way this internship came about actually started at a career fair at Auburn University set up by the university’s architecture program to help students potentially get jobs after college. The fair is where I met my current leader, who saw potential in me during my interview and offered me this role. I was originally offered a six-month internship. The internship opportunity was extended an additional six months for a total of one year. Some interns have gone on to work full time within our company.

Do you consider yourself a big Disney fan, and, if so, what has it been like having the opportunity to work on such a large project?
I grew up coming to Disney Parks as a child on vacations with my family. It was where my family came together and really connected. The memories I made are the kind that have stuck with me my whole life, and the truth is those memories were made because of the hard work and passion of the people behind the scenes. That alone made me think that working with the Disney team was an amazing opportunity. Stepping out of college and walking into a project of this size is unreal, almost unimaginable. It’s hard to explain until people reading this come and see Pandora – the World of Avatar for themselves, but stepping out onto a site like the one I go out into everyday continually reassures me that this is place I want to be and the people I want to work with.

How is your internship preparing you for a career?
This internship is the complete opposite of what I would traditionally think of as an internship after having graduated with an architecture degree. It has shown me the real world side of working on a construction site and with a team of people. Here, it’s a collaborative effort – everyone is looking to push the dream forward. In school, they teach you how to think on your feet and push your ideas; and with this company, it’s all about making decisions and seeing that the task at hand gets accomplished, so that the team leaves this place knowing we gave our best to the project. Seeing this side of the design phase really makes me want to focus more thoughtfully on every decision I make both in my own designs, but also when the time comes that I am in a leadership position.  

What are your career aspirations?
My hope is to continue with Walt Disney Imagineering after this internship is over. I see unlimited potential in the things that I can learn here and, more than that, this is a company that has leaders who believe in their people. The atmosphere here is exactly what a young person, like myself, needs to be in. Whether I continue here or not, I definitely believe the next phase of my life has drastically changed based on the lessons I have learned here. At the end of the day, my career aspirations are to work somewhere I know I can make a difference. Disney helps that goal, and I can see that every time I step into the parks and see how many people and families are changed by their time here.

What made you decide to attend Auburn?
Auburn has been the dream college my whole life. I grew up in Georgia with a father who was the first male to graduate from college and he chose to go to Auburn. He’s an educator and has continually pushed his beliefs that the things that matter in this world are how you care about people and that an education is the best thing you can have to get you started in the right direction. These things are what every true Auburn student believes in. My parents were married at Auburn and they worked for the school at one point. They also, without fail, have watched every football game Auburn plays, since I could stand. Auburn gave my family so much that it was inevitable I wanted it to further shape my education when I decided what I wanted to be. They have one of the best architecture schools in the country and the professors continually made me want to be better. The educational environment alone made Auburn an easy choice for me.

What is your favorite memory from your time at Auburn?
My favorite memory is hard to pinpoint. Working at The Hound (a local restaurant where I was able to meet so many good-hearted people); hanging out with who I consider lifelong friends; going to football games and rolling the trees; and staying up late working on a project that I thought I had a breakthrough on. A favorite memory is something incredibly hard to narrow down because my time at Auburn is full of them. It’s hard to believe it only lasted four years and so much of my life developed in those years. The only one I’d say is a pretty perfect one to share is the two weeks in Auburn’s 2015 season that defined the entire football season. I was at both the Georgia and Alabama games that year and not only seeing it with my own eyes, but laughing, shouting and hugging friends and strangers alike after Auburn won was one of those picturesque moments that I’ll still be rehashing with anyone who’ll listen when I’m old.

Can you talk about the partnership between WDI and Auburn for recruiting students?  
My current leader, Tim Warzecha, who graduated from Auburn with a Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture in 1985, has been working with the School of Architecture and Building Sciences to develop a year-round, long-term recruitment effort. He will be back on campus in March for the upcoming Auburn University Architecture Internship Fair where he’ll discuss the project management, construction management and project estimating internships at Walt Disney Imagineering. Tim is also trying to help the students looking for more traditional architecture, interior design and landscape architecture paths within WDI and Walt Disney World Resort.

What does the Auburn Family mean to you?
It means people who care. I would not be here if it weren’t for members of the Auburn Family supporting me. Tim Warzecha is a man and an Auburn alumnus I didn’t know until our interview, and he gave me an opportunity unlike any other. My professor and mentor in architecture school, Matt Hall, who helped me push my ideas in multiple studios and even in projects that were outside the normal setting of the studio. He found ways to teach me through not just pencil on paper but actively testing ideas and theories. His belief was it’s never impossible, only harder to do. Figure out what you want and then let’s figure out how to make it possible. People my own age even, were always pushing me to be better than what I thought. Charlsie Coefield, who’s now an alumna as well, went to endless lengths to help me throughout my senior year at Auburn. Whether it was reviewing my work and critiquing it, to staying up late to help me study, or even picking me up from school and driving me home late at night because I was out of gas in my car, she constantly was there taking care of me. That is what the Auburn Family does, no matter the age or time in which they’ve known each other, they stay together. They take care of each other without an expectation that it be returned. The Auburn Family is one and because of that, the bond makes saying “War Eagle” such a meaningfully strong thing.