By Kasy Long
Feb 8, 2023
Most children have a favorite Disney character. Whether it’s Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Tiana, Simba, Ariel, Elsa, or Mickey Mouse, audiences everywhere connect to Disney characters. While watching Disney movies, people can dream about marrying into royalty, becoming friends with forest animals, defeating villains, and achieving their dreams.
Those are fairytale stories, but perhaps the real Disney heroes are the individuals working behind the scenes at The Walt Disney Company — the ones who continually produce fun and entertaining media and create magic for audiences of all ages.
Just ask Shelby Curry, director of diversity, equity, and inclusion communications at Disney. The 1998 alumna from Gary, Indiana earned a bachelor’s degree in communication with a concentration in journalism. The program prepares students with the technical skills needed to help organizations and businesses successfully hear, interpret, and communicate messages to audiences.
Communication students at Indiana State learn effective practices in media writing, reporting, media production, organizational and persuasive communication, community journalism, and ethical theories. Students are encouraged to complete internships and participate in community engagement activities.
“I was always a curious student. My professors were career-focused and they helped to prepare me with the essential skills I needed to thrive as a young professional,” says Curry, who worked as entertainment editor for the Indiana Statesman, Indiana State’s student newspaper. “Indiana State is a family-oriented community, and the education goes beyond the classroom.”
As a Sycamore, Curry took advantage of networking and professional development opportunities in the Department of Communication and across campus. These connections led to her first professional positions as copy editor for the Evansville Courier and then the Indianapolis Star following graduation. With her background in journalism, Curry edited news stories and wrote compelling headlines for articles.
“I have always been a writer. Those early positions in journalism were learning opportunities and opened doors for other areas in my career,” she says.
In 2002, Curry’s career transitioned from journalism to corporate communications and public relations. She spent five years as a communication manager at Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, Indiana, where she served as the key media spokesperson for marketing promotions, product launches, and restaurant openings. She has also worked as a marketing and communications manager at Ascension St. Vincent Health, overseeing marketing efforts for the Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis. There, she had the chance to work closely with the NFL Hall of Fame quarterback.
Curry’s learning experiences led to another career shift when she received a job offer from the ‘happiest place on Earth.’
Walt Disney World in Orlando.
Curry specialized as a communication manager at Walt Disney World’s Epcot theme park, where she worked closely with executive team leaders to strengthen communication strategies for Epcot’s operations. Eventually, Curry advanced to become the senior manager of internal communications for Disney Parks, Experiences and Products. Her enthusiastic approach to communications reinforced strategies for various business priorities for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.
Many people dream of visiting a Walt Disney theme park, but Curry found herself working behind the scenes as an active participant in creating unforgettable experiences.
“Disney is a place where I feel like I belong. The company believes in and invests in its employees. We’re encouraged to be innovative, creative, and to try new things. Every day is a different work day, but that’s exciting. If you’re not learning, you’re not growing. I’m always learning,” she explains.
This is especially true in Curry’s current role at Disney, in which she develops communication strategies to support the company’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Curry’s team communicates Disney’s culture through storytelling practices – ensuring that Disney’s diversity is reflected in all communication messages.
One of Curry’s most memorable experiences was being part of a project team to launch a new website, ReimagineTomorrow.Disney.com, a digital destination that amplifies underrepresented voices and untold stories in media and entertainment.
“It’s exciting to be a part of Disney’s culture with the next century of the company. As humans, we have to listen and learn about different people, cultures, and beliefs. People should see themselves expressed in our media,” Curry says. “It’s important for us to share these diverse stories so that people see themselves reflected. We’re a diverse team of creative people and, as the team leader, my job is to motivate my team and ensure they are excited about our work and what we’re doing. It’s inspirational to see the creativity and storytelling we’re doing at Disney and especially because we’re celebrating our 100th-year anniversary.”
Curry’s passion for storytelling also extends to her love for writing. Inspired by teaching her children to read, Curry writes children’s books – a dream of hers since receiving her first library card in her youth. Her first book, The Bedtime Story Race, is a heartwarming story about two siblings racing to finish their chores in order to be the first one to choose a bedtime story. Curry hopes her book helps children who might be struggling with literacy.
“I want kids to have a passion for the written word and understand that reading is an adventure,” she says.
Inspiring others is a passion for Curry, and she strives to be a mentor for others – including young professionals starting their careers.
“Take advantage of the opportunities now because time goes by so quickly. Don’t be afraid to try something new, no matter where you are in your education or career journey,” she advises.
Communicating is a part of everyday life, and for professionals like Curry, their communication creates change – influencing the next generation of learners and leaders. A real-life Disney hero, Curry is shaping perspectives one message at a time. Because real storytellers wear BLUE!