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Alumna improves guest experiences at Disney through statistics

  • GVSU alumna Elizabeth Stolz pictured with Mickey and Minnie Mouse.

Posted on December 19, 2018

Elizabeth "Biz" Stolz’s job is to make “the most magical place on Earth” that much more magical.

The 2014 alumna currently works as an experience insights senior analyst at Disney Parks and Resorts in Orlando, Florida. During her daily work, Stolz analyzes various data sets from different lines of business at Disney to improve the guest experience at the parks and resorts. The types of data she works with include anything from resort and dining reservations to FastPass+ bookings.

“We can see what guests want to ride versus what they actually ride through analyzing FastPass+ reservations,” said Stolz. “Guests can also create a profile online where they can select a Disney character as an avatar that represents them throughout their trip, and from there we can see what kind of franchises these guests are interested in.”

Stolz uses the background knowledge and skills she acquired while majoring in both mathematics and statistics at Grand Valley on a daily basis.

“My position involves a lot of coding. About 75 percent of my job is managing data, pulling together data sets, and prepping them for model building,” Stolz explained. “Fifteen percent of my work is the math and statistics portion, the 'fun' part, where I’m building models and trying to predict or describe guest behaviors.”

The final 10 percent of Stolz’s job is meeting with business partners, tailoring her work to be used in practical applications at the parks and resorts.

“We represent the guests in discussions where their experiences might otherwise go unrecognized,” Stolz said. “The key metrics we work with aren’t about revenue, our team focuses on making guests happier and improving their experiences. That’s the feel-good mission of our team.”

Stolz said her interdisciplinary education at Grand Valley equipped her with the interpersonal skills needed to effectively explain data trends to strategic leaders, hotel operators and others at Disney who aren't traditional "numbers people."

“Math can be intimidating, so we talk about it in the context of strategy and the bigger picture and make a story out of it,”Stolz said. “I realize now how important my liberal arts background is, where I went to classes with students who didn’t necessarily think like I do. Now I’m able to convince coworkers who have a different perspective from me that the way I think is valid, too.”

Stolz's work frequently involves taking larger business problems and designing analyses around them.

“We don’t always get asked to perform specific analyses,” she said. “It’s more of a creative process where we’re challenged with questions like, ‘How can improve the FastPass+ system?’ or ‘How can we decrease crowding?’ or ‘How can we help guests meet the characters they want?’ Having the freedom to solve those business questions with whatever skills we have and whatever data is at hand is a pretty cool position to be in.”

Stolz hopes to inspire students to consider their end career goals early on during their time at Grand Valley and then begin laying a foundation.

“I came into Grand Valley knowing that I wanted to do something logic-based and I wanted to work with people, so I asked myself, ‘What do I need to do to make that happen?" said Stolz. "I decided to major in math to show my logic-driven mindset, I became an Honors Mentor in the Honors College and a Writing Consultant in the Writing Center to hone my communication skills, and I studied abroad to show employers that I can think big picture, value other cultures and communicate with people from different backgrounds. With all of those experiences, I knew whatever my next move was, I would be prepared for it.”