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Cathy Carver

DAAP Alum Find ‘Dream’ Job in Disney

Leave it to Disney to invent a job description for “Imagineer”—creatives who invent and pioneer how the imagination comes to life. Then, leave it to UC’s College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP) to produce talent fitting of such a role. One royal room at a time, alum Cathy Carver of Florida is making dreams come true for her and UC’s students, not to mention families around the globe.

It was a sunny day in Florida when around the corner came eight white ponies pulling Cinderella’s white coach at the Walt Disney World Resort. Inside were Jim and Lisa Fouch and their children, Brad and Hannah, all crying tears of joy and amazement after being handed the key to the brand new Cinderella Castle Suite inside Disney’s Magic Kingdom® Park. Disney’s brilliant The Year of A Million Dreams© promotion was filled with hundreds of random prizes—and the Fouches’ prize was to be the very first family to stay in the illustrious suite of Disney’s famous princess.  

Standing proudly on stage to welcome the Fouch family to the castle was Cathy Carver, UC graduate (DAAP ‘80) and Principal Interior Designer for Walt Disney Imagineering.  In addition to being the lead designer on the Cinderella Suite, Cathy also led design of the Royal Guest Rooms at Disney’s Port Orleans Resort—Riverside. Not surprisingly, Carver’s job description includes “designing quarters befitting of kings, queens, princes and princesses of every family.”

Cathy Carver

A rendering of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” bathroom Percel helped design and renovate. (Photo provided by Karianne Percel)

Up until that moment when the Fouches—a regular family of four from the Midwest—walked on stage to be crowned Disney’s newest additions to the “Royal Family,” Carver had been consumed with the Cinderella Suite design project. It was the type of once-in-a-lifetime project Carver and other alumni of UC’s DAAP program train so diligently for.

Carver recalls that when she began her career, Disney Imagineering recruited only from UC because of the caliber of the program. “At that time, architects and interior designers were recruited only from UC,” Carver recalls. “It was the very strong curriculum that made the difference. Today, Cincinnati is still graduating the best. Even though the competitive set of schools has grown since I was a student, Disney still employs many UC alumni because they are so well-trained. And we bring them in on their co-ops, so we get to see their work before they are hired.”

In addition to raising two successful children and running a private fine arts school for young people, Carver has kept intensely busy with her work for the “Most Magical Place on Earth.” While her travel is limited, she did accept an invitation from one of her 2008 UC interns at Disney to return to her alma mater and give a lecture to DAAP students.

Cathy Carver

In her Disney intern days, DAAP alum Karianne Percel worked on the renovation of a “Pirates of the Caribbean” themed bathroom. (Photo provided by Karianne Percel)

Carver’s return to campus found her in awe. “The whole campus had changed since my time there, and it was gorgeous. The architecture, the growth—it’s all amazing, all exciting.”

It was during that lecture that Karianne Percel (DAAP ’10) heard Carver speak of the intense creativity that Disney requires, the high level of team interaction, and the thorough investment in resources the company is willing to make. Percel dedicated herself to pursuing a co-op at Disney and was hired to be a student intern in 2008 and a post-graduate intern in 2010 before being hired full-time. Since hired, she has worked on rehabbing special interior spaces that fire the imagination through their use of special finishes, custom fabrications, and unique compositions.

Cathy Carver

Every year, alumni like Carver mentor talented DAAP co-op students to help make the “Most Magical Place on Earth” even more imaginative. (Photo courtesy of Disney)

Percel feels she is living her dream job each day, particularly because she has a tenured mentor in Carver and three other UC alumni working on her team of ten.

Carver and Percel knew hard work and dedication—skills they honed while at DAAP—would help make them successful. What they didn’t know as UC students is that their design careers would help worldwide icon Disney bring the magic to life for countless numbers of children and their families from around the globe.


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Cathy Carver

DAAP alum and Disney “Imagineer” Cathy Carver served as lead designer for the Cinderella Castle Suite. Her job description includes “designing quarters befitting of kings, queens, princes and princesses of every family.” (Used with permission of the Orlando Sentinel, copyright 2007.)


  • Take a Peek Inside Disney Story Rooms at Walt Disney World Resort! (video)

  • View photos of the Cinderella Story Suite