New Grad’s Capstone Project Leads to Position with Disney

Ashley Rodondi

Oct. 23, 2018

When Ashley Rodondi began researching MBA programs, she noticed something she liked about the University of Montana College of Business: The school’s large number of alumni are not only successful, she said, but remain engaged with current students.

“They really come back and care about the new generation and want to bring you towards their businesses and their roles,” she said. “The professors are not shy to make introductions to you, or help you. They really understand how to push you to be your best and how to connect you to the best too.”

Rodondi, who earned both her MBA and her master of science in business analytics from UM in May 2018, parlayed those alumni connections into career opportunities. She completed her MSBA capstone project and an internship with Paramount Pictures this summer. Now she works as a cybersecurity graduate associate with the Walt Disney Company.

“I am very happy where the cards have landed,” she said. “The coolest thing is being in a meeting with Marvel Studios one hour and then ABC Television the next.”

A lot of hard work had to happen before she secured a position at the center of the cinematic universe though.

Originally from Pleasanton, California, Rodondi earned her bachelor’s from Chico State in economics, and ethics, justice, and policy studies before making the move to Montana. She considered the state’s flagship institution after her younger sister earned her undergraduate degree here a few years prior.

“I definitely knew I had a strong passion for the entertainment industry,” Rodondi said, explaining she initially came to UM to pursue her MBA and entertainment management certificate. “And then I had an advising appointment and learned about the MSBA program as well.”

After realizing “the deep connection you need between business and analytics and driving stories using data,” Rodondi decided to earn both her MBA and MSBA. She also earned three certificates — in entertainment management, data security, and entrepreneurship and small business.

Professor Mike Morelli helped her make the connection with Paramount for her MSBA capstone project. Rodondi had met Jeremy Sauter, a marketing executive at Paramount Pictures and UM alum, when he visited with College of Business students earlier in the year. With Morelli’s help, she pitched her capstone idea to Sauter, who connected her with a colleague to work on the project. She investigated industry trends for Paramount, identifying what makes a successful movie trailer by observing correlations and variables offering success.

In her project, Rodondi was looking for a challenge as well as the ability to round out her experience at the College of Business. She wanted a real-world application of the data analytics skills she had learned in class.

“It tested me and really made me think about my problem solving skills, my resources, and my network,” she said. “I didn't know if I was going to be prepared, but through the project I realized that I know how to do this stuff and UM has prepared me for that.”

Rodondi’s career goals include going into the entertainment industry, security, working in creative marketing, creating posters, trailers, looking at scripts and even creating new content. She’s also noticed that there’s a separation between business minds and data minds in the business world, and would like to communicate with both groups to help find the perfect marriage between business and data.

“I want my work to reflect innovation for progression and trying to make society better,” Rodondi added. “In the entertainment industry, I want all forms to be represented. I want stories that might never be told to be told in a way that people will listen.”

Photo: Rodondi at Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party parade at Disney World.