Alumni Stay in Touch button


Cal Poly CLA News

The latest online edition of CLA's Impact Magazine

Lisa Haines Heppelmann Brings a Little Magic of Her Own to Disney

When you start your education at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, the happiest city in America, perhaps it’s no surprise to end up working at Disneyland, the happiest place on Earth.

Becoming vice president of public affairs for Disneyland Resort was not an obvious career destination for Lisa Haines Heppelmann, a 1989 political science graduate.

“Right after I graduated, I became a campaign assistant for my hometown congressman,” Heppelmann said. “I did everything from making coffee to stuffing envelopes to organizing fundraisers and representing Congressman Norman Shumway at various events within his district.”

Through her initial post-graduation work in the political sector, Heppelmann gained a position with the political consulting agency McNally Temple Associates Inc. She worked at the agency for six years before transitioning to public relations manager for Health Net Inc., one of the nation’s largest managed health corporations. Heppelmann worked her way up the ladder, leaving the company as vice president of corporate communications and establishing a strong reputation in her field. 

Heppelmann acknowledges that good fortune played a part in making her the guardian of one of the most beloved household names in the nation. “A lot of my career today is due to luck,” she says. “It was being at the right place at the right time … and apparently I made the right impression on the right people. Plus, I’ve been privileged to work for leaders who were very interested in my professional development throughout my career — and that’s played a very big role in my career overall.”

Luck alone would not have elevated Heppelmann to her current position. Her work ethic, openness to opportunity, and perseverance harmonized perfectly with Disney.

Through a chance encounter with the former communications director for then-California Governor Pete Wilson, Heppelmann learned of an opportunity at Disney. The position presented Heppelmann with a golden opportunity and a considerable professional challenge.

Driving home from that encounter, Heppelmann confessed that she almost talked herself out of applying for the job, but said that once she went for it, she never looked back. “I call the ‘joining Disney’ chapter of my life: ‘What a long, wonderful trip it’s been,’” she said. “There are just a million opportunities when you work for a company like Disney — it’s been a fabulous ride so far.”

Heppelmann leads a team that contributes to the momentum behind Disneyland Resort’s vibrant public image and reputation. In her role, she helps sustain the company’s values through innovative internal communications campaigns to its 26,000 “Cast Members,” strategic corporate citizenship initiatives, and proactive media relations activities that help tell the Disneyland Resort story to the public.

“Disneyland provides this incredibly immersive experience for our guests — and truly touches people in so many different ways,” Heppelmann said. “It’s really amazing what Walt Disney did — and I’m proud to say his legacy continues to live on, nearly 60 years after the opening of Disneyland.”

With Heppelmann’s passion and commitment, the Disney legacy is in good hands.

Related Content