When I sat down at my desk to ask Rosalyn Durant a few questions, the first thing she did was ask me a question instead. “Where do we find you today, Emma?” I was in my bedroom at the off-campus student housing past Williams- Brice Stadium. She had lived off Broad River Road as a student, on the opposite side of town.
“Many, many, many years ago,” she told me. “But good times. I always enjoy getting back there.”
The 1999 broadcast journalism alumna is now senior vice president of operations at Walt Disney World Resort supporting Disney Springs, Water Parks and ESPN Wide World of Sports — a long way from Columbia. “I carried with me a belief that I needed to make my family and my university proud,” Durant said. “That really encouraged me to stay on the journey, even when it was difficult.”
As a freshman, she shadowed journalists at WOLO. Later, she interned at Turner Broadcasting in Atlanta and WIS in Columbia.
“I would frequent the career center, check out the wall at the J-school that would post about job fairs and different opportunities,” she said. “I was there every day, constantly looking, constantly seeing what was available.” An internship with ESPN eventually led to a full-time marketing coordinator job. She went on to work in distribution sales, rights acquisitions, partnership management, and led the college networks business, including overseeing the SEC Network before moving to Walt Disney World in March 2020. Since then, she’s been thrown into the deep end, organizing the “NBA Bubble” during COVID-19.
“The thing that strikes you first about Roz is always her personality. She can fill up a room with her personality and her love of people, a real love of engaging with people.”
“Coming to USC really expanded my view of the world,” she said. “Having the opportunity to meet people who weren’t like me, who didn’t look like me, who had different cultures and different beliefs helped me tremendously with learning how to adapt in the real world, how to adapt professionally.”
Copy editing professor Henry Price was one of her biggest influences. “He was tough but fair, and I learned so much from him,” she said. Price set a high bar for his students, she told me, and that bar helped her set high standards for herself.
Senior instructor Rick Peterson had a different approach. “He had a soft hand and constantly provided reassurance,” Durant said. “He believed in us and told us that all the time.” She credits him with helping her be more thoughtful and not losing herself or her culture.
“You have the sense and the knowledge that she genuinely cares about you as an individual,” said Chris Turner, one of Durant’s former ESPN coworkers. Durant was challenging, he says, and she had an eye for detail, but she didn’t get caught up in the process as long as the job was done — and done well.
“The thing that strikes you first about Roz is always her personality,” Turner said. “She can fill up a room with her personality and her love of people, a real love of engaging with people.”
Before ending our call, Durant reminded me that we don’t need to know what’s coming next, that our first jobs won’t be our last jobs, and that when things settle down we will be prepared.
“No one has all the answers right now, but I am confident that you are getting what you need at USC to be able to navigate whatever the future looks like,” she told me. “You will be OK.”