Engineers’ Day 2013: Kristine Ann Theiler (BS ISyE ’88)

The University of Wisconsin-Madison College of Engineering will honor the achievements of eight distinguished alumni during the 66th annual Engineers’ Day celebration on Friday, October 11, 2013. These honorees demonstrate the diverse and profound impact UW-Madison engineers have on industry and academia. In the lead-up to the event, Badger Engineers will be sharing bios of all the award recipients.

Engineers’ Day festivities will begin with a continental breakfast at 8 a.m. in the lobby of Engineering Hall, 1415 Engineering Drive. Seminars will begin at 8:30 in Room 1610 of Engineering Hall. The evening banquet and awards ceremony begins at 5:30 p.m. at the Monona Terrace Convention Center, 1 John Nolen Drive.

As a vice president of planning and operations support for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, Kris Theiler works to give industrial engineers a strong voice in the amusement park business.

Theiler’s time at Disney has challenged her to think about problems that might seem unusual for someone with an engineering background. For instance, she helped drastically change the way park visitors experience lines for rides. Theiler was part of the team that developed Disney parks’ FastPass system, which lets visitors return for a ride during a specific time slot instead of waiting in a long line.

To address such problems, Disney has to analyze reams of customer behavior and survey data and develop ideas and opportunities to improve the experience. But that’s no more outlandish than the problems Theiler remembers tackling as an undergraduate student in industrial and systems engineering.

“I did time studies on a bartender pouring tap beer; an experimental engineering project with Professor George Box in which my friend Lita Noreen and I managed to build a study around suntanning; and learned to spin my pen in Linear Programming—a skill that many have asked about,” Theiler says.

She also fondly recalls the friendship and camaraderie that develop when going through engineering school.

After graduating from UW-Madison, Theiler earned an MBA from the University of California-Los Angeles Anderson School of Management. Before joining Disneyland as a business planner, she held industrial engineering positions at ABB Electric, Synergic Resources Corporation, and Magnetek Electric.

In moving up through positions of increasing responsibility at Disney, Theiler has helped to highlight how much engineers have to contribute to the company.

“The industrial engineering team at Disney Parks is extremely integrated into the business, well-respected, and called on to provide insight and understanding into issues and problems facing the organization,” she says.

Theiler has been involved in many key projects, including the opening of Disney’s California Adventure, Disneyland’s 50th Anniversary Celebration, Walt Disney World’s New Fantasyland and the development of Shanghai Disneyland. Still, she is most proud of having advanced the careers of the engineers she has worked with, and having made those engineers an important part of the company’s decision-making. She is a recipient of the Golden Spirit of Disneyland award.

Currently a resident of Long Beach, California, Theiler enjoys running, biking, travel, jewelry making, and spending time with friends. She is a proud aunt of 13 nieces and nephews. Her family also includes parents Carl and Barbara Theiler, and siblings Julie, Connie, Sara, Stacy and Andy.

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