2022 National APSE Board Nominee: Dana Eisfeld, Minnesota
2022 National APSE Board of Directors At-Large Candidate
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The area(s) that best represents your current position/experience:
Service Provider or Manager
Describe your history/nature of involvement/interest in promoting competitive integrated employment in your state. Additionally, explain why you are passionate about competitive, integrated employment for people with disabilities (no more than 500 words):
I have played a key role and chaired our state chapter’s communications committee since 2016, helping to build out MN APSE’s social media platforms. With over 900 followers on our Facebook and Instagram pages, MN APSE has one of the most robust social media presences in the country. From 2017-2020, I spearheaded efforts to tell the story of competitive, integrated employment in Minnesota through the Why I Work and Why I Hire series, where MN APSE featured success stories of self-advocates on the job and employers in the state with inclusive hiring and retention practices. We have continued to tell the story of CIE in the state through our podcast series, If You Believe It, You Can Achieve It. I have produced the podcast – available on YouTube, Spotify, Apple & Google – since 2020. I believe strongly in my communication skills and my experience at MN APSE demonstrates a clear track record of putting ideas into action. I have also served on our state chapter’s public policy committee. As part of the public policy committee, I have been a part of Minnesota’s Employment First Coalition since 2017. The Employment First Coalition is a wide-ranging group of stakeholders that has long monitored and influenced disability employment policy in the state. In my time as part of this coalition, we have consulted with the state of Minnesota on the implementation of new, waivered employment services in 2018. We have also played a key role in the ongoing development and implementation of a Memorandum of Understanding between DHS and VRS in the state in 2020-2022. This MOU will have far-reaching impacts on recipients of disability employment services in Minnesota. More recently, we have been a key ally in state legislation — approved in 2021 — that outlines a complete phase-out of sub-minimum wage in Minnesota by 2025. Since 2020, I have served as the state delegate to the APSE Midwest Region and in 2021 joined the National APSE Professional Development Committee.
In my professional work, I started as a practitioner in customized employment in 2010. Since, I’ve spent nearly a decade as a program manager, department manager, and director of disability employment programs. My experience in management at a small, start-up agency in St. Paul, MN, later at one of Minnesota’s largest social services organizations, and now at one of the leading employment service providers in the state has equipped me with a unique perspective on intimacy, scale and quality of service: I believe those are the pillars of capacity-building across the country. I have dedicated my career to customized employment because work changes lives. I’ve seen it lift people out of poverty, isolation, and depression. Fundamentally, it gives us all the freedom to make the choices we want for ourselves. That is true whether or not you have a disability and the essence, I believe, of true inclusion.
What relevance does/should APSE and its chapters/members have in national and state conversations regarding equity, diversity, and inclusion (no more than 350 words)?
APSE was founded in 1988. In that history, we may not have always referred to what we do explicitly as diversity, equity, and inclusion, but those ideas have been central to our mission since our inception some 34 years ago. APSE’s priority has always been to advance the full inclusion of people with disabilities in the workplace. As the national conversation around diversity, equity, and inclusion has grown exponentially in the last decade, I believe APSE is uniquely positioned to continue to contribute and influence this conversation moving forward. How do we do it? Be who we are. We just have to continue to focus on helping more people with disabilities go to work. Each time a person with a disability has success in competitive, integrated employment, we gain allies in the march towards more diversity, better equity, and fuller inclusion: parents, siblings, friends, co-workers, supervisors – to name only a few – are exposed to a reality where a person can contribute to society by bringing real value to the workforce and where they are no longer constrained by the barrier of low expectations. By providing training & technical assistance, influencing public policy, building coalitions with people who share a common vision — and even some who may not share that vision yet — and then sharing the successes that we are a part of, I believe by its very design APSE has always and will continue to be a part of state and national conversations around diversity, equity and inclusion.
What skills, knowledge or lived experience do you have that will contribute to strengthening and growing the financial health of APSE and promoting its mission to advance employment and self-sufficiency for all people with disabilities (no more than 350 words)?
As mentioned, I have worked as a manager or director of disability employment service programs since 2011. In these positions, I have successfully managed department budgets in excess of a million dollars in annual revenue. While financial gain has never been at the heart of the services that I have overseen, financial health has been a key factor in our ability to hire, develop and retain customized employment practitioners. The development of these teams helped Dungarvin, MN grow their employment services department by nearly 100 people in less than seven years from 2014-2021. That’s an additional 100 Minnesotans living with disabilities and mental health challenges that have received services that helped them find and retain competitive, integrated employment in the community. Additionally, I have served as co-president of the MN APSE state chapter since 2018. In that time, I have helped increase our state chapter’s revenue by continuing a long tradition of statewide customized employment trainings, nearly doubling our annual sponsorship for our state conference and leading targeted membership growth and retention strategies that have helped our chapter membership stay close to historical levels, despite two years of nearly no in-person APSE activities due to the Covid pandemic. I strongly believe that APSE’s relevance and influence – at both the state & national levels – is only sustainable if we can continue to find creative methods of maintaining our financial health through initiatives that remain true to our mission of advancing employment equity of people with disabilities.
Dana Eisfeld graduated from the University of Minnesota-Morris in 2003, with a B.A. in English and History. In 2006, he graduated with a Master of Arts degree in World History from Villanova University (Philadelphia). Eisfeld then spent four years in Madrid, Spain working as an ESL teacher, translator and editor. Returning stateside in 2010, Eisfeld turned back to human services, taking a position with Legacy Endeavors (St. Paul, MN). At Legacy Endeavors, Eisfeld helped build their supported employment program, gaining certification in Discovering Your Personal Genius through Griffin-Hammis, and then becoming the agency’s first customized employment practitioner and, later, program manager. From 2014-2021, Eisfeld moved on to help build the customized employment program at Dungarvin, MN (Mendota Heights, MN) into one of the larger CIE agencies in the state. In October of 2021, Eisfeld became the Director of Customized Employment at Kaposia, Inc (St. Paul, MN), long one of the state’s leading disability employment service providers. Eisfeld has been a member of MN APSE’s state chapter since 2011, has sat on the state board since 2016, has served on the public policy & communications committee for more than half a decade, and just began his third consecutive term as state chapter co-president in 2022. Eisfeld has also been the state delegate to the APSE Midwest region since 2020 and has served on the APSE National Professional Development Committee since 2021. In his spare time, Eisfeld enjoys spending time with his wife Ilhan and their two sons, Elias & Idris. He also enjoys spending time outdoors in Minnesotan’s four seasons (even winter!) and cheers emphatically – if rather hopelessly – for the Minnesota Vikings, Timberwolves, Twins, Lynx, United & Gophers.