Dana Eisfeld, Minnesota
2021 National APSE Board of Directors At-Large Candidate
How many years have you been involved in integrated employment/supported employment?
The area(s) that best represents your current position/experience:
Service Provider or Manager
Describe your history/nature of involvement/interest in integrated employment/supported employment.
When I was 14, I got my first summer job painting barns and outbuildings in southwestern Minnesota. I experienced three things with that job: a pride in the work I had done, especially when I got to see the crisp red & white contrast of the barns once the job was done. I belonged: each homestead that I went to the farmers, their families, hired help and even seed men would come over for a remark on my progress or to give me a hand with the ladder in the hot, summer sun. Most importantly, I got my first paychecks which allowed me after two summers of painting to buy my first car when I turned 16 just a few years later.
Later, when I became a customized employment practitioner in the Twin Cities in late 2010, I helped many Minnesotans with disabilities and mental health challenges find meaningful employment in the community. At the height of the economic impact from the Great Recession of 2008, the job seekers and I sometimes had to complete 40, 50 or 60 informational interviews before securing a placement. What sustained me during those job searches was seeing those I supported experience the three same things I had once they found a job: a sense of purpose, a sense of belonging and, most importantly, earning a paycheck. 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. That’s the reason I’ve dedicated my career to competitive, integrated employment.
How will you be able to contribute to the growth and improvement of APSE as an organization?
Since my start as a practitioner in customized employment, I’ve spent nearly a decade as a program manager, operational manager and, currently, as a department manager of disability employment programs. My experience in management at a small, start-up agency in St. Paul, MN and later at one of Minnesota’s largest social services organizations has equipped me with a unique perspective on both intimacy and scale of service: I believe those are the pillars of capacity-building across the country. If it’s truly ‘one person at a time’, we’re going to need a lot more people who are good at doing customized employment and APSE will continue to play a central role in making that happen. To that end, I have presented at breakout sessions at state and national conferences, as well as several National APSE webinars and believe I could play an active role in APSE’s ongoing professional development.
I have served on our state board since 2014, chaired our communications committee for three years, helping to build out our social media platforms with an active presence on Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn & Instagram. I have also served on our state chapter’s public policy committee for the last four years, developing relationships with key stakeholders and policy makers at both the state and local levels. On the National Board, I believe I could help to continue to grow the message of Employment First and influence policy-making that will allow for the advancement of competitive, integrated employment across the country in the 2020s.
Lastly, I have served as our state chapter co-president since 2018, playing an active role in developing a board that is among the most active and productive in the country. I’ve also helped to ensure that each year we have remained in the black for expenditures versus revenue and will bring that same fiscal sensibility to the National Board.
Dana Eisfeld graduated from the University of Minnesota-Morris in 2003, with a B.A. in English and History. From 2000-2003, he worked as a Direct Support Professional on nights and weekends at a group home in west-central Minnesota and later, at another in North St. Paul, MN, helping to pay his way through school. In 2006, he graduated with a Master of Arts degree in World History from Villanova University (Philadelphia). While at Villanova, he also worked full-time as a Lead Program Counselor at Melmark, Pennsylvania, a multi-service agency, providing residential, educational and therapeutic services for children with autism.
Eisfeld relocated to Madrid, Spain in late 2006, where he would spend two years teaching ESL to business professionals at the OPEN School of Languages and then worked two more years as a translator and assistant editor at C International Photo Magazine. Returning stateside in 2010, Eisfeld turned back to human services, first working as an in-home family supports professional in southwestern Minnesota before taking a position with Legacy Endeavors (St. Paul, MN). At Legacy Endeavors, Eisfeld helped build their supported employment program, getting certified in Discovering Your Personal Genius through Griffin-Hammis, and then becoming the agency’s first customized employment practitioner and, later, program manager.
In 2014, Legacy was acquired by Dungarvin, MN (Mendota Heights, MN). Eisfeld has since helped to build Dungarvin’s customized employment program into one of the larger CIE agencies in the state, first as an operational manager (2014-2019) and currently as the company’s employment services department manager (2019-current). Eisfeld has been a member of MN APSE’s state chapter since 2011, has sat on the state board for more than half a decade, has served on the public policy committee for the last four years, chaired the communications committee for three years (2017-2019) and has been MN APSE’s state chapter co-president since 2018.
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 & Gophers.