Celebrating 35 Years at Wilder Research

Wilder Research Executive Director Paul Mattessich marked his 35 year anniversary in May. Here, Paul answers a few questions about the highlights of his tenure at Wilder:

What are the keys to successfully contributing to Wilder for 35 years?
Two things come to mind: One, it is about always keeping an eye on the mission. We’ve always been willing to adapt to changes, change direction or expand as needed. The metaphor would be a boat on the ocean. The mission is the land we are trying to reach but as waves may come and directions shift a bit, we always remain focused on our ultimate purpose. And two, for me, it’s also included identifying talented people and nurturing them so they can create and explore—providing them with the infrastructure to be successful and letting them go for it.

When you started, Wilder Research was a group of about 12 people. What has been most pleasing in how Wilder Research’s work has grown?
It has been very satisfying to see how we have expanded into so many areas of social and human service research. I believe working with so many different groups and organizations – hundreds every year – has amplified our impact. I’m also pleased with how we’ve achieved capacity to collaborate with so many cultural groups.
What has been challenging about the range and variety of your work?
Our ongoing challenge is how to take the science of research and blend it with the wisdom of community experiences to create something that truly improves the quality of life for people.

What remains as goals or work you’d like to accomplish?
We would like to work on more initiatives where multiple social service agencies join together to understand the current effectiveness of their services and then collaborate in efforts to increase their total community impact. That’s one of the keys to addressing the challenges of the 21st century. We believe Wilder Research can play a major role.

Do you have a favorite moment?
The Speaking for Themselves project in 2000 was an exceptional initiative where we worked with four different immigrant groups to do a study about their experiences. We created something that nobody had done before anywhere around the world, as far as we could tell. It provided useful information, relevant to our local immigrant communities, but also, our report was downloaded, referenced, and used by other communities far and wide for at least the next 10 years.

What would be three words to describe your time with Wilder Research?
Impact, discovery and fun.
Congratulations, Paul!

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