Double duty: Dan Swanson finds fulfillment at Wilder through a career in Wilder Research and volunteer work
When he was a boy, Wilder staff member and volunteer Dan Swanson saw an Indiana Jones movie. What action! What adventure! There and then he knew that was the life he wanted. And it happened. Sort of.
Dan, like Indy, loves being outdoors. And, while he soon realized real research is not the type of adventure seen on the big screen, he went on to get an anthropology degree, with archaeology being his focus.
He worked for about a year after graduation for a company that locates and preserves historical sites at places slated for excavation.
“That was interesting,” Dan says, “and I liked the work. But it also involved a lot of travel.”
Reassessing his career options, Dan spotted a position as a survey interviewer with Wilder Research.
It wasn’t a big career leap in his mind. His degree was in a social science, and he knew that’s what is at the heart of Wilder Research’s work.
“I thought it would be a good foothold into that industry, to get some experience in their data collection department,” says Dan. “I didn’t know at that time that it would lead to 25 years of a career.”
Today, Dan manages the data collection unit for Wilder Research.
“It feels great to do research that has an impact in the community or at somebody’s personal level, rather than more of your market research and polling,” says Dan.
Volunteering for Wilder is another source of fulfillment for Dan. Wilder offers many volunteer opportunities, which allows Dan to volunteer in a different capacity than his professional duties.
“Meals on Wheels was one of the first ones I did, and I did that for almost 15 years,” Dan says. Then COVID hit, and volunteer needs changed.
Reassessing options again, Dan spotted the volunteer role he does today: Grounds maintenance at Wilder Healthy Aging and Caregiving Services at the Lafond Campus in St. Paul.
On a weekly basis, Dan can be spotted walking the grounds picking up litter, broken branches and whatnot. He also does some landscaping and gardening around the property and makes sure the wild bird feeders are stocked. His volunteerism helps the space stay clean and welcoming for participants and visitors. Cassandra Harvey, a program manager at the Lafond Campus, says it’s a great help.
For Dan, it’s almost therapeutic.
“This gives me a nice, quiet, serene setting,” he says. “I already really like the outdoors. I do gardening at home, myself. So, getting my hands dirty and helping weed the garden and working with the landscape and stuff is already something I enjoy doing.”
The variety of volunteer opportunities at Wilder means that staff and community members can find a way to give back that is personally meaningful.
“It’s a great opportunity, depending upon what you want to do,” Dan says. “For me, being able to spend time by myself outdoors is fulfilling for me. For other people, it may be more like the Meals on Wheels where they can talk to people in the community and help out others in that way, too.”