Fast Company: Dana Wood makes a difference with career and service roles

November 15, 2011

Currents Magazine, Featured

By Margaret Cox

If you want to catch up with Dana Wood ’81, it helps to move fast. Not only is she a seasoned government relations professional on Capitol Hill, she also co-founded a unique organization known as the Foundation to Eradicate Duchenne.

On any given day, you might find her attending hearings, advocating on behalf of energy or healthcare industry clients. Later, Wood might be raising awareness for Duchenne, a type of Muscular Dystrophy that affects primarily young boys before the age of five. Whatever her day brings, Wood brings a great deal of passion to the table.

Political spark

Originally from Illinois, Wood graduated from Winona State University’s paralegal program in 1981. In addition to being an active member of Student Senate, she took an internship with the U. S. Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber had a regional office in Minneapolis, where she gained experience covering the effects of Congressional activities on the state of Minnesota.

“My advisor, Roderick Henry, was head of the paralegal program and was wonderful in terms of choosing classes and internships,” she explains. “Another instructor, Frank Morello, taught Constitution Law with an emphasis on legal writing, which provided a great base from which to launch my career.”

Following graduation, Wood served as an admissions counselor at WSU. “I am so grateful for the education I received at Winona State,” says Wood. “The size of the university is perfect, because it allows students to get really involved in their interests.”

Through the connections made during her internship, Wood went on to assist Minnesota Senator David Durenberger, which spurred a lifelong interest in politics. “Between my classes, my internship, and the time I spent in Student Senate, I had a really great understanding of government in the broader sense.”

Lobbying for America

For the past 20 years, Wood has built a career in government relations, representing industrial clients and advocating on their behalf to members of the House and Senate and to federal agencies.

Recently, Wood has been involved in enhancing the “Buy America” requirements of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which gives preference to American products when the government spends on public works and public transportation. This bill has served as a model for other parts of the recent stimulus package to revitalize the economy.

Although her work has spanned a number of issues, including environmental, healthcare, and energy, Wood has focused on some concerns that directly affect Minnesota, such as the taconite mines in the northern part of the state.

“The Clean Air Act Amendment of 1990 had profound impact on the steel industry,” says Wood. “Through the efforts of Senator Durenberger and other key players, the amendment was modified so that the steel industry had time to come into proper compliance with emissions standards.”

Wood enjoys the variety of issues that she has tackled over the years, as well as the implications of each that effect everyone, including taxation and trade law. “The only drawback is that there’s not enough time to learn every detail,” she states.

After researching an issue as much as she can, Wood also makes a point of getting to know the politicians involved, their constituents, and their historical stance on policies. “Every time I approach a member of the House or Senate to advocate a position, I know that there’s another government relations professional representing the opposing view,” Wood says.

“You have to know the other side in order to know what to expect. It’s important to raise awareness on issues so that when a bill is introduced that affects these members and their constituency, they know both sides of the story.”

Talent for communicating

Wood’s talent for communicating issues and raising awareness extends beyond her professional work. Eleven years ago, after her son was diagnosed with Duchenne, a form of muscular dystrophy, Wood and her husband, Joel, noted the lack of public awareness and money going into research of the disease.

After dealing with her initial shock, Wood did exactly what she does best: she dove into the issue and developed a strategy to make a difference. In 2002, Wood and her husband co-founded the Foundation to Eradicate Duchenne, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness and raising crucial research monies needed to find a cure.

In addition to organizing three to four fundraising events per year, they have secured numerous corporate sponsors and have raised millions of dollars. The foundation has provided much-needed support to the centers of research excellence originally championed by the late Senator Paul Wellstone, one of the authors of the Muscular Dystrophy Care Act of 2001.

Wood takes all of her accomplishments in stride. She credits much of her success to the solid education she received at Winona State, where she learned not only the basics of government, and the importance of reaching beyond herself for the common good.

“I received a phenomenal education at Winona State, and to this day, I’m a huge supporter of the school,” she says. “I challenge all alumni, whatever you can do to help support and maintain the university, please do.”

Find out more about Dana and Joel Wood’s Foundation to Eradicate Duchenne at www.duchennemd.org.                

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About Winona State University

Founded in 1858, Winona State University is a comprehensive public university with more than 8,500 students. The oldest member of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System, Winona State offers 80 undergraduate, pre-professional, licensure, graduate, and doctorate programs on its three campuses: the original Main Campus in Winona, the West Campus in Winona, and Winona State University-Rochester.

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