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United States of Work

Meet Derrick, 40, college dean

Kai Ryssdal and Bridget Bodnar Feb 18, 2020
Caroline Yang
United States of Work

Meet Derrick, 40, college dean

Kai Ryssdal and Bridget Bodnar Feb 18, 2020
Caroline Yang

We talked to 10 people who roughly represent the 164 million-person U.S. labor force. Ten stories, one question: “Is the economy working for you?” Meet Derrick.

  • Name: Derrick Lindstrom
  • Occupation: Academic dean, School of Liberal Arts and Cultures at Minneapolis College
  • Based in: Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • Daily commute: 20-30 minutes one way, on average
  • Age: 40

The numbers on Derrick:

  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics would categorize his occupation under “management, professional and related occupations” — along with 4 out of 10 U.S. workers. This category also includes teachers, dentists, nurses, architects, CEOs, scientists and a wide range of other professionals. 
  • Four out of 10 workers in the U.S. labor force have, like Derrick, at least a bachelor’s degree. Derrick has a doctorate.

Derrick is the dean of the School of Liberal Arts and Cultures at Minneapolis College. He supervises over 100 faculty members. The school has the lowest tuition rate in the state for two-year community colleges and works to provide resources for students, like a food pantry. He and his wife, a school librarian, are both first-generation college students. They have two children. Recently, Derrick and his wife bought a new house with room for his in-laws to help support them as they go through some age-related medical challenges.

What kind of training did you have to do to get your job?

I have a master’s degree in communication studies. That allowed me to become a faculty member in the communication studies department at Minneapolis College. I went on to complete my doctoral degree in Higher Education Administration. But honestly, most of my job was learned by jumping in head first.

When you were a kid, what job did you think you were going to have when you grew up?

After watching my father break his back on the railroad as a manual laborer, I knew I wanted a job that wouldn’t lead me to a surgeon’s table. I thought either a high school teacher or some other type of office work.

What’s the one tool you can’t do your job without?

I would have to say my laptop is the one tool, but my colleagues, faculty and staff make my job rewarding.

 What’s the hardest part of your job that people don’t know?

Carrying the weight and feeling responsible for over 100 individuals is probably the hardest part of the job. For example, when I cancel a class for low enrollment, I understand that each class I cancel impacts students, but it also means a smaller income for that faculty member. Furthermore, making over 100 individuals feel seen and valued in an institution is challenging.

 What was your first job?

My first job was mowing yards in the neighborhood. I would spend my summers pushing a lawn mower around the neighborhood. Eventually that evolved into a lawn care and landscaping business that my father launched with my help. This was my first exposure to spreadsheets when I set up the family computer in the early ’90s in order to track the accounts.

Click the media players below to hear how Derrick’s story evolved:

February 2020 ^
March 2020 ^
July 2020 ^

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