“I’m a self-starter; I don’t like to rely on other people unless it’s absolutely needed,” said Dana Van Dussen, Senior Director of Human Resources and Lighthouse’s 2020 Indirect Labor Employee of the Year. She has led a successful 15-year career at the Lighthouse working in human resources.
Dana’s parents realized she had severe hearing loss at age two and equipped her with hearing aids. Life was relatively steady until Dana reached the age of 14, when it became apparent her eyesight was becoming problematic at night. When she was 15, she was diagnosed with Usher syndrome, which is a rare genetic disorder with a combination of hearing loss and a degenerative eye condition known as retinitis pigmentosa.
She attended high school in Seattle, where she learned about the Lighthouse when an interpreter from her school brought her there for a tour. After she graduated, she pursued her undergraduate degree at Cal State University, which had a sizable support system for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Taking advantage of the note taking and interpreting services, Dana completed a Bachelor of Science in business administration and management and came back home to Seattle to launch her career.
Dana applied at the Lighthouse for a Human Resources Coordinator position in 2005, and she began working on a small team. Dana was eventually promoted to HR Manager, then to Director of Human Resources, and currently to her position as Senior Director of Human Resources. “Having a good career is important to me,” Dana said, “being independent is about making my own decisions, my own choices, and really being able to take control of my life, where I want to go, and doing the things that I do.” Through her work in HR, she supports everyone in the organization, and is delighted in contributing to their success. She enjoys connecting to younger employees coming to the Lighthouse for their first jobs and helping to mentor them in their career paths.
Dana finds inspiration in her everyday interactions with employees at the Lighthouse. “Even though I have a progressive eye disease, and I could lose my vision, life continues on, and that really means a lot to me,” she noted. “I think had I not worked here at the Lighthouse I would have been more lost. Hearing and seeing other people’s stories and knowing how well they achieve and how successful they are — it to me is inspirational, it’s motivating, it’s more helpful than I think I can put words to.”
Dana is a fierce advocate and ambassador for the Lighthouse and constantly works to promote the organization and bring people in for tours. Bringing awareness of blindness is critical, and the best way to accomplish that is to bring people to the Lighthouse to see how people who are blind and DeafBlind work despite their visual impairments. It is Dana’s hard work that has earned her the title of Lighthouse 2020 Indirect Employee of the Year.
When she’s not ardently busy working at the Lighthouse, Dana is an avid traveler, having visited over 19 different countries along with pursuing a goal of visiting all 50 of the United States and 7 continents. She’s passionate about the outdoors, hiking, purchased a jeep and recently joined a jeeping club (letting others do the driving part) that volunteers with the Department of Natural Resources.