Written by Ben Dwyer, OPG Staff
Executive Director of Self-Directed Services, Lucy Lund, joined OPG seven years ago. Recently graduating with a PhD in Public Policy, I sat down with the now Dr. Lund to discuss the journey from college student to doctorate, and her vision for the future.
In both academia and her career in developmental disabilities, Lucy’s path is traced back to Grand Forks, North Dakota. Earning both a bachelor’s degree, along with a master’s in Public Administration, Lucy found her first job in the field within the student newspaper.
“I fell in love with the people, I fell in love with the field.”
“I thought the job would be at an office,” she recalls. “I got an address to go to this person’s house […] I walk in and some manager said “go give these two guys a shower, and you gotta make breakfast.”” Finishing her first shift at 9pm, Lucy was sure it would be her last. Six years later, Lucy was still working at that same group home. “I fell in love with the people, I fell in love with the field.”
As time went on, Lucy’s education and experience within the field lead her to OPG, where she became the equivalent of a Quality Enhancement Specialist, overseeing others working with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. While her passion for academia had been a life-long partnership, the desire to acquire her PhD developed later down the road.
“I didn’t initially plan to get my PhD, but as soon as I started working towards my master’s, I knew that’s what I wanted to do.” Meanwhile within OPG, Lucy had become the Executive Director of Self-Directed Services – ensuring the company continues to meet state standards while “making sure we go above and beyond.” When the timing was right, Lucy began her quest to reach the highest level of academia through Walden University.
In applying her studies to Public Policy, Lucy was able to focus on ways of interaction that develop policy relating to students with intellectual disabilities transitioning from an individual education plan (IEP), to waiver support services. “There’s often no left hand talking to the right,” she states in regards to current policy. “Students are going through their educational experience with two separate development plans. I looked at how collaboration could really impact that.”
“I knew if I got my PhD I would be ingrained within academics for the rest of my life.”
After the completion of one of her master’s degrees, Lucy decided to take three months off, humorously describing that time as “very hard”. So, when the PhD epiphany struck, it wasn’t much of a decision. “I love education and I knew if I got my PhD I would be ingrained within academics for the rest of my life.”
While juggling both a full-time job alongside a PhD, another ball found itself thrown into the mix: Motherhood. “When we found out we were having a baby, I sadly looked at my graduation date,” she comically remembers. It was a big change, and an even bigger challenge, though one that culminated in both the birth of her son, and the donning of a graduation cap. “I hope I can teach my son that education is everything.”
Reaching her graduation in July 2017, was a humbling experience, and one that won’t soon be forgotten. Being surrounded by her parents, sister, and best friend, alongside her husband and newborn son, made every second worthwhile. “They made it all happen, so I hope they felt just as much of an accomplishment as I did, because they helped me get there.”
Transitioning to thoughts regarding the future, Lucy foresees the PhD greatly impacting her role at OPG. “[OPG] will be at the forefront, and have firsthand information of what’s going on,” she states. “Eventually perhaps we can do some research studies […] it meshes well with collaborating with people across the country that we never did before.”
“OPG is always at the forefront. There’s a lot of providers playing catch-up.”
Most significantly, Lucy sees her PhD helping both OPG and other organizations grow through improved collaboration. With the important work being done by OPG’s Self-Reliance Committee, as well as ongoing conversations between fellow out-of-state providers, Lucy hopes to keep OPG the vanguard for intellectual disability support. “OPG is always at the forefront. There’s a lot of providers playing catch-up.”
Speaking personally about reaching this milestone, and her continued journey going forward, Lucy envisions herself staying tied to academics in one way or another. “I hope to teach and stayed tied to disability support policy and being at the cutting edge,” she explains.
“We’ve seen a lot of changes throughout disability support’s history, and I want to ensure that there are opportunities for people we support at OPG and across the country to keep moving forward in being less restrictive, more open and more natural.”
As our time wraps up, it’s clear that Lucy’s academic and professional achievements speak for themselves. Yet with “PhD” now sitting next to her name, Lucy assures me that she won’t be insisting on everyone referring to her as Dr. Lund from now on. “Well, maybe a select few,” she laughs.
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