“I had a real affinity for the underdog, a real passion for doing something meaningful on behalf of people that needed support,” Dan Haugen recalled as he told Richfield Patch how he made the choice to study social work.
For more than three decades, Haugen has spread positive social messages through his work in mental health and social work. Haugen spent more than 20 years with Minneapolis’ Neighborhood Involvement Program, which provides mental health, sexual abuse, medical services and more to those in need. All the while, he taught various courses at the University of Minnesota and Richfield’s .
Haugen is now president of Adler, which is dedicated to educating future counselors, psychologists and other mental health professionals.
“My passion for the community is what really drives me now,” Haugen said. “If you look out your window and follow things closely enough, you’ll see where the need is.”
For this reason, Haugen believes his role at Adler and the school’s positioning in the community can create great opportunities for residents, as well as students.
“That’s the kind of stuff that really turns me on,” Haugen said with a smile. “We hope to create a community center where community members can not only receive services, but also offer their time to help, too.”
"He is one of the people that consistently holds a high ethical standard for himself," said Julie Manworren, a long-time friend and executive director of Simpson Housing Services. "He believes in the best of humanity and he lives it, he models it,"
Haugen, who has also volunteered for 20 years as a youth sports coach, recently wrote a children’s book. “Staarabu Was Wise, Anana Was Gentle” is about a mouse and elephant and their heroic quest to solve a drought that has fallen upon the Africa plains. The book has been used as curriculum within the Richfield Public Schools District. Following the book’s central theme of homelessness, all profits from sales are going to Manworren's organization, Simpson Housing Services, which provides shelter for families and individuals experiencing homelessness.
“Writing children's literature, for me, is in many ways a sidebar and not something that requires me to make a profit," Haugen said. "My wife and I have been very blessed to have continuous employment over the years. I look at [writing children's books] as a skill that I have developed and use to give back.”
Haugen said he has at least five other manuscripts ready for publishing, and tons of other ideas—from addressing Alzheimer’s to calling attention to mistreated horses—bouncing around in his head.
“I think you only have so many years to contribute,” Haugen said. “You only have so many opportunities to do something outside of yourself—and that is something that you shouldn’t take lightly.”