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Tending Extraordinary Buildings

Daniel Samuelson-Roberts stands on a rooftop with the Minneapolis skyline in background

Facility Management Certificate recipient Daniel Samuelson-Roberts has spent his professional life drawn to organizations that inspire

Daniel Samuelson-Roberts has spent his professional life tending to “extraordinary buildings.” Growing up in Oak Park, Illinois, where Frank Lloyd Wright’s legacy is omnipresent, he was immersed in Prairie Style architecture and became interested in woodworking and carpentry. He got to work on the restoration of Lloyd Wright's Unity Temple in Oak Park as an intern, and then built furniture with Lloyd Natof, the renowned architect’s grandson.

Daniel Samuelson-Roberts stands in front of the LifeSource building he manages

Samuelson-Roberts graduated from St. Olaf College in 2006 and soon went to work as lead carpenter, fire chief, and safety officer for a wilderness retreat called Holden Village, once a copper mining town in the northern Cascade Mountains of Washington State. Next, he built exhibits for the Science Museum of Minnesota and the Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia). It was while working as the facilities carpenter at Mia that he realized he wanted to play a more influential role in how the building was operated. He started investigating facility management programs, including the one offered at the University of Minnesota.

”While looking on the U’s website, I saw a story about a guy who had gone through a similar program who also had a fine arts degree. Since we had that in common, I thought he might have some helpful insights, so I contacted him,” says Samuelson-Roberts. “He had nothing but great things to say about the program, from the top-notch instruction, to the opportunity to make connections with peers in the same field, to the individualized support from career services. That clinched my decision to enroll in the U’s certificate program.”

The Facility Management Certificate courses are all available online, which was a blessing for this father of a newborn and a toddler. Shortly after starting the program, he accepted a role as facility and emergency preparedness manager for LifeSource, which facilitates organ, eye, and tissue donations across Minnesota, the Dakotas, and part of Western Wisconsin. He says it was due to his previous work experience, along with the reputation of the program, that he was offered the position. “They trusted the caliber of instruction and knew I’d be getting the skills and training that the job required,” says Samuelson-Roberts, who completed the program in fall 2021.

"The certificate program is an especially popular choice for our facility management students, since so many of them have work/life experience entirely separate from the discipline and discover a passion for the field," says Peter Hilger, faculty director of the construction and facility management program. "Often, for purposes of advancement or a pure shift of career trajectories, they find they need the basic FM skill set that the program offers to make the transition. As faculty, we really appreciate the varied backgrounds the students come with—it adds great richness and collegiality among the students and faculty experts."

Daniel Samuelson-Roberts stands at the bottom of a staircase in the building he manages

Throughout his career, Samuelson-Roberts has been drawn to purpose-driven organizations, and his job of maintaining a safe and clean working environment in the LifeSource facilities carries forward that objective. “I’ve found meaning in each of my roles by imagining that moment when the mission of the organization is realized,” he says. “I picture that instance when a child understands how clouds are formed or how the tides work, for example, because of an exhibit that I built.

"At LifeSource, I think about the people who get years added to their lives and what contributions they will make to the world and the gift to their families of having them around longer because of an organ or tissue transplant that we made happen. Here, we are literally saving lives.”

Visit the Facility Management Certificate website for more information.

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