The value of civic engagement according to International Paper's Dorian Wanzer

Last revised: May 20, 2024

Our career paths can be inspired by many things. From an experience that sparks inspiration and curiosity to hearing a story that ignited a passion for helping others. Dorian Wanzer is a great example of how life experiences can shape career decisions and form a path that is inspirational for many others to follow.

Wanzer started at International Paper as an Advocacy Manager for Government Relations in January 2020. Before starting, she had an idea of what is the paper and wood industry thanks to her father who had a long career in its distribution and manufacturing sectors. While she is following in his footsteps, she’s doing it in her own unique way – her father wasn’t the only inspiration. 

As a lead for International Paper’s Employee Voter Education Campaign, Wanzer felt pulled to help people understand the importance of civic participation.

“I was taught to value [civic participation] by my grandfather, who passed away last month. I am proud that my 93-year-old grandfather voted early for the last time in the historic 2020 election. He’d always say, ‘I always vote because it’s my right.’”

Wanzer’s grandfather was a U.S. Navy veteran, raised in rural South Carolina during the Great Depression.

Like so many Black Americans of that era, he dreamt of equality and fairness and was part of the Great Migration to escape the horrors of the Jim Crow South for a better life. “My grandfather endured prejudices that many individuals could not fathom … because of him, I can,” Wanzer says. “Not only can I exercise my right to vote, but I led a nonpartisan program intended to help everyone participate in voting. I feel good about that.”

Another “feel good” part of Wanzer’s job is seeing the interconnectedness of the industry, and the vital role that forest products play in our daily lives.

"Forest products are an essential component of supply chains that sustain people around the world,” she says. “From food production to pharmaceuticals to health and hygiene products to ballots, to emergency supplies, our products are key.”

As our industry continues to grow, Wanzer hopes to see more opportunities arise for women of color as government relations and policy experts, along with establishing partnerships with historically black colleges and universities that amplify the great job experiences in the agriculture and forest sector – to inspire the next generation of our workforce. 

Reprinted from AF&PA.