Director of sustainability redefines University of Michigan dining

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When it comes to fostering engagement in sustainability efforts, you can step up and do the work, or wait for it to happen to you, says Keith Soster, director of sustainability and student engagement for the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Here’s a look at Soster’s job description, and how the position has redefined the program.

Q: How did your position come to be?

A: Before Michigan Dining went through a reorganization, requests for student and community partnerships went to whoever could be reached. They wanted someone to be the face of student and community connections—someone who had a background in food operations and could guide the work. I was able to step into that position. Now, I’m a resource to students on campus who want to incorporate the dining program into their classwork, and to student and community organizations who want to partner with us.

Q: What are some of the projects you’ve spearheaded?

A: This last fall semester, we either sponsored or collaborated with 24 class projects, 10 independent sustainability student projects, 28 student organization projects, six chef demos and 16 speaking engagements. That’s nearly double what we had last year.

Q: How has your role impacted the dining program?

A: Part of my role is to be able to communicate across Michigan Dining and beyond. It’s difficult to set up goals about what that culture looks like, but, per a recent report, students are more aware about sustainability because of how far Michigan Dining has come.

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