Student Life welcomes Emily Canosa to the newly created role of manager for the University of Michigan Sustainable Food Program (UMSFP).
Emily's appointment is an important piece in the UMSFP's goal of fostering collaborative leadership among student organizations working towards sustainable food. The idea of the UMFSP was launched in 2012, as a way to coordinate the many groups working on different aspects of the same issue. The collective brings together organizations such as Friends of the Campus Farm, UMBees, and the Ann Arbor Student Food Co-op.
In her role, Emily will act as a "connector", bringing students together with resources and opportunities. "I link students up with places where they can get what they need," says Emily. "That could be with a class on campus, a student club, or with a certain workshop or an event going on." These connections will make the individual initiatives both more valuable and effective.
A current student project involves taking food waste from the dining halls and converting it into compost. "The question isn't just ‘Is it viable?,' but also ‘How can we pair classes up with it? What kind of interpretive materials do we need to have? What kind of learning do we need to have in the halls so people understand what's going on?' Emily will also make connections to the community, working with student groups to organize speakers, workshops and panels.
While the students of the UMSFP ultimately lead and implement projects themselves, busy student schedules have sometimes been an obstacle to getting plans off the ground. The UMSFP manager will play a large role in taking on some of this organizational load. At the same time, any student curious about where to start in sustainable food can consult with Emily. "They can talk to me about what a career in sustainable food might look like, or what internships or jobs are available. Or they can mention a project and I might say ‘Oh, so and so is already working on that, and you could collaborate.'"
Championed by students
The need for the UMSFP manager position was first identified by students. In the past, one big challenge had been the loss of knowledge, as student leaders graduate every year. The students of the UMSFP saw the new position as critical to ensuring continuity, with part of the charge dedicated to helping leadership teams transfer knowledge to the next generation.
The position is a collaboration between Student Life, the Graham Institute and Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum, all of which contribute to the position's funding. Additional funding also comes from a grant from the Transforming Learning for a Third Century initiative. It was the students' idea that the position report up through Student Life because they thought it was important for the manager's work to connect to food on campus.
Closing the loop
One big goal for Emily is supporting the students in getting Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification for the Campus Farm, a necessary step to getting the food grown on the farm into the dining halls to be served. The composting initiative is another exciting piece of the same sustainable cycle. Says Emily: "If we can take food waste from the dining halls and use it to grow new food on the farm — which in turn could be served in the halls — then we would really be closing the loop!"
While sustainability is finding a place at every level of education, Emily sees something special about doing the work here at Michigan: "What I love about working with college students is that they are change agents. They can take on initiatives and change things, and you can see real things happening."
About Emily Canosa
Emily has her bachelor of arts in History of Art, and a master's of art in Japanese Studies. She has interned as a beekeeper in Tokyo, as well as interned with an organic farmers' market in Japan. Emily has over 10 years experience in education and over five years working with sustainable gardening and agriculture. She developed and oversaw a K-8 and teen leadership programs for Edible Avalon and most recently worked as the Food and Garden Club Coordinator for the Agrarian Adventure, both in Ann Arbor. Emily began her new role in January. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org