Curriculum and Research


Stephanie Piech '11Stephanie Piech '11
Ithaca College's Dining Sustainability Coordinator

Stephanie Piech ’11 graduated with a B.A. in Environmental Studies with a concentration in “Local and Global Application Sustainable Practices,” and an minor in Anthropology. Stephanie interned for Dining Services for three years as a sustainability intern, and when she graduated, she was invited to become Ithaca Dining Services' very first, full-time Sustainability Coordinator. She worked on many projects and internships throughout her undergrad career, such as working to gather information for our greenhouse gas emissions inventory, sat on the committee that developed the College's Climate Action Plan, as well as other projects dealing with compost, sustainability, and food education. Through these experiences, Stephanie has had opportunities to speak at national conferences, including those of the Association for the Advancement for Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). She has also spoken at our own Whalen Symposium. When NCUR was held at Ithaca, Stephanie had the opportunity to sit in on their planning committee, volunteer her time, and gave a talk about the sustainability in dining services.

Stephanie may be really involved in sustainability now, but it didn’t start out that way. When she first came to Ithaca she was an undecided exploratory major. Previously, she had never even heard of sustainability, and first learned of it in her freshman seminar. From there she tried out different experiences and projects and learned through trial and error where her passion really was. During her junior and senior year especially, Stephanie tried to focus more of her academic research and class work on food and sustainability. She took many different classes and learned to look at agriculture, food, and food rituals, from a variety of perspectives. All her experiences as an undergrad has been a great help to prepare her for her current career. Having gone to Ithaca and the knowledge of being a student here helps her to interact with students, faculty, and staff. The town of Ithaca itself was very inspirational, the landscape and atmosphere has lead Stephanie to try many outdoor activities, go to different kinds of performances, and enjoy the feeling of community. Working in Ithaca as a student changed her perspective and her undergrad experience.

In addition to these experiences and internships, Stephanie also travelled a lot. Instead of studying abroad, Stephanie went on smaller educational trips with classes. After her freshman year, she spent several weeks in Ecuador learning about Sustainable Micro-enterprise. In her sophomore year, she went to Poland for the United Nations Convention on Climate Change. During her senior year, Stephanie learned about rainforests, reefs, and ruins in Belize. All these taught her how be an international ambassador of sustainability principles, and changed her as a person.

Nowadays, Stephanie regularly works on projects involving energy minimization, waste management, nutrition, local foods, and community involvement. Stephanie interacts with student groups on campus, and off campus partners, as well as the wider Sodexo community. She coordinates a variety of projects, initiatives, and events surrounding topics in sustainability. Recently, she partnered with Dr. Julia Lapp to develop a one-credit course that will utilize the new teaching kitchen in Terrace Dining Hall. Stephanie also attends some of the Sustainability Enterprise and Entrepreneur Network, SEEN, and works with Sustainable Tompkins. Stephanie is very happy where she is, and Sodexo is a large company with a lot of opportunities for someone like her to lend expertise in sustainability. She would like to pursue a second degree, perhaps in a Sustainable MBA, or a program more related to food. Her foal for the future is to plan a sustainability food business from the ground up. Hopefully, more positions that incorporate sustainability and business, such as her job now, will evolve.

But it can’t be all work and no play. Stephanie is passionate about ultimate Frisbee, and works with a team of people in the Ithaca Area Ultimate Alliance, IAUA to organize summer, fall, and winter leagues as clinics, fun tournaments, and social gatherings.

Stephanie’s message to Ithaca students: “Discover your passions, never stop asking questions, challenge yourself and others, branch out, travel if you can, and get internship experience!”