Anyone around Western Technical College knows something about Deb Klug.
As an employee of Western for 42 years, including over 30-plus years as an instructor in the Culinary Management program, she has inspired thousands of young chefs in the area with her compassion, intellect, and creativity in the classroom, as well as the kitchen.
“I’ve seen a lot of students through the years,” said Klug. “But each and every student brings a different perspective, and I learn new things every day.”
Later this month, Klug will be honored with the 2019 Distinguished Service-Learning award at Western. The award, established in 2016, honors exceptional service-learning initiatives in the classroom and beyond.
Even as a long veteran of Western, Klug is continually looking for ways to incorporate service-learning in the classroom. Two years ago, Klug and her staff revised the curriculum for the program, integrating food sustainability into a one-credit class, hoping to inspire the next generation to be more conscious of food waste. The Foods Club, which she heads, has also been a big supporter of Western’s Cavalier Cupboard, the college’s food pantry for students, by donating food on a regular basis. In addition, the Union Bistro, Western’s student-led restaurant that is open to the public, has expanded operations to two days a week this term rather than just one day as in the past.
“If you support your community, they will support you,” said Klug. “No foodservice establishment can survive without being socially responsive. To me, community engagement means developing permanent, on-going relationships that benefit my students, my college, my industry, and my community.”
“It is evident Deb has been intentional to assure that businesses, as well as non-profits, are being served through these learning experiences,” said Kari Reyburn, Community Engagement coordinator at Western. “The amount of additional work it takes to facilitate these learning experiences is astounding.”
Those initiatives go well beyond the campus community. Every year, the Foods Club raises money with a pie sale the week prior to Thanksgiving. During this time, several pies are donated to the La Crosse Community Thanksgiving Dinner. The club also participates in Operation River Watch and the Down Syndrome Association, providing countless volunteer hours.
“We are looking for community-based learning within the classroom when deciding this award,” said Reyburn. “But we also look at the impact this instructor has on our community. It is clear Deb goes above and beyond.”
Klug hopes her programs and initiatives make a difference in her community. Above all, however, she just hopes to bring a little more joy and happiness into the world through her work.
“We live in a very fast-paced and impersonal society,” said Klug. “We need to take care of each other. A little bit of involvement, care, and compassion makes the world seem a little less cold and much more fair and inviting.”
Klug will be honored at the 2019 Celebration of Community Engagement on Wednesday, April 24 at Western’s Lunda Center.
To learn more about Western’s Community Engagement initiatives, visit www.westerntc.edu/community-engagement.