Lilly Fink Shapiro honored with 2019 Staff Impact Award

Originally published: 
May, 2019

Lilly Fink Shapiro, Sustainable Food Systems Initiative (SFSI) Program Manager, has been recognized with a 2019 Staff Impact Award for her outstanding contributions to the program’s success. She is one of only eleven staff members to receive the annual award campus-wide, selected from more than 100 nominees. Three groups also received awards.

The Staff Impact Awards celebrate those who champion volunteerism and service within the university — going above and beyond by taking on additional challenges. It honors staff who are wall-breakers and bridge-builders — people who find ways to collaborate across units and find solutions to make the workplace better for us all. It seeks to recognize staff, supervisors and teams that make an impact with their work, locally and beyond.

Assistant Professor of Urban and Regional Planning Lesli Hoey led the nomination team for Fink Shapiro that included Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Professor Catherine Badgley, SEAS Professor and Director of the Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum Robert E. Grese, Health Behavior and Health Education Professor Amy J. Schulz, and Executive Director of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network Malik Yakini.

“Simply put, Lilly is at the heart of building one of the most interdisciplinary, visionary, and community-engaged food-systems studies programs in the country,” said Hoey. “The Food Literacy for All course, Fast Food for Thought, and SFSI itself would not be what they are today – and frankly might not even exist – were it not for Lilly’s energy, dedication, and creativity.”

Hoey noted that two of Lilly’s most notable accomplishments have been particularly effective in raising UM’s visibility, enhancing cross-campus collaboration and building community ties, namely the Fast Food for Thought events and the Food Literacy for All class.

Fink Shapiro designed and facilitates the popular Fast Food for Thought annual event, which brings 10 interdisciplinary faculty members from across campus to give a series of short (5-minute) talks on topics relating to food, agriculture, and diets. The goals of Fast Food for Thought are to foster interdisciplinary collaboration, define the emerging, interdisciplinary field of sustainable food systems, and communicate about the broad range of food-systems research and work happening across the University. Over the five years that the event has been held, 46 faculty and three staff members from 11 different disciplinary units have given a talk at Fast Food for Thought. Over 200 people have attended the event each year, including students and faculty from 13 different units on campus and dozens of community members.

[Watch Fast Food for Thought videos on the Sustainable Food Systems Initiative site.]

“The event has been so successful that SEAS administrators asked for a report about the lessons learned from Lilly’s experience and have used Fast Food for Thought as a model to embark on a similar series of Lightning Talks,” said Hoey.

Fink Shapiro also conceived of and put into motion the innovative course Food Literacy for All. Co-taught by a UM faculty lead and a community co-instructor, the course models an ideal university-community partnership. The content and speaker list are co-designed with community partners; over 100 seats are reserved for community members; the course offers free shuttle service from Detroit, live streaming and high-quality recordings that are permanently posted online after each class to make the talks widely accessible; parallel events are co-hosted in Detroit with particular speakers to engage even more community members; and students are encouraged to volunteer with partnering organizations.

The class worked with the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network its first two years. This year, Fink Shapiro and the faculty co-instructor, Hoey, worked for six months with three leading Detroit food systems organizations (the Detroit Food Policy Council, FoodLab Detroit, and the Oakland Avenue Urban Farm) to identify leading activists, researchers and journalists from around the country to invite as speakers, as well as local food-systems scholars, business leaders and activists for three discussion panels. Fink Shapiro also manages the course speaker logistics, dinners, social-media blitzes, press about the course, teaching assistants, and major cross-campus fundraising. Completing its third year this winter, nearly 150 undergraduate and graduate students took the course for credit – the largest enrollment yet – and the course was featured in Detroit and UM media outlets.

[Watch Food Literacy for All videos on the Sustainable Food Systems Initiative site.]

“Much of the success of SFSI would not have been possible without Lilly Fink Shapiro’s dedication and creativity as SFSI Program Manager since 2014,” said Hoey. “For all of these reasons, it was with the utmost enthusiasm that we nominated her for the President’s Staff Impact Award.”

The Sustainable Food Systems Initiative (SFSI) is a campus-wide collaboration among faculty, students, and staff to analyze the global food system in order to realize and educate about sustainable alternatives. This initiative has been active for nearly a decade and gained considerable momentum after five cluster hires from four schools and colleges began to be hired in 2012. The increase in SFSI scholarly and outreach activity has required substantial administrative support and integration among courses, research, grant proposals, community partnerships and outreach programs across the engaged units, which Fink Shapiro has adeptly maneuvered as SFSI Program Manager.

The Staff Impact Awards were developed from recommendations of a Voices of the Staff committee and are sponsored by the Office of the Chief Financial Officer in partnership with University Human Resources.