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George Mitchell Center for Sustainability Awards ceremony

The Senator George J. Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions hosted its first talk of the semester in its Sustainability Series on Jan. 31. This talk, unlike the usual lectures included in the series, was to honor the work of groups and individuals affiliated with sustainability research. The award ceremony began at 3 p.m. and was hosted both virtually on Zoom and in-person at Norman Smith Hall.

The event was introduced by David Hart, the director of the Senator George J. Mitchell Center of Sustainability Solutions. This awards ceremony is the tenth of its kind and has occurred after over eight years of talks on sustainability. The Sustainability Series is designed to address sustainability challenges and grow the ability of the community to discuss and circumvent those challenges.

The first award presented was for outstanding contributions toward the development of a solution by a research team. The team awarded was the Maine Food Waste intern team from the fall 2021 semester. This team was composed of eight students from across a range of institutions, including Thomas College, the University of New England and the University of Maine at Farmington, in addition to several students from the University of Maine.

Three students attended in-person to accept the award and present the research they had conducted over the past semester.

This intern team worked with Food Rescue MAINE to create a six solution food waste system across a wide array of disciplines. Students worked in data collection, communications and marketing to raise awareness for the state of food waste and insecurity in the state.

The next award was presented to Dominique DiSpirito for outstanding student contribution to sustainability research. DiSpirito is a fourth-year political science student who worked with Acadia’s Freshwater Resource Management team to discern stakeholder concerns on subjects like overcrowding and increasing usage of Acadia’s resources. DiSpirito worked on the project for over half of her undergraduate career, having collected 589 surveys from a total of seven stakeholder groups during that time. An article authored by DiSpirito about the research is currently under review with the journal Ecology and Society.

Mark King then accepted the award for outstanding contribution by an external partner to sustainability research. King conducted research on composting and organics management with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

The final award presented at the event was given to Sharon Klein for outstanding mentorship of a student in sustainability research. Klein is an associate professor of economics at UMaine and has conducted research in the fields of energy and climate justice, including work on sustainable energy and dams.

The Senator George J. Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions is hosting weekly sustainability discussions both online and at Norman Smith Hall. Discussions take place on Monday afternoons throughout the semester. The next discussion will host Grammy-nominated composer Lucas Richman and Kate Dickerson, the founder of the Maine Science Festival as they present “The Warming Sea: A Symphonic Exploration of Hope in the Face of the Climate Crisis.” More details are available through their website,

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