Union Bistro

In this 2016 file photo, J.D. Garcia plates a dish in the kitchen of Western Technical College’s Union Bistro. The establishment is run by culinary management and food production specialist students, giving them a chance to experience the different aspects of running a restaurant.

Anyone around Western Technical College knows something about Deb Klug.

Deb Klug


As an employee of Western for 42 years, including more than 30 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 and in the kitchen.

“I’ve seen a lot of students through the years,” Klug said. “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 veteran of Western, Klug is continually looking for ways to incorporate service-learning in the classroom. Two years ago, Klug and her staff revised curriculum, 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,” Klug said. “No food service establishment can survive without being socially responsive. To me, community engagement means developing permanent, ongoing 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 nonprofits, 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 before 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,” Reyburn said. “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, she 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,” Klug said. “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.


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