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Career Paths aren't Always Direct

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Walker Modic

Walker Modic is a Sustainability Specialist at Bell's Brewery. His career path was not a direct one; instead he made a few twists along his journey before coming to Kalamazoo.

Finishing an undergraduate degree at Denison University, Modic went to work at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory only to realize the lab bench was not for him.

After finishing his degree he decided to make his home brewing hobby a career. A few years into working at a small brewpub, Modic realized that he was not passionate enough about brewing to have a successful career.

When he heard of some craft breweries hiring sustainability professionals, Modic said it, "sounded like the coolest job in the world."

About a year after Modic finished a master's degree in sustainability and environmental management, Bell's had such an opening.

"Now here I am," Modic said.

"My business card says Sustainability Specialist. That means I'm responsible for employee education, waste mitigation, increasing the efficiencies of natural resource utilization, and environmental compliance, assessment, and advocacy.

"In short, I'm somewhere between a project manager focused on continuous improvement and a garbage man. Really just depends on the day," he said.

The job at Bell's brought Modic to Kalamazoo from Boston. Once here his criteria for where to settle in the community was very specific. Placing value on being able to walk or ride bikes to basic services and recreation was important.

Modic now lives off of Oakland near the Hillcrest/Winchell neighborhood.

"If we run out of coffee or forget an item on the shopping list, I'd so much rather grab my dog's leash then reach for my car keys as I head back out the door," he said.

"Not only do I find that a more pleasant way to pass my time, you come to know your neighborhood and your neighbors in a very different way when you go places on foot. It builds a sense of community in the place you live."

Modic explained that he enjoys, "the diversity of activities available in Kalamazoo."

"I can see Michael Pollan speak, catch Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me, and see live music any number of places, but I can still be lost in the woods with my dog or on the water in heartbeat," he said.

"That's a hard balance to find because in big cities the great outdoors tend to be hours away and when you live in areas with easy access to the great outdoors you typically don't have access to the amenities a city offers."

Enjoying his nice steep learning curve at work, Modic explained that being a sustainable business has no end point. As a result, new challenges with an unfamiliar solution are likely.

"That keeps the work challenging and interesting. I hope I never reach the point where I've got all the answers," Modic said. "I'd be bored."

That mentality can be tied back to the way Modic views Kalamazoo's potential, too.

"The presence of Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo College, and Kalamazoo Valley Community College provides the kind of events - sports, music, lectures - and people - innovative, opinionated, ambitious, progressive - that make Kalamazoo an engaging dynamic place to live," Modic said.

"I also think that Kalamazoo is seeing something of an urban recolonization. I hope that continues and the city continues to invest in making Kalamazoo a more walkable and bike-friendly place. Not only because that is the type of city I enjoy, but ask anyone in HR, those are attributes college grads value."

Modic enjoys running, hiking, a good beer, and both American and European football.

If you happen to run into him make sure to ask him about his passion for sustainability.

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