Karthik Jayakumar wins City of Raleigh Environmental Award Back to Top

Karthik Jayakumar wins City of Raleigh Environmental Award

Karthik Jayakumar with his Community Action award

NC State Dining is committed to feeding the Wolfpack sustainably, taking several initiatives to reduce waste and responsibly source products. This year, the program continued to enhance these initiatives with the help of a student intern, Karthik Jayakumar, whose impactful work recently received recognition from the City of Raleigh.

On Friday, April 19, Jayakumar received the first Community Action award for his work at NC State Dining, becoming one of ten winners in the City of Raleigh’s 2024 Environmental Awards.

Jayakumar joined the Dining team in Fall 2023 as a purchasing data intern. The position was created as part of a collaboration between NC State Dining and Campus As a Classroom, an internship program led by the University Sustainability Office. This is the first year NC State Dining participated in the Campus As A Classroom program, creating new student learning experiences in the department.

“There were several projects related to sustainability that our staff needed assistance with, and we saw an opportunity to get students involved,” said Paul Matney, business officer at NC State Dining. “We created a position for a student to help us with auditing, tracking local purchasing trends and identifying areas for growth in accordance with our sustainability goals.”

Matney explained that Jayakumar’s skill level and experience enabled him to go above and beyond the job description, bringing innovative ideas that revolutionized Dining’s approach to purchasing data management.

During his time with Dining, Jayakumar developed a live interactive purchasing map to help staff manage the data easily. On the map, each food vendor that Dining purchases from is marked by a bubble. The size of each bubble corresponds to Dining’s purchasing patterns from that particular vendor. Larger circles mark vendors from which Dining purchases more frequently, and smaller circles mark those purchased less frequently. The map also includes information about costs and product availability.

Keith Smith, Karthik Jayakumar, Paul Matney and
Lauren Smith at the 2024 Environmental Awards Ceremony

“This position offered me real, hands-on experience with data management and gave me a feel for what all can be done with it,” said Jayakumar, who is pursuing his master’s degree in computer engineering at NC State. “Paul and other Dining team members were very supportive and gave me the flexibility to experiment with different things. I found that the best approach to purchasing management would be to provide a visual representation of the data for Dining staff to refer to.”

Matney nominated Jayakumar and other student interns for the City of Raleigh Environmental Awards, acknowledging their important contributions to sustainability at NC State Dining and youth involvement in environmental initiatives.

“It’s cool to see what others in Raleigh have done to improve sustainability in the community and it feels good to have been a part of those efforts,” he said. “I know many of my peers are concerned about what they can do to help the environment; now is a great time to explore our options and discover what sustainable alternatives exist.”