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 Gayle Catterlin, Resident Director

Posted on Friday, Jul. 23, 2010

Gayle Catterlin, Resident Director, CyPhi Residential Learning Community
For Gayle Catterlin, sustainability is a “big-picture” concept which entails educating herself and the students with whom she works about why our actions in the present affect our future. Catterlin echoes Santa Clara’s mission to promote a culture of sustainability by stating her view that sustainability must be communicated as something students can live with in order to really make them “buy in” to it. Fortunately for Catterlin, CyPhi is a residential learning community with the resources and enthusiasm to promote vigorously this culture among students. She cites the Sustainable Living Undergraduate Research Program (SLURP) and the rest of the RLC staff as the champions behind sustainability in CyPhi, calling herself a supporter of these ideas and initiatives.

Some initiatives Catterlin supported during her last two years at SCU include efforts to reduce waste at weekly socials, such as a “bring your own” dishes campaign, and placing stickers on all paper towel dispensers and light switches to remind students to conserve energy and resources.

Swig Hall was also a leader in energy awareness during SCU's first annual Residence Energy Challenge. Catterlin, attributes this to CyPhi community facilitators (CF)'s active programming and promotion. During one week of the energy challenge, the weekly social had a “lights-out” theme. Students ate locally-produced food and socialized in the dark! CFs, who Catterlin praises as the strongest voices for sustainability in CyPhi, have been encouraged to decorate lounges with materials rescued from the garbage or recycling, rather than purchasing new materials. Catterlin emphasized that she does not require any particular program to be continued from year-to-year, allowing for her staff to come up with creative new ideas to promote sustainability to Swig Hall residents.

On a more personal level, Catterlin emphasized her continuing journey in learning about sustainability and adjusting her own behaviors. As a native of the South, Catterlin recalled her amazement at the abundance and broad reach of recycling programs in the West. The attitudes in California and on the SCU campus toward sustainable living inspired her and contributed to her enthusiasm about her RLC’s theme. It was not her move to California, however, which first triggered her interest in sustainability. While working as a Resident Director at Indiana University, she attended Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth speech. When she began working at IU, only glass and a few types of plastics were accepted for recycling, but Catterlin, who worked in a residence hall with 1,300 residents, helped concerned students push for a stronger recycling program.

Despite her involvement in promoting sustainability at IU, Catterlin says she missed the connections with students which came from working at a smaller school. At SCU, her role as a supporter of sustainability programming and initiatives in Swig has allowed her staff to come forward with creative and bold ideas. In the future, Catterlin hopes to work with her staff to promote composting education, as she has noticed that while students are often open to the idea of composting, they are unsure what can be composted and what cannot. She notes that the renovations currently being done in Swig will produce three more kitchens in the building, which should promote waste diversion and energy reduction, as students will not need to bring their own microwaves or refrigerators.

Ultimately, Catterlin emphasizes a “big-picture” approach to sustainability at SCU, focused on bringing in those who have yet to “buy-in” to the concept by showing them how easily they can modify their behaviors to live with a reduced impact on the earth and a more positive role in society. In her role as a supporter, residential leader, and learner about sustainability, Catterlin has and continues to show how her approach is helping promote a culture of sustainability at SCU, one resident at a time.

By Hannah Slocum, '11, Sustainability Intern.

Tags: Co-Curricular Education, Education and Research, Profiles, Residence Life