Catherine Yee is an undergraduate student studying Earth, Society, and Environmental Sustainability in the College of Liberal Arts and Science (LAS).
As a member of the Energy Generation, Purchasing, and Distribution SWATeam, she’s uniting staff, faculty and students in a common goal: transitioning campus to clean energy sources. Through her involvement as a student leader for the Know Tomorrow and Seize the Grid campaigns on campus, she offers a broad knowledge of student perspectives on the topic of energy.
It can be challenging to balance the available funding with the scale of changes that need to be made to campus energy generation, purchasing, and distribution practices, Yee said. Campus almost entirely relies on on nonrenewable resources for its power, and finding a solution that fits the budget and doesn’t require a lot of space (for fitting solar panels or for underground geothermal installation, among other examples) is one of the team’s biggest hurdles, she said.
“I’ve learned that change is not instantaneous, but if you stay dedicated and continue to be persistent, changes start to happen,” she said.
The most rewarding part of her energy work is interacting with the groups of people who are working hard every day to help the University of Illinois’ Urbana-Champaign campus become sustainable. Her greatest wish is that all people on campus — not just SWATeam members or energy-related employees — realize they have a part to play in campus sustainability.
“Always recycle, always walk or bike instead of drive, always turn the water off when you brush your teeth … these tasks are so simple, but their impact is wild,” she said.
Outside the classroom, Catherine serves as the Co-Chair of the 2016 Earth Week committee within the Students for Environmental Concerns (SECS) organization. When she’s not focused on sustainability, Catherine can often be found studying in Newman Hall’s dining area (“FREE coffee!”) or munching on popcorn and catching up on her favorite shows on Netflix.