Caylin McKee (ENVS ’12) began her career in higher education campus sustainability while serving as an undergraduate Eco-Rep and a teaching assistant at the University of Vermont. After graduation, Caylin worked as the sustainability manager with UVM Dining. As of January 9, 2017, Caylin is now the education and outreach coordinator in the UVM Office of Sustainability.
In her new role, Caylin tracks and reports indicators of campus sustainability success and coordinates the Eco-Reps Program that started her on her own career path. She advises up to 25 student Eco-Reps who educate peers about changing their daily habits to support a more sustainable campus and local community. The Eco-Reps focus their mentoring in residence halls and the Davis Student Center, where they promote recycling, composting, and other sustainable practices.
Caylin looks forward to working more closely with students in her new position coordinating the Eco-Reps.
“It’s a great program which encourages on-campus student interaction and making daily life decisions more sustainable,” says Caylin who graduated with a major in environmental studies from the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources in 2012. “I am excited to help students understand the influence they have to make changes on campus and to enable students once they graduate and leave campus to be leaders in the area of sustainability.”
The Eco-Reps develop their campus campaigns in concert with UVM Residential Life, the Davis Center, UVM Physical Plant, UVM Dining, and the Office of Sustainability. The program celebrated its tenth anniversary during the 2015-2016 academic year and according to Gioia Thompson, director of the Office of Sustainability, the UVM Eco-Reps Program has inspired the creation of similar programs on other campuses nationwide.
“In her position as sustainability manager with UVM Dining, Caylin developed a keen understanding of how the Eco-Reps can make a difference in their peers’ behavior,” says Gioia. “During her four years at UVM Dining, Caylin worked closely with the Eco-Reps during their campaigns to inform peers about how to recycle, divert waste, participate in the Real Food Challenge, and choose healthy beverages.”
While working with UVM Dining, Caylin also served as a community partner for an environmental studies service-learning course on campus sustainability – a course she first took as a student and then helped to instruct as a teaching assistant.
“It was an evolution for me – from student to TA and later as community partner in the course,” says Caylin, who gave tours of the operational areas of campus and presented each unit’s interface with UVM sustainability commitments. “I got to expand my connections with students, classes, and several partnering units on campus.”
During her junior and senior years, as a student Eco-Rep in the Davis Center, Caylin helped to introduce a building-wide composting option. Working with UVM Dining and Custodial Services, she developed a composting program and created interpretive displays to educate people about waste sorting.
“It was rewarding to see my student project be institutionalized by UVM,” said Caylin. The project she pioneered as a student became her responsibility as sustainability manager with UVM Dining.
As a student, Caylin complemented her academic education at UVM by taking on other leadership roles in addition to her three years as an Eco-Rep. She served as a residential assistant, a residential hall council president, a UVM Outing Club leader, and a teaching assistant in several environmental studies service-learning courses, including the course on campus sustainability.
Her roles in the course, her experience with the Eco-Reps, and her exposure to the functions of the Office of Sustainability quickly led Caylin along a pathway to a career in campus sustainability.
In her new position, she is also responsible for gathering, analyzing, and reporting on data and indicators of success through the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System, or STARS, and other national ranking systems for college campus sustainability.
“Caylin comes well-prepared to tackle the complexity of reporting through STARS, since a significant part of her work with the Real Food Challenge involved detailed tracking of how much food is certified as local, organic, fair trade, or humanely raised,” says Gioia. “Her experiences working with teams of student interns and with service-learning course instructors will serve her well as she takes on the broader challenges of gathering data and reporting on progress in both academics and operations across many topics in the Office of Sustainability.”
Whether it’s helping to grow and track the progress of a sustainable campus or educating student leaders, Caylin points to the ripple effect on the greater community.
“Public universities play a unique role in the community and share a responsibility for the public good, whether through the education of students or the actions of campus operations,” states Caylin. “Working to create a sustainable campus is a fundamental way to achieve that. Everything we do at UVM interconnects with the local Burlington community.”