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Sustainability Spotlight Awardees

Sustainability at CSUSM recognizes individual and groups that showcase exemplary service and action in steering our campus towards our sustainability goals. If you're signed up for our Newsletter, we'll also feature new sustainability heroes in each issue. Thank you for all you do, spotlight awardees!

Do you know someone (or a group of someones) on campus who has integrated sustainability/zero waste efforts into their work and wants to give them the recognition they deserve? If so, email us at and let us know so they can be featured in an upcoming newsletter!


  • May 2024
    Vanessa smiling
    Vanessa Crespin, Admin Support Coordinator for the Dean of Student’s Office

    This month’s Sustainability Spotlight is Vanessa Crespin. Vanessa is a great advocate of Sustainability, and it has truly shown through her initiative to coordinate sustainable practices within the Dean of Students Office (DSO). While she is new to DSO, she is not new to CSUSM and has been a long-standing partner in helping promoting sustainability to students and staff. Vanessa does an amazing job of utilizing our Zero Waste Customer Order Form before purchasing items for the office. She actively shares our resources and helps build connections between sustainability and other departments on campus. We appreciate all the work Vanessa has done and look forward to working with her more!

    Thank you, Vanessa, for consistently being an advocate of Sustainability and supporting our efforts!

  • April 2024

    Krisha smiling
    Krisha Pedraza, former Sustainability Student Assistant.

    Krisha Pedraza is our Sustainability Spotlight for April! As our former Sustainability Student Assistant, Krisha played an essential role in supporting all of our sustainability efforts, including Zero Waste, outreach, engagement, and overall support for the Safety, Health, and Sustainability Team. They created informative and fun Meatless Monday posts through our social media and have executed the writing and development of our newsletters since October 2023. They were vital in improving our sustainability website page and assisted in our AASHE STARS reporting.

    Thank you, Krisha! We appreciate all of your work in supporting the Sustainability program, and for being a part of our team. We wish you well in your studies and future endeavors!

  • March 2024
    Brittani Brown
    Brittani Brown, Associate VP of FAS at CSUSM.

    Finance and Administrative Services (FAS) Associate Vice President, Brittani Brown, is this month’s Sustainability Spotlight! She is an active supporter of the Sustainability Program who regularly works to incorporate sustainability into her life and work here on campus.

    Brittani works closely with her team to execute zero waste efforts at FAS Division meetings and regularly champions our sustainability efforts. She also leads by example, regularly using her reusable mug and properly sorting her waste.

    On top of her already very busy schedule, Brittani also volunteers at Sustainability Program events such as Journey to Zero Waste Fair and Crash’s Clean Out. She is a great example of what it looks like to incorporate sustainability into your every day life. The Sustainability Program wouldn’t be the same without Brittani’s ongoing support and advocacy.

    Thank you, Brittani, for your continued support of our campus wide sustainability efforts!

  • February 2024
    Leon Wyden Jr. and Vanessa Rivera
    Leon Wyden Jr. (left), Vice President of CSUSM’s Finance and Administrative Services, awarding Vanessa Rivera (right) the PAW Award: Positive Spirit at a recent FAS conference.

    In this month’s Sustainability Spotlight, we are highlighting Safety, Health, & Sustainability’s very own team member: Vanessa Rivera for her continuous support of the Sustainability Program! As a Safety Specialist, Vanessa works on a wide variety of efforts including but not limited to ergonomics and food and fire safety. Most recently, she has been working with our COVID Case Management Team to distribute soon to be expired COVID tests kits across campus. This is a huge lift for our team to take on and we value Vanessa’s efforts to reduce waste here on campus.

    Vanessa regularly supports our sustainability efforts by working at our events, lending a helping hand during move-out, and by being a valuable resource to our Sustainability Team. She regularly provides us with insightful feedback and is an active supporter of sustainability here at CSUSM.

    Thanks for all you do, Vanessa! We appreciate you!


  • November 2023
    Amber Giacolone and May Flores
    Amber Giacalone with May Flores, another Sustainability Superstar
    Shannon smiling
    Shannon Honour Shaw

    We are thankful for Amber Giacalone and Shannon Honour Shaw for all of their support and work towards helping our campus reach our sustainability goals.

    At the most recent Finance and Administrative Services Division Meeting, Shannon and Amber implemented various zero waste practices to help us reach our goal of Zero Waste by 2025. They advocated for alternatives to single use plastic utensils by having wooden, compostable chopsticks available for staff to use. Amber also sent email reminders to FAS Colleagues encouraging them to bring their reusable utensils, water bottles, mugs and to-go containers for leftover food. Since this was a large meeting with approximately 100 attendees, they also helped coordinate Zero Waste Trash Talker volunteers who stood at the waste receptacle stations to help people sort out their items. This was a great opportunity for staff members to learn how to properly sort their waste.

    These are just a few of the things Amber and Shannon implemented for this division meeting which had a huge impact. They both also regularly advocate for sustainability and actively encourage others to properly sort their waste, even when our sustainability team isn’t around. These two amazing team players regularly volunteer to help support during sustainability events such as our move-out program, Crash’s Clean Out, and our Journey to Zero Waste Fair.

    Thank you Shannon and Amber for all of you dedication to our campus-wide sustainability efforts. We are grateful to get to work with you both!

  • October 2023

    Irma Sauzo

    Pictured above is Irma Suazo, one of our Lead Custodians.

    Irma has been key to our success in implementing composting bins across campus. Her leadership and perspective provide great insight to support our waste bin standardization project. She is also an advocate of our sustainability goals and actively works to improve our Zero Waste efforts.

  • September 2023
    a group of people in front of a storage container full of stuff

    We want to highlight the folks who supported us during our very first Crash's Free Store last month, including: 

    • Francisco Fierro
    • Eduardo Quezada
    • Brandi Mussack
    • Anna Vazquez Reyes
    • Alma Aguero
    • Obdulia Perez Soriano

    Crash's Free Store was an event held at our storage where we took out office supplies and gave it back to our campus community. The supplies was collected throughout the year through our Zero Waste Donation Pickup Program. These supplies included paper, binders, pens, folders, cork boards, and much more! Thanks to your help, supplies went to over 100 folks who participated in this event.

    Thank you for helping us move items out of our storage and keeping our tables organized throughout our event. We couldn't have done this without you! 

  • August 2023
    Toni Shields
    Toni Shields, Director of Professional Development.

    Toni is a great example of what it means to integrate sustainability into everyday work practices. During Toni’s first year of leading Campus Connect, she made an amazing effort to minimize waste throughout the program and utilize mindful purchasing practices. Toni took the time and effort to find sustainable swag items and invested in reusable notebooks for the 2022-2023 Campus Connect Cohort. She also was mindful of the decorations being used during the first and last celebratory Campus Connect sessions.

    Throughout the Campus Connect program, Toni was very mindful of food waste. She ensured there were to-go boxes available for cohort members to take leftover food. Toni also encouraged folks to properly sort their waste and consistently utilized Zero Waste information slides before every presentation started. On top of all of her efforts to reduce waste and integrate sustainability into her work, Toni has also volunteered to support our programs, such as Crash’s Clean Out.

    Thank you, Toni, for your continuous efforts to integrate sustainability into your work. We truly appreciate it!

  • Summer 2023
    staff sorting clothing
    staff organizing items
    piles of items diverted

    For this month's Sustainability Spotlight, we would like to recognize the incredible staff from departments all across campus who helped in our efforts to divert waste from landfill during Crash's Clean Out! With their help, we were able to divert over 10,000 pounds of waste from landfill this year!

    These wonderful folks included:

    • Alma Aguero
    • Francisco Fierro 
    • Anna Vazquez Reyes 
    • Christopher Cerame 
    • Eduardo Quezada 
    • Alondra Gutierrez
    • Abbie Knox 
    • Erika Zetina 
    • Vanessa Rivera 
    • Andrea Wilson
    • Sheila Van Metre
    • Ashley Fennell
    • Abigail Stefano
    • Ivy Dixon
    • Yvette Cintron
    • Shannon Shaw
    • Amber Giacalone
    • Susie Martinez
    • Toni Shields
    • Brittani Brown
    • Emily Mahmoud
    • Noella Richer
    • Megan Lombardo
    • Dominique Harrison
    • Lucero Ordonez
    • Leo Melena

    This was a massive undertaking, and we couldn't have done it without the support from all these wonderful folks. We appreciate and acknowledge your efforts in helping us reach our Zero Waste by 2025 goal. Thank you all so much!   

  • May 2023
    Niki Johnson

    We would like to recognize Niki Johnson! Niki is an Environmental Studies major who is graduating this semester. On top of that, they have been working as the Zero Waste/Sustainability Student Assistant for the Sustainability Program, as well as being a part of the Planet Mentorship Pilot Program.

    Over the last year of their employment with the Sustainability Program, Niki has been a central part of our program with helping us achieve our Zero Waste by 2025 goal. This support included being our go-to person for campus donation pickups via our Zero Waste Pickup Program, maintaining organization of those donations in our storage space, supporting various on-campus sustainability events, and more!

    As a mentee of the Planet Mentorship Pilot Program, Niki used their creative skills to design a piece of art completely made out of upcycled plastic pieces that resembled a face to raise awareness of our overconsumption of plastic. This art piece- along with other art pieces made by Planet Mentorship mentees- can be seen at the Data Stacks on the fourth floor of the Kellogg Library. 

    In addition to all the sustainable efforts Niki implements while on campus, in their personal life, Niki is vegan and participates in and coordinates beach cleanups throughout San Diego County. They are also a fan of thrift shopping and crochet all sorts of items in their free time using thrifted yarn, just to name a few things. 

    Those of us here at the Sustainability Program are sad to see Niki go and will miss them dearly, but we are so proud of all they've accomplished in their personal pursuits, as well as with helping us reach our Zero Waste by 2025 goal. Thank you for everything, Niki! We appreciate and acknowledge all of your sustainable efforts on and off campus, and are excited to see what the future holds for you!

  • April 2023
    Vance smiling

    We would like to recognize CSUSM staff member Vance Kekoa! Vance works in the office of Safety, Health, & Sustainability (SH&S) on campus and has been especially helpful with CSUSM's zero waste efforts. During our recent Cougar Thrifts event, Vance helped our Sustainability Program and Environmental Stewards Association with transporting clothes and setting up the event. Additionally, over Spring Break, he also helped with large donation pick up requests via our Zero Waste Donation Pickup Program. Vance has also assisted in reducing lab materials from going to the landfill and making sure materials are reused across campus.

    On top of all of this, Vance has shown continuous support for the Sustainability Program and is always open to learning as much as he can about all-things sustainability, including what he can do in his every day life to be more sustainable. An example of these efforts he has implemented include using his reusable mug to refill on coffee throughout the day on campus at Starbucks or Campus Coffee. Vance also frequently uses public transportation (or even his bike) instead of driving a vehicle. He is a great partner of the Sustainability Program, both on and off campus.

    We acknowledge and appreciate all of your support and sustainability efforts, Vance! Thank you for all that you do.

  • February 2023
    Isidro Alvarez
    Floyd Dudley
    Victor Chavez
    Ricardo Jacob

    For this month's sustainability spotlight, we are featuring CSUSM Director of Facility Services Floyd Dudley, Assistant Director of Facilities Services Victor Chavez, Lead Grounds Worker Isidro Alvarez, and Irrigation Specialist Ricardo Jacobo for their efforts in helping make landscaping on campus much more sustainable! These folks were featured in a recent article by the San Diego Business Journal, "The unexpected arboretum: CSUSM benefits from sustainable approach to water and environmental management".

    Here is an excerpt:

    "At CSUSM, the people tasked with getting water to more than 160 acres of landscape are Victor Chavez, Isidro Alvarez and Ricardo Jacobo. Chavez is assistant director of Facilities Services, Alvarez is the lead grounds worker, and Jacobo is the irrigation specialist. The work they do falls under the umbrella of the university’s Sustainability Masterplan. 

    That’s important, because the Masterplan emphasizes CSUSM’s position as an active leader in sustainability and makes clear not just the moral and ethical case for sustainability, but also the business case: saving money and providing educational and research opportunities for students.

    Reducing water usage is a key component of the plan’s goals in Natural and Landscape Management Practices. Two aspects are highlighted: 1) planting drought-tolerant and native plants across campus to reduce irrigation efforts and 2) using proper irrigation practices. These have both been core elements that have paved the way for the arboretum project’s success."

    Thank you to this hardworking team for helping our campus become a more sustainable one! Your efforts are greatly appreciated!

  • January 2023

    For this month's sustainability spotlight, we are featuring Office of Inclusive Excellence staff member Lucero Ordonez for her continuous support of the Sustainability Program! Lucero has provided support on multiple occasions for several Sustainability events, including both of last year's Zero Waste Fairs, our Clean Air Day event, and more. These events have a tendency to be great undertakings that require as much assistance as we can get in order to be the most successful we can be. Without her support and the support of others, we would not achieve nearly the same level of success within our sustainability program. So thank you, Lucero, for all that you do! We acknowledge and appreciate your efforts in helping us move closer to achieving our sustainability goals! 


  • December 2022
    cougar pantry students smiling
    Ashley Kekoa alongside students with a recent donation made to the Cougar Pantry.

    For this month's spotlight, we wanted to highlight former CSUSM staff member Ashley Kekoa and her husband/current CSUSM staff member Everett Kekoa. As a Data Integrity Specialist at Fetch, Ashley's position entails purchasing grocery store items with a company card on a near-weekly basis. However, these purchases very quickly take up a lot of room and become much more than Ashley and Everett need for themselves. So instead of tossing the surplus groceries, Ashley and Everett have taken it upon themselves to donate them to the CSUSM Cougar Pantry! From September of this year to today, they have donated over 1,600 pounds (and counting!) of grocery items to the Cougar Pantry, including items such as hygiene products, diapers, toiletries, non-perishables foods, refrigerated foods, cleaning supplies, and more. 

    We acknowledge and appreciate Ashley and Everett's continued efforts in not letting these items go to waste, as well as Ashley's commitment to helping address food insecurity for the CSUSM campus community. Thank you for your generous donations!
  • November 2022
    Five volunteers at the Zero Waste Fair
    Volunteers handing out tote bags to students at the Zero Waste Fair

    For this month's spotlight, we want to thank all of the student and staff volunteers that helped us with the Journey to Zero Waste Fair last month! With their help, we were able to give out tons of free items to the campus community, including over 400 lbs of clothes, office supplies, reusable bags and totes, churros, and more! Your hard work is greatly appreciated and we couldn’t have been as successful as we were without all of you. Thank you again!

  • October 2022
    Dominique Harrison

    Dominique Harrison is one of those people who regularly helps us during events. Just recently, she volunteered during our Clean Air Day Event, engaging with students and encouraging them to take the clean air pledge. During U-Hour on our Clean Air Day Celebration, over 200 people took the pledge to commit to doing their part in cleaning the air. She also encourages others to volunteer and brought Lucero Ordonez who helped out as well. Dominique also has signed up to help us out at our Journey to Zero Waste Fair on October 27th during U-Hour. These events are all outside of her typical work load as a Survey Administrator & Analyst. In that role, she worked closely with Juliana to create the CSUSM Sustainability Survey. This survey is key in assessing the general knowledge, behaviors, and culture of our campus as it relates to sustainability to then help our team develop programming, training, and engagement opportunities.

    We truly appreciate all of Dominique’s work, inside and out of the office! Thank you, Dominique!

  • September 2022
    students playing

    After a lot of coordination, communication and working together, a big donation was made to our partner organization Bibliotecas Hermanas in Mexico! Three large gym mats donated from our Athletics Department- and weighing over 200 pounds each- were diverted from going to the landfill. This donation started with Jason Martin who reached out to our Sustainability team to see if the gym mats could be used somewhere else. These gym mats found a new home through Bibliotecas Hermanas: a charitable, educational program introducing recycling projects to young students. It wasn’t easy getting these transported out from our campus, but with the leadership of Tipper Phillips, and the strength of our helpful crew – Symeon, Ed, Franky, and Chris - they were able to load the mats into the truck and send them off to local schools in Tijuana, Mexico. The students will get to play and use the mats to sit on during their reading program.

    It’s amazing to see how much waste we can divert from going into the landfill when we work together! Thank you again to all of those who are continuously helping us get to Zero Waste by 2025:

    Christopher Cerame – Facility Services
    Eduardo Quezada – Facility Services
    Ernesto Luna-Sanchez – Facility Services
    Eve McDonald – Planning, Design and Construction
    Francisco Fierro – Facility Services
    Jason Martin – Athletics  
    Symeon Martinez – Distribution & Property Control Services
    Tipper Phillips – Planning, Design, and Construction

  • August 2022
    Susan O'Connor in front of a student

    This month we are pleased to spotlight Susan O’Connor for her efforts with integrating sustainability in her work here on campus! As the CSUSM Staff Center Director, Susan supports sustainability and our zero waste efforts by reaching out and asking about sustainable practices. We appreciate her help in getting us to zero waste by 2025. She has also partnered with our Sustainability Program on a Tips and Tricks to Becoming More Sustainable Zoom session for Staff. Susan also regularly shares our events and updates in the Staff Center Newsletter. We look forward to working with Susan and the Staff Center on future events. Thank you, Susan!