November 2022 - Sustainability Champion: Nick Gutierrez

We have the honor of highlighting Nick Gutierrez as our November Sustainability Champion. Nick has been a vanpool champion for decades. Read on to learn more about Nick and his devotion to the vanpool program at UCSC.

November 02, 2022


1. Tell us a bit about yourself, your background, and how your path led to where you are today.

Nick GutierrezI was born in Jalisco, Mexico and emigrated to Watsonville when I was 4 years old. I graduated from Watsonville High School and after having a few jobs in town, my aunt connected me to UCSC’s Custodial Department.  I have been there since June, 1994!  Currently, I take care of the Geneva House’s first and second floor. I have one more year before I retire! 

2. What does Sustainability mean to you?

To me it would mean for everyone to do their part whether it be recycling or keeping their cars off the road.  I teach my children that they need to do better than us, to take care of their environment. Help them out as much as possible, teach them how to do their part, and hopefully they become better citizens and be more aware of the world we live in. 

And we need to do our part.  I have been on the vanpool since 1995 and became a driver the following year. Initially, I joined to save money, but it became something more. I was with like minded people everyday who were also trying to save money, wear and tear on their cars, keep themselves out of the traffic, and help out the environment. 

3. The success of the vanpool program is due to people like you, who have been participating for over 25 years. Can you tell us what this experience has been like? 

Through all those years, it has been a nice experience to be with all those Watsonville 2 vanpool’s passengers.  Some find vanpool later in their career and retire out, but I have been with many of the same passengers for decades.  When we get new passengers, it just works out that they become part of the group.  I have never gotten to a point where I don't want to drive. It is a positive experience to offer this service to others and because I am a primary driver, the service is free to me! The van has been a part of my job for so long that it goes hand in hand. I have had the van parked in front of my house for over 25 years.  When I retire, I know I will miss driving the van and seeing the riders.  

4. Besides the known benefits of saving time, money and being better for the environment, what are the benefits of being a vanpool participant, in your view? 

When you start vanpool, it feels great not to have to drive on a freeway full of traffic.  Riders can let the driver take care of that.  Riders can put the money they are saving towards something good, even towards paying bills or buying groceries.  I get even more savings because I am a vanpool driver, so I am saving all that money that would go to driving myself into work and then parking on campus, which is pretty expensive. And I do not pay vanpool fees as a driver.Nick Gutierrez and van

In the vanpool, you get to meet co-workers on a more personal level. We get to talk more, know each other better and we carry that respect and kindness to the workplace.  We have known each other for years and we never get mad at each other, not even at work. We are always helping each other out at work when there are busy times. 

Vanpool is for people that love to come to work, enjoy what they do, are open minded, and respect other co-workers’ opinions. You can get along with everyone. During our drive, we talk about our work days and how we could improve and be better. We share videos and photos from our travels and give tips on where to go, and talk about who had a good event, birthday, or anniversary. 

5. What do you hope to see happen with the vanpool program in the future? 

I hope that it continues the way it has all these years providing reachable vanpool fees. As long as the vanpool is an economical program that is cheaper than driving a car and keeping it affordable, it can keep going for a long time.

6. Is there anything else about the work you do that you would like to share?

When I started, there were 2 Watsonville vanpools and now there are eleven vanpools. People in Watsonville see the UCSC Vanpools all the time and ask me about them. Everyone always says that they wish their company provided vanpools.  

Vanpool is reliable, convenient, comfortable, affordable, and a safe source of transportation. You get to know people from your neighborhoods who work at other departments on campus and it gives you a good community.  It has helped me all these years and when I retire, I know I will miss driving the van and seeing the riders.  

7. Lastly, what do you do for fun outside of work?

I bring in my Giant TCR 12-speed road bike on the van.  We have bike racks on the van. At lunch, I do 2 loops around the campus. And if I miss that, I do an hour ride through Corralitos area. I also travel to Mexico every June for 4 weeks.  I make sure one of the weeks is spent at one of the beautiful beaches in Cancun. And if there is any time left in the day, I like to sit down to watch a good movie.  Action, drama, science fiction, romance, any type of good movie!  

For more information about the vanpool, check out the vanpool website.