April 2019: Sarina Sylavong

April 11, 2019


Each month, our newsletter features a person or group on campus that is working toward a more sustainable world. This month we had the privilege to interview Sarina Sylavong, a Senior who has worked many positions at the sustainability office: Green Labs Program, InterOrg team coordinator, Green Labs Program Facilitator, and Student Task Force. While she is a great member of our team, we are happy to see her graduate. We wish her the best in her future and hope that the Sustainability Office has given her the resources to succeed in her upcoming career. Congrats Grad of 2019!

  1. What's your favorite memory working at the Sustainability Office?
"Some of my favorite memories consisted of everyone in the office taking the time to say hello and catching up on life, school, and work no matter how stressed or busy they were; laughing with everyone in the office about the most ridiculous things that we could possibly think of; sharing snacks, lunch, or some coffee and tea, and building connections with some of the most hardworking but also the most concerning people I have ever met. I have built some long-lasting connections with the people I have worked with here at the Sustainability Office, both staff and student alike. And that’s something I will never forget."  
  1. What is something you recommend to interns at the Sustainability Office? 
"I have always been indifferent on giving recommendations seeing as I never listen to my own, but here’s what I do recommend to interns:
·     Google what sustainability means - it may take a while but take the time to find what sustainability means to you and how it relates to your career and life goals. It took me three years to discover this meaning for myself.
·     Understand how environmental justice and sustainability are interdependent and how both are necessary to obtaining sustainable and equitable environments for all
·     Get sh*t done and have fun with it, but make sure to get it done.
·     It gets stressful - the meetings, the unorganized ideas, the purchase orders, the outreaching. Don’t be afraid to ask for help especially when you need it, you’ll be surprised how many people will be willing to give you a hand, a snack, coffee, and the emotional support that you never thought you needed.
·      I recommend getting to know everyone in the office, and you can do that by taking the time to say hi to someone you haven’t spoken to yet and ask how they’re doing. I also recommend learning about the entire office, what the Sustainability Office stands for, and the goals of each team. Someone might ask you one day.
·     Do your research and continue to do so "
  1. What does sustainability mean to you? Have your views of sustainability changed in the four years that you have been working at the Sustainability Office?
“The first time I came across the word “sustainability” is when I googled it two days before my first interview for the Sustainability Office, only to realize it was something that I have known for years. The idea of sustainability to me has morphed into the memories of my grandma’s backyard garden full of grapefruits, Thai chili peppers, lemons, Mentha spicate, kabocha, and mandarins that she would share with friends and family. It was the countless years my grandma would remind me to separate my food scraps for the compost that she used in the garden. It was the days I got excited just to see my grandpa during work at the recycling center, the place I associated with earning allowance for the month, not realizing I was contributing to the preservation of resources already available to society and reducing the impact of processing more of these resources. Institutionally, I also understand sustainability as this compendium of several initiatives surrounding the ideas of social justice and inclusion, climate and carbon neutrality, agroecology and food systems, zero waste, water conservation, land management, and behavior and education.”
  1. Tell us about your experience at InterOrg
“I attended my first InterOrg Retreat as a freshman where I built great connections with alumni and grew to love the organization I was working for. After that first year, I helped plan three more InterOrg Retreats and have since seen the program grow. I looked forward to InterOrg every single year. It was the best way to open myself to other sustainability orgs all over campus and their experiences. I loved being able to get away from school for just one weekend and develop deeper connections with the people around me, while also addressing some of the most pressing issues of the time. And when we weren’t planning on fighting the patriarchy, I loved jamming with all of the folks at InterOrg Open Mic/Talent Show with my uke.”
  1. What were your favorite roles in positions in the office?
“One of my favorite roles that I have had in the office was participating in the Planning Programming Committee for the 2017 Inter-Organizational Retreat. This was my favorite position because I was mentored by an exemplary supervisor, Melissa Ott-Fant, who took the time to commend me for all my hard work and saw my commitment to helping her and everyone else. As someone who was still having difficulty understanding their role in the office at the time, I felt like I was finally able to positively contribute to a project."
  1. What teams were you in while working at the sustainability office and what was your current position? 
“The first team I worked with was the Green Labs Program which aims to increase energy efficiency, reduce waste, and encourage green procurement in laboratories. I came in as an intern my freshman year, became outreach coordinator the next, and ended my position as Green Labs Program Facilitator. I also participated in the planning committees for 2017, 2018, and 2019 InterOrg Retreats, where I worked in the programming committee to determine themes, agendas, keynote speakers, event activities, supplies, and most importantly workshops! This academic school year, Elida Erickson appointed me to the Student Task Force team to help spearhead the purchase of new computers, supplies, and office furniture for the S.O. Despite my titles, I have been able to work alongside every team in the office, helping them in any way I possibly could. It’s been one hell of an adventure.” 
  1. While working in the office have you received any training, opportunities, or events that have helped you in your major or future jobs? If so, which are they?
“Through my work at the S.O, I have learned how to effectively facilitate a meeting, how to properly and professionally send an email, learned some great organizational and time management skills, familiarized myself with my best friends Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets, and pushed myself to step out of my comfort zone to outreach to people I normally wouldn’t have. I also gained experience in grant writing, sustainable management, sustainable procurement, and energy efficiency.”
  1. What are you doing after graduation? 
“I have one more quarter left before I graduate! Before I do, I will be going on an intensive field course based at the UC Santa Cruz Reserves (Año Nuevo, Younger Lagoon, Campus Natural Reserve, and Big Sur) and the islands of Baja California Sur. After graduation, I hope to head to Santa Barbara for two years to see what the workforce has in store for me. And when the time is right, I will apply for my masters in Energy Policy and Climate and/or Environmental Science and Management."
  1. Is there something you would like UCSC students to know about the Sustainability office? 
“Yes, I want students to know that the S.O is freaking awesome. The Sustainability Office has blessed me with some amazing opportunities and connections, such as a paid trip to Boston, Massachusetts to attend the International Institute for Sustainable Laboratories (I2SL)! I also want students to know that the S.O has some of the most awesome staff members who go out of their way to support you, give you school, life, and career advice, and have the most contagious laughs.” 
  1. Tell me about your background and how you became part of UCSC?
“I grew up in a low-income community in Fresno, California where I was raised by the strong women in my life and my grandfather. I graduated from Edison High School and the Environmental Science Lab at the Center for Advanced Research and Technology (CART). I was the stereotypical marching band geek, had a short-lived interest in theatre, but mainly loved my conservation work as a Forest Ecology intern and U.S. Forest Service Geology Crew intern. My sophomore year of high school I was set on coming to UC Santa Cruz to study Environmental Studies and Biology. Two years later I got into the university and became a banana slug.”  
  1. Tell me how you became part of the UCSC Sustainability Office?

“It’s a secret.” 

  1. What organizations did you connect with other than the sustainability office?
“Aside from the Sustainability Office, I worked with the Campus Natural Reserve (CNR) leading interns on the Forest Ecology Research Plot (FERP) to aid in the five-year recensus of 28,000 woody species to understand the phenology and dynamics of the forest. I also interned for the Campus Natural Reserve Stewardship where I worked with my good bud Cactus on planning and implementing restoration and trail maintenance projects such as invasive species removal, erosion control, forest trash cleanups, and installation/removal of fences and signs. When I wasn’t working on conservation and sustainability efforts, I was drumming with the UC Santa Cruz West Javanese Gamelan ensemble. Shout out to those dudes.”
  1. What is your major and how has the sustainability office help you achieve it?
“I am an Environmental Studies and Biology Combined major! Wow, that is a seemingly endless name. Though I was set on this major since my sophomore year of high school, I think the Sustainability Office has shaped my focus in environmental studies especially in regards to sustainable and renewable energy.”