McGill celebrates leadership in sustainability with 11th annual Catalyst Awards

Student and faculty leaders behind interdisciplinary educational initiatives recognized
From L to R: Nina Caporicci-Dinucci, Naila Kuhlmann, Theresa Degenhard, Nate Quitoriano, and Chloë Ryan, all winners of the 2021 Catalyst Awards for Sustainability.

2020 was, without a doubt, not the year that we hoped it to be.

But members of the McGill community have taken these tumultuous times in stride, passing over and around the roadblocks placed in their path to continue forging toward a more sustainable campus – virtual or otherwise.

The Catalyst Awards for Sustainability, celebrated each spring, allows us to come together to celebrate their achievements.

“The Catalyst Awards allow us to celebrate the top-tier achievements of McGill’s sustainability leaders,” said Executive Director of Sustainability Francois Miller. “Despite the challenges faced over the past year, the 2021 recipients have demonstrated upstanding commitment to creating sustainable change and opportunities for engagement across our campuses, for which we are incredibly grateful.”

The award recipients are decided annually by a review committee, whose membership includes staff and student representatives.

Demonstrated vision and leadership for a sustainable future

Each of the 2021 recipients have, in their own way, envisioned a sustainable future and taken the steps needed to turn that vision into reality.

Chloë Ryan, a third-year mechanical engineering student, has been a founding member of a number of student-lead sustainability initiatives that bring faculties together to solve multi-faceted challenges. Her work with Sustainability in Engineering at McGill (SEAM) and the BRIDGE Sustainability Case competition contributed to her designation as the 2021 Emerald Key recipient.

“I’m honoured to have been chosen for this year’s Catalyst Award, and I find it really rewarding to see that McGill values students’ efforts to grow a culture of sustainability on campus,” said Ryan, who stressed that she feels climate change is the greatest threat facing her generation.

During her time at McGill, Ryan says her focus has been making the change she wants to see happen. “I’m proud of the changes I’ve seen and am confident they will endure and lead to more progress!”

Green Labs Initiative

Similarly, the Green Labs Initiative at the Neuro – this year’s recipient of the Group Initiative award – first developed their vision for low-waste research labs after growing concern for the significant environmental costs of scientific research. Since first receiving support from the Sustainability Projects Fund in 2018, the Green Labs team has implemented infrastructural and cultural changes at The Neuro that have contributed to less waste and a better understanding of sustainable lab practices.

In the years since, the team has recruited ambassadors from more than 12 other labs across at least eight departments to kick-start their own initiatives.

In the years since, the team has recruited ambassadors from more than 12 other labs across at least eight departments to kick-start their own initiatives.

“We are very grateful for the recognition of our efforts in building a sustainable research community at McGill,” said Naila Kulmann, a member of the Green Labs Initiative at the Neuro team. “It’s been wonderful to see our grassroots initiative grow since its humble beginnings in 2018, in large part thanks to the support of [the Office of Sustainability] and the Sustainability Project Fund. It’s truly an honour to receive the Catalyst Award, and we hope this inspires other labs across campus to join us!”

The current Green Labs Initiative at the Neuro team includes Kuhlmann, Jana Schüttpelz, Theresa Degenhard, Nina Caporicci-Dinucci, Pascale Patenaude, Claire Honda, Alexandra Chapleau, Maleeha Khan, and Ghislaine Deyab.

Hands-on leadership

Professor Nate Quitoriano, who is the recipient of the 2021 Catalyst Award for Faculty & Staff, is equally being recognized for his ability to encourage leadership in others.

Quitoriano is the founding director of the goLEAD program, which unites students, faculty, staff and alumni towards his vision of hands-on leadership to address various challenges outlined by UN Sustainable Development Goals. The program, first developed in 2016, came into being after Quitoriano identified a missing niche for engineering students: applied leadership skill development. Through the program, Quitoriano and his team members provide hands-on experience on how to apply sustainability concepts to a variety of projects.

“I wish we could formally honour more people with this award since goLEAD has always been a group effort,” said Quitoriano. “ On behalf of that group, I am happy to receive the award and I hope that it will help us highlight the work of our student projects and give us more visibility to advance our need for funding to sustain our mission.”

The goLEAD facilitator team includes Sidney Omelon, Alexander Liepins, Larissa Jarvis and Heather McShane. The program also hosts an executive team consisting of 17 students from across the University.

Join the Office of Sustainability in celebrating the recipients of the 2021 Catalyst Awards for Sustainability in a live roundtable on Thursday, April 9 at 12 pm on YouTube. You can submit questions for the recipients by emailing