Kaitlyn Shirey

International Experience Country:
Cohort Year:
Home Institution:

Chatham University

Heinz Programming Area:
International Experience Summary:

Kaitlyn studied Renewable Energy Technologies at the University Centre of the Westfjords in Ísafjörður, where she gained an understanding of how and why geothermal, hydroelectric, solar, and wind power work.  She visited many privately owned hydroelectric power plants that utilize waterfalls and glacial melt rivers to power dairy and sheep farms, and talked to their owners about the decision to generate their own power.  The study of technology also took her to Iceland’s largest geothermal power plants, where she got an intimate view of how hot steam is used to create power and heat Reykjavik’s water.  Also while in Ísafjörður, she stayed with a local family who greatly expanded her understanding of Icelandic language and culture beyond the classroom by cooking meals together, watching football games, and travelling to local hot pots and friends’ houses, all the while practicing new Icelandic vocabulary and songs.  For the second half of the program, Kaitlyn studied the environmental and economic impacts of renewable energy at Reykjavik University.  She participated in a rigorous collaborative project where she helped to predict her home state of Pennsylvania’s future energy production and consumption, and create a detailed plan for making the state’s relationship with energy safer and cleaner for both the environment and citizens.  Finally, Kaitlyn utilized the contacts she made in Ísafjörður as well as at Hellisheiði power station to complete an individual research project exploring the possibility of a run of river hydroelectric plant in the twenty-kilometer pipeline taking hot water from Hellisheiði to Reykjavik

Community Engagement Experience Summary:

CEETitle:  What do You do? 

To engage our community, we invited members of Chatham's campus to an evening of skits and discussions about the behaviors that lead to sustainable communities.  Each member of our cohort wrote a skit for the three of us to perform, set in the country that we studied abroad in: Iceland, Scotland, and Cuba.  Besides showing off some culturally specific outfits, like a sweater made from Icelandic wool, these skits illustrated how individuals in that country contribute to their overall carbon footprint.  This involved both the good behaviors that each person takes part in and the more negative ones, and covered topics ranging from renewable energy to littering.  Acting out some of these behaviors provided some humor and broke the ice with our audience, and we followed each skit with a short discussion.  Integrating trivia questions and a continuum taped out on the floor, we asked audience members about what they thought and did in regards to the different subjects: water usage, sewage, plastic bags, smoking, and littering.  This allowed us to present new information about life in Iceland, Scotland, and Cuba while also connecting what we learned to our own lives here in Pittsburgh.  The audience was able to participate both vocally and physically by placing themselves on the continuum.  Following the final skit, the Director of University Sustainability at Chatham took to the podium to drive home the message that individuals have a lot of potential to make their communities more environmentally friendly.  She talked about the efforts that Chatham makes to be sustainable, strategies that community members can use and teach others about, and easy ways to be more mindful citizens.  She focused a lot on the behaviors that we each have that we barely think about: the duration of a shower, the frequency of purchasing fast food, the disposal of cigarette butts, and so on.  We ended the night taking questions and suggestions from the audience about how Chatham can keep working to be more sustainable, from adding compost bins to the library to labeling recycling cans more clearly in the café and dining hall.