Reagan Mulqueen ’20 is a business analytics major who loves to play with data, find new ways to visualize it and see what stories it has to tell. “I take the data that you get from the company, financial info, consumer info, see trends and make decisions in the future,” Reagan explains. Ever since she took environmental science during her senior year of high school in Fort Worth, TX, Reagan has also fostered an interest in sustainability.
Minoring in sustainability lets her pursue these interests simultaneously and often within the same projects. “Relating to the analytics side, I see that looking at certain datasets of where endangered animals are and other trends, as well as seeing how the environment is changing because of what we’re doing can help businesses see where they are on the sustainability scale,” Reagan says.
She went to the sustainability expo freshman year just to see what there was to offer. That’s where she met Caitlin Murphy ’17 and learned about her sustainability capstone starting a branch of Food Rescue U.S. at Notre Dame, the Campus Food Recovery Project. “I signed up just thinking, ‘Oh this could be fun, we’ll see what happens,’” Reagan remembers. She enjoyed it so much that she took over leading the group during her sophomore year and continues to do so. “I really enjoyed it because it gave me an opportunity to get off campus and explore South Bend and see [it] outside of what Notre Dame was in South Bend,” Reagan says.
The program began by taking unused food from South Dining Hall and Au Bon Pain (ABP) to local homeless shelters a few times a week. When Reagan took over the project, she inherited the list of contacts Caitlin had cultivated. “I started reaching out to people all over campus and sending out emails and emails and emails to different eateries on campus.” Most of the venues were already excited about the project and ready to join.
Today the Campus Food Recovery Project has joined forces with Food Share and includes about 50 volunteers doing 18 food runs each week from North and South Dining Halls, the Stayer Center, Alumni Association, Notre Dame Media, ABP and catering events. Volunteers take the food to Hope Ministries, Center for the Homeless and Life Treatment Center. According to the estimates on the Food Rescue U.S. website, during the spring 2018 semester Note Dame’s program rescued 49,910 meals which is about 60,000 pounds of food and worth about $104 thousand.
When the sustainability students were told of Frank Fransioli’s ’76 love of butterflies and interest in having Notre Dame help create a curriculum for the Catholic Assumption School in Denver to build their own butterfly garden, Reagan was intrigued. “ I thought it was a really interesting project. It was something I’d never researched before,” she says. So she took on the task of developing an integrated curriculum for kindergarten through second graders. The goal is to enable these students to cultivate ownership of this garden, tending to it and sharing it with the younger students as they grow older.While the Campus Food Recovery Project can only take the leftover food that hasn’t been on the serving lines, leftover food in the dining hall is often a conversation starter that prompts students to ask about food waste and leads them to the program. Reagan loves it when she gets inquiries from students and professors across campus. Her own sustainability minor capstone will also foster interconnected communication, in a different state.The student volunteers work together with the shelter guests to bring the food trays into the centers. “They get to talk to them and check in with them that way. It’s kind of fun; you get to see the same people every week,” Reagan says. She points out that Notre Dame prides itself on its service to the community and this program is a testament to that identity.
“I don’t know that much about butterfly gardens logistically or butterfly migration patterns. So I’m excited about it because it’s something totally new,” she says. On a recent call with the Catholic Assumption School, along with Frank, the Notre Dame Alumni Association in Denver and the Butterfly Pavilion, who are helping with the project, Reagan began to think about creating an integrated curriculum. It will include components of all the subjects the school teaches, including science, English, and theology with basic conversations of Laudato Si’.
The school hopes to have part of the curriculum ready by the end of this year so the students can begin learning and building, and Reagan doesn’t seem phased by the accelerated timeline of her capstone nor by the unexplored territory. She’s excited to grow her own knowledge of gardening while creatively linking horticulture, gardening and theology together for the next generation. She says, “It’ll be new; I’m excited.”