Skip to main content
Northwestern University


Kathia Benitez

Kathia Benitez

Sustainability Director

Kathia Benitez joined sustainNU in June 2016 as the Sustainability Director. Kathia is responsible for providing leadership and management to ensure integration of sustainable practices throughout the University’s campuses. She will coordinate and administer sustainability and energy efficiency programs in collaboration with students, faculty and staff.

Prior to working for Northwestern, Kathia was the senior manager supporting the U.S. Department of Energy's Better Buildings Initiative. In her role, she provided direct oversight and strategic guidance for the Better Buildings Alliance and Better Building Challenge initiatives. She also served as a sector matter expert for healthcare organizations.

Previously, Kathia served as the Corporate Energy Program Manager for New York Presbyterian Hospital where she managed an annual $60 million utility budget across a 12-million square foot building portfolio. Under her leadership New York Presbyterian Hospital won several ENERGY STAR Awards for Sustained Excellence in Energy Management and Climate Communications. The hospital earned additional recognition from the American Society for Healthcare Engineering’s Energy to Care program, the Department of Energy Better Buildings Challenge, and Practice Greenhealth.

For Kathia sustainability means embodying a benevolent leadership presence that serves as a catalyst to bring about action and transformation.

Julie Cahillane

Julie Cahillane

Sustainability Associate Director

Julie Cahillane has been with Northwestern University since 1994. Julie supports the development and implementation of Northwestern's Strategic Sustainability Plan (SSP) and serves as co-chair to the Resource Conservation Working Group. She began her career at Northwestern as the Recycling Coordinator and continued to expand environmental efforts across the institution before the creation of Northwestern's sustainNU program.

Previously, Julie worked as an education coordinator for CRInc, a recycling company. She designed solid waste education programs addressing waste reduction, recycling, and recycled product procurement. Julie also served as Recycling Coordinator for the State of Illinois. In the position, she was responsible for the statewide office recycling program. She was appointed to the State of Illinois Task Force on Developing Markets for Recyclable Materials. Julie began her career in media relations, working in the Press Office of both the Illinois Governor and Secretary of State.

Under Julie’s guidance, Northwestern's recycling efforts have been recognized with awards from the Illinois Recycling Association, the IL Governor’s Pollution Prevention Awards, and the American Forest and Paper Association. Her interest in sustainability stems from an inherent sense or respect for the natural world and a desire to maintain balance and respect for all living things.

When she is not focusing on sustainability, she volunteers her time working with a no-kill, dog rescue organization in Chicago.

Maggie Olson

Maggie Olson

Communications Assistant

Maggie joined sustainNU in January 2018. She manages social media, writes for the quarterly newsletter, and maintains the website as a communications assistant. Maggie is currently a second-year undergraduate majoring in communication studies with minors in film studies and gender studies.

She is from Knoxville, TN and enjoys casual hikes in the Smoky Mountains. At Northwestern, she is involved in Rainbow Alliance and the GREEN House residential community. In her free time she enjoys playing guitar and board games.

Maria Elena Perez

Maria Elena Perez


Maria joined sustainNU in July 2018. She works on a variety of projects in the built environment and resource conservation areas. Maria is currently a master’s student in mechanical engineering with a focus on energy and sustainability. She recently completed her B.S. in mechanical engineering with a minor in Economics at Northwestern.

She is originally from Caracas, Venezuela, but now calls Panama City, Panama, her home. In her free time she enjoys watching documentaries, baking desserts, and taking photographs. At Northwestern, she is involved with Engineers Without Borders, where she served as the chapter president during her senior year.

Back to top