Ignite President: Coley Catalano '16

Name: Coley Catalano

Graduating Year: 2016

Major: Political Science

Hometown: Pleasanton, CA

Five minutes--that’s the amount of time it takes to realize how much Coley Catalano cares about doing things the right way, and doing them well. Miss Catalano serves as the president of UC Davis’s chapter of Ignite, and has worked tirelessly to create an environment where women feel empowered, respected, and educated.

With your first year as an on-campus club under your belt, what changes can UCD students expect this year from Ignite?

She recounts how last year's meetings mostly consisted of discussing a lot of different issues, but never really doing anything to work towards improving those issues. This year she wants to put the club's mission and vision into action. Coley revealed that the women of Ignite are really hoping to implement a mentorship program with underprivileged girls in high school, explaining, “Whether we have the ability to work in person with girls, or create something simple like a pen pal program, working towards creating some kind of community service specific to the values of our club is very important.” In addition, Coley and her teammates have been working to change the atmosphere of the club to bring members and officers closer together within their community.

After graduation, how will you apply the skills you gained from Ignite?

With a smile she says, “I would love to do nonprofit work to help oppressed women who need a voice. Being behind the scenes, and making necessary decisions that help empower and encourage women to find their own voice is a goal of mine.”

Last year you were a coxswain for the men’s novice crew team; what was that like?

Coley describes her experience as “being like an older sister to a bunch of boys.” She also notes that they respected her, and never crossed boundaries. As a coxswain, respect from rowers is crucial in forming a strong team, making her cool and collected leadership style a major asset for the men's novice team last year.

Why not be a coxswain for the women’s crew?

She recounts her experience on her high school’s cheer team, explaining that team drama and underlying tensions resulted in a negative experience. Coley continues this train of thought when she says, “I figured it would be kind of fun to see what it would be like on a men’s team as a woman. I had the opportunity to be a fly on the wall.” The men’s crew often prefers female coxswains because they are typically smaller than men, so the opportunity presented itself and she took it.

Favorite places on campus?

You can find Coley studying in “The WRRC’s Righteous Babes Lounge. It is so quiet.” She also mentions that she,”love[s] sitting out on the [WRRC] porch when its nice out, or outside in the library courtyard at Shields.” Finally, she notes a campus favorite: The Greenhouse room in the CoHo.

Favorite class you’ve ever taken at UCD?

Her answer surprises me when she responds with, “The UWP Social Justice class. The professor taught the class with such passion and gave us a lot of free reign on what we wanted to write about; she believed in us, and wanted us to explore what we were really intersted in. For example, I am very passionate about human trafficking, and I got to write a proposal about how to potentially educate young girls in Uganda about human trafficking, to prevent them from getting trapped by that system." 

Do you have any advice for women who are looking to hold leadership roles?

Confidently, she says, “Don't be afraid to put yourself out there. Take a risk. If something has sparked an interest in you, follow it and see what comes out of that experience." Since she is a transfer student, Coley didn’t know anyone coming into Davis. When she saw the post calling for officers to pioneer UCD's first chapter of Ignite, she knew she had to reach out to former president, Shelina Noorali. All she did was contact her to say hi, and the path that followed led her to her current role as president. Simply stated by Coley, “Just asking someone if they need help can open a lot of doors.”

If you are interested in increasing female representation in politics, and participating in the discussion to resolve women’s issues, be sure to check out an Ignite meeting every other Wednesday in Wellman 1 from 6-7pm.