Meet Catherine Averill
by Providenza Rocco, JD, MSW, MBE, HEC-C
What do you do in the Center for Urban Bioethics?
As the Senior Advisor for the Urban Bioethics program, I primarily support the daily operations of the program with logistics like course creation, student registration, advising on degree requirements, communication of opportunities for students, important deadlines, and managing our student population from the point of application through graduation.
What is your favorite part about working with CUB?
Hands down, the people. The students who join us are smart, curious, and committed to health equity and it’s such a pleasure hearing all of the different paths that brought them to this program and their intentions for how they’ll use what they’ve learned. My colleagues in CUB are consistently inspiring to me and I’ve learned so much about bioethics from them and the work they’ve done and continue to do.
What was it like to start working at a new job during COVID?
It was easier than I thought! I’m comfortable digging around for information independently and I was already familiar with Temple from working on Main campus, so that made for an easier transition. I credit Dr. Nora Jones and Professor Enza Rocco with making sure I felt comfortable asking questions and giving my input when I was new, and for being supportive, trusting, collaborative colleagues. I feel really lucky and grateful to be here!
What is your favorite candle scent?
I’ve been burning more candles since COVID started and I’m really enjoying Voluspa’s French Cade Lavender.
What is an issue you are really passionate about and wish others would know more about?
I finished the PSM in Geographic Information Systems at Temple last year and have been more involved with advocacy around redistricting, which happens every 10 years following the Census. I already knew about gerrymandering, but thanks to the program, I now have a much better understanding of the ethical issues around how data is collected and how districts have been drawn.
I am especially passionate about working to end prison gerrymandering, which is the practice of counting people who are incarcerated on April 1 in the county where they were incarcerated rather than their last known address prior to incarceration; this historically gives more political power and funding to rural and predominantly white communities and weakens the political power and takes funding from urban spaces, particularly communities of color. In August 2021, Pennsylvania’s redistricting commission decided to count people in state correctional facilities in the county of their last known address. This decision means non-Pennsylvanians in these state facilities will not be counted anywhere, so it’s not perfect, but it’s a huge step in the right direction.
What album/artist are you currently listening to?
I’ve been listening to Phoebe Bridgers’ excellent 2020 album Punisher pretty much non-stop since it came out and I spend a lot of nights playing her music on guitar.
What are you watching on Netflix?
So much! A few recent favorites have been Schitt’s Creek, Fantastic Fungi, The Big Flower Fight, and Blown Away. I’m almost finished with Avatar: The Last Airbender which friends recommended; it has some amazing storytelling and world-building that I didn’t expect from a Nickelodeon show!
What did you eat for dinner last night?
I tried out a Romertopf (clay bakeware) that was gifted to me by a neighbor and made some amazing local purple carrots and chicken sausage — it was delicious and the easiest meal to prepare.
What celebrity do you wish was your sibling?
Dan Levy — he’s funny, a talented writer, and seems like someone I couldn’t stay mad at long.
How old were you when you learned to ride a bike?
I was 8 and my sister taught me on her bike that was a little too big for me. She then invented a game where she threw tennis balls and tried to get them to stick in the spokes while I rode around in circles at the top of our driveway. (I could see a young Dan Levy doing the same…)
What was your favorite TV show when you were a child?
I watched The Simpsons like it was my job as a kid. There were a few years where I would call my grandma every night so we could watch Wheel of Fortune together.
Do you spell the color gray or grey?
I think I do both! My favorite undergraduate creative writing professor made a strong case that ‘grey’ looks better on a page, so I default to that in creative writing, but I think I still go ‘gray’ in text or other informal writing.
Do you have any pets?
I love animals and get a ton of various wildlife visitors to my yard, but only have one cat named Moriarty. My partner Dave and I rescued him from PAWS in 2018 and he’s been the best constant companion while I’ve been working from home (even if he wakes us up too early on weekends).
What did you study in college and post-grad?
I was an English major (fiction, poetry, and literature) and Psychology minor in undergrad. I really wanted to teach undergraduate English, so I went to graduate school for English and Creative Writing. After a few years teaching as an adjunct in Temple’s incredible First-Year Writing Program and working full-time, I decided I wanted to look at a different form of storytelling and representation, so I went back to school for a PSM in Geographic Information Systems to think more critically about how maps and data can both reveal and obscure the world around us.
What do you believe humans take most for granted in this world?
I imagine in areas with more ongoing political instability, rural areas, etc. this isn’t true, but I think at least in many communities in the U.S. we take a lot of our systems for granted. Obviously the COVID-19 pandemic put huge stresses on healthcare systems, but it also showed how quickly our food and delivery networks can be stressed or fail in times of significant disruption and how much we rely on workers whose labor is often under-valued, both literally and metaphorically.
What is an unpopular opinion you have?
Bananas are disgusting.
If you were to attend a costume party tonight, what would you wear?
I’d mask up and wear something comfortable — I’d probably put on some ripped jeans, an oversized sweater, my old Chuck Taylors and call it a Kurt Cobain costume.
What would you like our MAUB students to know about you?
They can always reach out for help, guidance, or just to chat about how things are going. And don’t wait to reach out if you’re feeling overwhelmed — let’s talk about it and find a path forward! I genuinely love learning about our students’ goals and helping them reach those goals, so an email or a request to meet is always welcome.
If you had to choose the same toppings on your ice cream for the rest of your life, what would they be?
Hot fudge and pecans, preferably from Gilles Frozen Custard stand in Milwaukee, where I’m from.
What kind of lunch box did you have as a kid?
I had a Beauty and the Beast lunchbox with a matching thermos in first grade and it was the coolest. But a brown paper bag lunch is just a hand puppet waiting to happen, so those also hold a special place for me.