top of page

who we are 

About Us

about us 

The Caltech Y is an independent 501c3 organization recognized by and formally affiliated with the California Institute of Technology. Founded by students in 1916, the Caltech Y seeks to broaden students’ worldviews, raise social, ethical, and cultural awareness through teamwork, community engagement, activism, and leadership.








For more than 100 years, the Caltech Y has enriched the lives of Caltech students through a wide variety of programs and services that are initiated and led by students.  We supplement and complement the excellent academics of Caltech by providing a variety of co-curricular events and activities for all campus members. Our programs fall within our 5 pillars: Leadership, Service, Adventure, Civic Engagement, and Perspective.

The Caltech Y's mission is to enrich student life and challenge students to grow into responsible citizens of the world. 

CALTECH Y pillars

Students play a key role in initiating and organizing every Caltech Y program and activity. The Caltech Y leadership activities give students meaningful opportunities to sit on a nonprofit board, program committees, manage budgets, and plan programs from start to finish. 


A range of on-campus and off-campus community service projects fits each student's schedule and interest. This includes tutoring for the Caltech Y Rise Program, Reading Partners, serving meals at Union Station Homeless Shelter or Alternative Spring Break service trips. 


Students learn to be effective citizen scientists and to address diverse issues that face us today - on campus, and in our local, national or global communities. 

civic engagement

Outdoor trips to many exciting venues each year service student adventures - from novice to seasoned. Day trips and multi-day trips afford students the opportunity to escape the daily rigours of Caltech. Students learn about themselves and explore the boundaries of their comfort zones within the ease of a trip guided by other students. 


Caltech Y programs broaden student views through cultural exchanges and service opportunities, students see that they can have an impact on the world beyond their own vocations, and they learn how to affect change locally, nationally, and internationally. 




Eleven students of Throop College of Technology petitioned and ultimately received a charter for a YMCA club on campus. This would later be called the Caltech Y.


The Y was primarily a service organization. During WWI, it provided refreshments and other services for the soldiers training on campus and at the Santa Anita Racetrack.



Screenshot 2023-09-01 at 1.24.29 PM.png


Rupa (‘24) is a computer science student at Caltech and a member of Venerable House. Her research focuses on applying AI and computer vision to problems related to climate change and conservation. In her free time, she enjoys reading, watching cartoons and old movies, and crocheting obsessively. Through the Y, Rupa has enjoyed programs such as the Science Policy Symposium and tutoring through Reading Partners and RISE. She hopes to share her love for volunteering and making meaningful connections by encouraging members of the Caltech community to get more involved with the Y and promoting activities and programs within the student body.

Vice president
Catherine Ko_edited.jpg

Catherine Ko

Catherine (’24) studies chemistry at Caltech and is a part of Avery House and the Arnold Group. In the lab, she works on stabilizing and promoting the evolution of new-to-nature biocatalysts. Beyond her studies, Catherine likes playing piano, taking pictures, drawing/painting, and playing badminton with friends. Additionally, she is an avid member-at-large of the Caltech Y, facilitating the fun Life Skills/Explore LA series and creating promotional content for various social media platforms. She loves bringing people together through the Y. 

MEET OUR board

board chair
Cindy Bengtson_edited.jpg

Cindy Bengtson

Cindy retired after 30 years of leadership positions with ARCO/BP and devotes her time to community service. At age 25 she created Big Sisters of Los Angeles.  41 years later, Big Sisters is merged as Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles serving 1000 “high risk” children throughout LA County. Her other non-profit work has included memberships and Board roles in over 15 organizations, most recently Leadership Pasadena and Los Altos Auxiliary for Hathaway Sycamores. She graduated with a BS in Consumer Economics from Purdue University and completed numerous professional certification courses in employee benefits, taxation and gerentology.

Screenshot 2023-09-01 at 9.21.47 AM.png

Katie Clark

Katie is currently the Administrative Assistant for Biology and Biological Engineering. She directly supports Drs. David Baltimore and Alice Huang. Katie is actively involved with the Caltech Women’s Club and served as president for several years. In addition, she has volunteered with Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles and the S. Pasadena Booster Club. She earned a BA from Duke University and an MA in French Literature from UC Berkeley.

Vice Chair
Nick von Gersdorff_edited.jpg

Nick Von Gersdorff

Nick (MS ‘06) started his career in hydropower as an undergraduate student at Harvey Mudd, analyzing critical infrastructure, which paved the way to his current position as Southern California Edison’s Chief Dam Safety Engineer. He is passionate about traveling and fostering green energy internationally and is currently working to develop hydropower in the country of Georgia.

Kevin Maxwell_edited.jpg

Kevin Maxwell

Kevin is an accounting executive having served in roles at FabFitFun and Warner Bros. He began his career in PwC's assurance practice, attaining the title of Director. Kevin has a Bachelors of Science in Business and a Masters in Accounting from the University of Arizona.


MEET OUr staff

Executive director

Athena Castro 


Athena began working at Caltech in 1994, where she has filled a number of roles. She began her current position as Executive Director of the Caltech Y in 2000. She earned a BA in English Literature at Scripps College, an MS in Education and PhD in Higher Education from Azusa Pacific University. 

PROGRAM director

Greg Fletcher 


Prior to coming to the Caltech Y, Greg worked in Residence Life at UCLA and Cal Poly Pomona, and in Student Life on board the SS Universe Explorer for Semester At Sea. Greg is a native of Niagara Falls, Canada, and holds a Masters of Education with an emphasis in Student Affairs from Azusa Pacific University. 

associate director
of student programs

Liz Jackman 


Liz joined the Caltech Y in 2010 while obtaining her Master's degree in College Counseling and Student Development from Azusa Pacific University. She worked as a teacher for four years in Japan prior to joining the Y. She is very committed to finding ways to partner with and better serve the community of Pasadena. 

student Program 

Courtney Reddix


Self-described as "Pasadena-born, California-grown" Courtney is a community service leader that has recently earned his Master's in Public Administration (MPA) and is an adventurer that loves to have random experiences.  Prior to the Caltech Y Courtney has taught college level instruction internationally, and always had a passion for youth, learning, and sharing knowledge.  On his days off, he enjoys being a retired Army Medic. 

bottom of page