In their first videos of the First Things First series, incoming first-gen students Leon Masuda and Gretta Gabriela Ozuna Rivera answer the prompt “Why Are You At UCI?” Their faculty mentors, Professor Pavan Kadandale and Professor Anita Casavantes Bradford, respond and discuss how their own experiences as first-gen undergraduates compared or differed.

Leon Masuda

Freshman Math major Leon Masuda explains why she’s excited to attend UCI as a first-gen, low-income, immigrant student and how it brings her one step closer to her dream of becoming a role model and caring for her family.

Professor Pavan Kadandale Responds to Leon

Responding to Leon’s “Why Are You At UCI?” video, Professor Pavan Kadandale shares how much her experiences remind him of his own story and how her hopes and dreams resonate with the wider first-gen community.


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Gretta Gabriela Ozuna Rivera

Freshman Biological Sciences major and first-gen student Gretta Gabriela Ozuna Rivera talks about her desire to help others and how attending UCI allows her to work towards this goal without compromising the values she grew up with.

Professor Casavantes Bradford Responds to Gretta

Professor Anita Casavantes Bradford responds to Gretta’s video and commends her for her commitment to helping others. She also shares what her own focus was when she was attending college as a first-gen student.


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The First Things First project is an evolution of UCI’s First-Generation Faculty Initiative, designed to help first-gen students overcome the challenges brought about by the pandemic. This new “virtual” mentorship program pairs two incoming UCI first-gen students with first-gen faculty members for a year-long, social-media-distributed conversation about the transition to university life. The goal of First Things First is to help UCI’s entire first-gen population, as well as first-gen students throughout higher education, build a sense of community—even in this remote college environment. To further this project, we invite you to share this article on your social media channels and with your network.