This week, the First Things First students were given the prompt “Now that you’re halfway through your first quarter at UCI, do you feel like you belong here?” While Leon shares that she feels completely welcome at UCI, Gretta admits that she sometimes feels like she doesn’t fit in. Their faculty mentors, Prof. Pavan Kadandale and Prof. Anita Casavantes Bradford, respond by offering encouragement and helpful advice.

Leon Masuda

Leon is happy to explain why she feels like she belongs at UCI. From academic resources and assistance to help from her classmates to support from the first-gen community, Leon identifies some of the things that contribute to UCI’s welcoming environment. 

Prof. Pavan Kadandale Responds to Leon

Prof. Kadandale shares his happiness that Leon feels like she belongs at UCI. He also encourages other students to follow Leon’s lead and take advantage of all the resources and services available at UCI.

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Gretta Ozuna

While Gretta is excited about the many clubs and organizations that make her feel part of a community, she admits there are still times when she feels out of place because she is a low-income, first-gen student. Despite this, Gretta remains positive that she will overcome and make a space for herself at UCI.

Prof. Casavates Bradford Responds to Gretta

Prof. Casavantes Bradford commends Gretta for getting involved with UCI clubs and organizations. She also encourages Gretta by reminding her that being the first in your family to attend college helps pave the way for others.

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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.