This week, the First Things First students answer the prompt: “In these tough times, how are you meeting people and making friends at UCI?” Leon admits that it’s been tricky meeting others; however, she managed to make friends by forming study groups and participating in events hosted by her dorm. Gretta shares that participating in the First Things First project has helped her feel connected. She also expresses her excitement for when she can actually come to campus and experience college life in-person.

Prof. Pavan Kadandale responds to Leon by sharing his sadness that UCI students aren’t having the traditional college experience this year. However, he encourages students to be proactive and creative in finding ways to connect with others. Prof. Anita Casavates Bradford responds to Gretta by expressing her happiness that taking part in First Things First is making a difference during this challenging time. She also emphasizes the importance of finding role models and experiencing mentorship as a first-gen student.

Leon Masuda

Leon explains that it’s been tricky meeting people since UCI’s been remote. However, she’s been able to reach out and form friendships by creating study groups and participating in activities hosted by her dorm in Middle Earth. While she does wish that she was able to start her college experience in-person, Leon also notes that there are benefits to connecting remotely.

Prof. Pavan Kadandale Responds to Leon

Prof. Kadandale shares his sadness that UCI’s freshman class will have to wait to have a true, in-person college experience. However, he also encourages students to be creative and take initiative like Leon and find alternative ways to form communities.


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Gretta Ozuna

Gretta explains that the mentorship she’s received as part of First Things First has helped her feel connected at UCI. She also shares how excited she is for when she can finally go to campus and have the traditional college experience.

Prof. Anita Casavates Bradford Responds to Gretta

Prof. Casavantes Bradford expresses her happiness that participating in the First Things First program has made Gretta feel connected. She also discusses the importance of mentorship, especially for first-gen, minority, and other underrepresented students.


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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.