To kick off the Winter 2021 edition of First Things First, Gretta and Leon respond to the question: “Thinking back on the Fall, do you feel differently about being a university student at the start of this new quarter?”

Both students discussed taking better care of their mental health and wellbeing this quarter, with Leon getting particularly personal by revealing her eating disorder diagnosis. Their faculty mentors, Professor Anita Casavates Bradford and Professor Pavan Kadandale, respond to their videos with words of encouragement, reminders that self-care and mental wellness are always a priority, as well as mental health resources for UCI students.

Gretta Ozuna

With Fall Quarter under her belt, Gretta discusses how she will approach Winter Quarter differently. She explains that taking breaks, spending time with loved ones, and caring for her mental health will all be more of a priority this quarter.

Prof. Casavantes Bradford Responds to Gretta

Prof. Casavantes Bradford supports Gretta’s decision to take more personal time in such a turbulent environment. She adds that, while we must continue to work and move forward, self-care is always important.

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Leon Masuda

During her first First Things First check-in of Winter Quarter, Leon reveals that she was diagnosed with an eating disorder in the Fall. She explains that this quarter she is seeking professional help and encourages other students to use resources like the UCI Student Health Center, UCI Wellness, Health & Counseling Services and the UCI Counseling Center if they ever find themselves struggling personally. 

Prof. Kadandale Responds to Leon

Prof. Kadandale commends Leon’s bravery in talking so candidly about her eating disorder diagnosis. He reveals that recent data suggests that almost one in two first-gen students suffer from some diagnosable mental health illness. Instead of sweeping these issues under the rug, Prof. Kadandale urges students to make use of UCI’s many resources and get the help and support they need.

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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.