Campus leaders and students share how they bolster all aspects of Aggie life

By Isabella Beristain

May 16, 2022—As UC Davis students returned to campus this year, stress levels and anxiety are reported to have increased. The university is more committed than ever to provide quality wellness care for our students by taking a holistic approach to mental, physical and overall health.

Screenshot of Cory Vu speaking on Zoom about Student Affairs.
Associate Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Cory Vu speaks about health and wellness resources at UC Davis during the Plugged In event on May 16, 2022.

On May 16, UC Davis hosted a virtual event comprised of campus leaders, including Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Pablo Reguerín, who moderated the discussion, and students, in a discussion surrounding well-being and wellness on campus. This Q&A is adapted from the discussions, part of an ongoing virtual event series called Plugged in where UC Davis leaders address the most pressing issues of our time.

Q: What has been the university’s experience with people returning to campus, regarding wellness resource access?

Cory Vu Ph.D., associate vice chancellor, Student Affairs: As we came back to campus in the fall, across the board, I have seen an increase in the utilization of services and caseloads regarding wellness resources, not only at Student Health and Wellness but throughout all the units within Student Affairs. Many students have reported increased levels of anxiety, depressive episodes, and trouble sleeping, so we are making sure that we have services and access available to the students when they need it. Therefore, we are working hard to increase support staff and other counseling services so that we can continue to support our students this year and upcoming year as well.  

Q: How does UC Davis encourage students to participate in well-being and wellness programs?

Ryan Manriquez ’22, president, ASUCD: One thing that I have noticed being at UC Davis over the past year and a half is that I have never witnessed a campus being so open when it comes to discussing mental health care. I am a transfer student and at my community college it wasn’t a priority, and in high school it wasn’t discussed or talked about. We had counselors but they were supporting us for academic reasons, not mental health-related reasons. The work that UC Davis has done to make sure that mental health is discussed, destigmatized and inclusive for all students has truly been remarkable to experience. It is one of the reasons students here are so open talking about mental health because they feel like they can access the services here.

Sophia Pienta ’23, student employee, Campus Recreation: I definitely agree with what Ryan is saying; I feel totally supported here. I work at Campus Recreation and my supervisors always support me if I am having a bad day or have low morale. They always ask how I am doing and my mental health is their priority. On the physical wellness side, I feel like Campus Recreation is continually expanding and trying to reach the entire campus to learn about resources that are readily available to students. We have a fee waiver to be more inclusive, are committed to our DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) initiatives and are planning on expanding our services to the dorms so people in their first year already know that there are several resources available to them regarding their wellbeing. We have also expanded our class offerings. We offer several free self-defense classes that have gained in popularity and are almost always filled because UC Davis knows that our safety is just as important as our physical well-being and contributes to our overall mental health.

Q: Do you have any suggestions for ways to manage stress?

Pienta: We have a meditation class plus yoga classes (several different variations) that I like to take. I feel supported being in a calming space surrounded by a community that feels like I do. I find that a lot of my clients who come into the ARC who are feeling stressed or have had a rough day feel immediately better after a little physical activity. I would also recommend finding some time for yourself even if you are very busy. As we have picked back up in person, I have found myself extremely busy so I try to find small spaces in my calendar where I can go for a walk or quickly meet up with a friend. Putting yourself first is extremely important and you need to prioritize your mental health.

Manriquez: My suggestion is really unique to Davis and UC Davis. Over the course of the pandemic, I would go on runs and explore campus when no one was around. This really helped me learn about campus to the point where I was ready to be back in person. The one place that I found on campus that was particularly soothing and helped me manage my stress was at the Dairy Farm located behind the Tercero dorms. I would visit the cows there around three to four times a week, feed them, say hi to them and sing to them if others weren’t around. Going to see the cows brought up my mood and they always followed me, which was super cute.

Watch the full Plugged in event