Three members of the Cal State LA community received WellBeingU Champion awards Tuesday in recognition of their outstanding and innovative contributions to promoting the well-being of the university community.
The award recipients—student Javier Valencia, faculty member Gabriela Fried Amilivia and staff member Alyssa Vaniman—were honored during an April 25 WellBeingU Speaker Series event in the Golden Eagle Ballrooms.
“I think our recipients this year are all wonderful,” Cal State LA President William A. Covino said. “Thank you for all that you continue to do to improve the well-being of our students, faculty and staff.”
The award presentation kicked off the final speaker series event for Covino, who will retire as the seventh president of Cal State LA at the end of July.
President Covino and First Lady Debbie Covino created the WellBeingU initiative in 2014, formerly known as Mind Matters, to promote a welcoming and inclusive environment for learning, interaction, and engagement, and to reduce the stigma around conversations about mental health. WellBeingU is made possible by collaboration among offices and divisions across campus and philanthropic support.
“Thank you to everyone over the last 10 years who has supported Mind Matters and WellBeingU,” Debbie Covino said at the event after receiving a recognition award for her work on WellBeingU. “It’s been a pleasure to work with every single one of you. You have done so much good for the campus.”
The speaker series event featured Dr. Carrie Hastings, the team sports psychologist for the Los Angeles Rams. Hastings discussed many topics related to sports psychology and mental health, including her experiences working with Rams football players, how to spot signs of stress, goal setting, and the importance of sleep. She also led attendees in a breathing exercise.
Hastings was joined virtually by Rams wide receiver Lance McCutcheon, who spoke about his experience with navigating stress as a player. McCutcheon was inspired to become an advocate for mental health because of his experience losing his best friend to suicide in middle school.
“I think it’s so powerful for anyone to hear (about the importance of mental health) from folks that are their role models to increase the buy-in and decrease the stigma, and to show that it’s not only OK, let’s make it cool,” Hastings said.
Hastings joined Dr. Osmara Reyes-Osorio, interim director for Counseling and Psychological Services at Cal State LA, for an episode of the WellBeingU Interview Series podcast. During the conversation, they delved into mental health and sports psychology, and shared strategies for athletes and non-athletes alike.
The WellBeingU Speakers Series is one of the many programs and services offered by the WellBeingU initiative. Over the years, the speaker series has brought notable leaders and experts to the university, including Homeboy Industries founder Father Greg Boyle, Los Angeles Times columnist and Cal State LA faculty member Steve Lopez and Prajna Paramita Choudhury, a mindfulness meditation practitioner.
As part of the initiative, the WellBeingU Champion awards celebrate individuals who help instill a university-wide culture of caring, compassion and well-being. The recipients are nominated by fellow students, faculty and staff and receive a certificate of appreciation and a $500 gift.
Valencia is a teaching credential graduate student who received a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology from Cal State LA in 2022. He has demonstrated outstanding leadership and a willingness to help others through his work with Golden Eagle Physical Activity Mentoring, also known as GEPAM. GEPAM is a peer-led physical activity mentoring program that helps individuals meet their physical activity and wellness goals. It is a partnership between the School of Kinesiology, Cal State LA Recreation and the University-Student Union.
Vaniman, the assistant athletic trainer for Cal State LA Athletics, has made a significant impact on the mental health and well-being of student-athletes. While her primary focus is on injury care and prevention, she takes special care to also promote the mental well-being of student-athletes through education, information, and support.
Fried Amilivia, a faculty member in the Department of Sociology and the Latin American Studies program, infuses wellness into her teaching philosophy and pedagogy. She incorporates a trauma-sensitive and a post-traumatic growth lens into her courses, seeking to reduce stress and anxiety and promote a receptive learning environment. Fried Amilivia’s new course, “The Sociology of Trauma, Memory, Resilience/Healing and Social Repair,” explores questions of social memory, trauma, human rights, social repair, reconciliation programs, and healing from a participatory perspective.
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California State University, Los Angeles is the premier comprehensive public university in the heart of Los Angeles. Cal State LA is ranked number one in the United States for the upward mobility of its students. Cal State LA is dedicated to engagement, service, and the public good, offering nationally recognized programs in science, the arts, business, criminal justice, engineering, nursing, education, and the humanities. Founded in 1947, the University serves more than 26,000 students and has more than 250,000 distinguished alumni.
Cal State LA is home to the critically-acclaimed Luckman Fine Arts Complex, Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs, Hertzberg-Davis Forensic Science Center, Hydrogen Research and Fueling Facility, Billie Jean King Sports Complex and the TV, Film and Media Center. For more information, visit www.CalStateLA.edu.