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Reopened RISE Center strives to create space dedicated to student mental health

A bulletin board inside the Resilience In Your Student Experience Center is pictured. The center just reopened after renovations. (Anna Dai-Liu/Daily Bruin senior staff)

By Alexandra Kaiser

Oct. 19, 2023 10:45 p.m.

The UCLA Resilience In Your Student Experience Center celebrated its completed renovations at its reopening Tuesday.

The RISE Center, an extension of UCLA Counseling and Psychological Services, helps students connect to resources and tools they can use to better support themselves, according to the RISE Center website. The center is located in the basement of Lu Valle Commons and will be open for drop-in hours starting in week four.

The center was open for less than a year before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic forced it to close in March 2020, said Theresa Thibodeaux, the program director at the RISE Center. The center reopened last fall with a new staff, but they quickly realized it needed extensive renovations, including electrical and plumbing work, she added.

The renovations will allow the center to better serve students, said Alea Orange, a health and well-being coordinator for the RISE Center.

“We’ve upgraded the space so that we can make it feel better for our community but also do more with what this space can do,” she said.

One new addition to the center is furniture on wheels, which allows the center to adjust to different student needs for programming, Thibodeaux said. Each staff member also has an individual cubicle, allowing for more privacy when meeting with students, she added.

The center also includes a more closed-off space for students with sensory needs or those who want privacy away from the rest of the people in the center, Thibodeaux said. Now that the center is reopened, it aims to provide a space for students who need support outside of the appointments CAPS offers, she added.

“Students who might need some extra support but don’t necessarily need to see a clinician right now, … this is a place to really support them in their journey of wellness,” she said.

The center also offers trainings and workshops for students to learn about topics such as suicide prevention and impostor syndrome, Thibodeaux added.

Edna Tovar, a student coordinator at the RISE Center, said her job involves helping staff members, welcoming students into the center, and planning trainings and workshops, including new programs that will start in the winter.

Orange said the center’s workshops are interactive, which allows participants to be more reflective and engaged.

“People are usually having conversations about what they do generally whether you realize it or not, on how you’re taking care of yourself, and then what we can do in the future to actually help cultivate it,” she added.

Trainings are meant to teach students about mental health in a way previous education might not have covered, said Nicole Green, the senior executive director for student resilience and mental health at the RISE Center.

“We didn’t learn a whole lot growing up about mental health,” she said. “RISE is really meant to provide that education, provide that support, provide training on how to support students in distress.”

Coming back from a virtual setting during the pandemic, with students feeling isolated and fatigued, the newly reopened center will help students connect to resources that can help them process these feelings, Green added.

“This year, I think we’re really starting early to say, ‘Here are your resources, here’s how to reengage in the campus, here’s how to be part of the community again,’” she said.

Tovar, a fourth-year sociology student, said she went to the center before she began working there because it felt like a safe space on campus, especially compared to the cafes and libraries, which often bring pressure to feel productive.

“​​I feel like there really isn’t a pressure to perform here,” she said. “I think it’s a space to kind of go back to who you are and kind of settle and ground yourself as an undergrad.”

It can be hard to find comfortable spaces on campus because it seems like students are constantly productive and on the move, Tovar said, adding that she felt this way when she first arrived at UCLA.

“Being on campus, I didn’t really feel a lot of warmth,” she said. “I think this was the first time that I really felt like there is a space to just sit in the moment.”

Contributing reports by Dylan Winward, features and student life editor.

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Alexandra Kaiser | Campus politics editor
Kaiser is the 2022-2023 campus politics editor. She was previously a News reporter and Opinion columnist. She is also a third-year communication and political science student.
Kaiser is the 2022-2023 campus politics editor. She was previously a News reporter and Opinion columnist. She is also a third-year communication and political science student.
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