Six Mason students are new winners of the Elena Prien Scholarships that our center awards to undergraduates who want to learn about well-being at Mason. They say they’re looking forward to discovering more about living well in diverse ways during the 2018-2019 academic year.
The scholarships are sponsored by Elena Prien (BIS ’82). After one of her sons died by suicide, Prien looked for ways to help others pursue well-being. She funded the scholarships, which provide mentoring from Mason employees and financial assistance to six students each academic year. Prien’s generosity over the past several years has empowered many Mason students to grow in well-being.
“Putting time and energy into yourself and your well-being is just as important – if not more important – than many other aspects of life like school, work, family, friends, sports, etc.,” says Emily Yoder-Tiedt, a sophomore majoring in Forensic Science and minoring in Forensic Psychology.
Yoder-Tiedt says that she often deals with a well-being challenge that is common to college students: stress. “I usually handle stress best by talking with someone. Just sharing whatever is making you stressed can definitely lighten the burden, and can give you some perspective. Sharing how you are doing with someone you trust and who is invested in your well-being as well, can bring two minds into the problem, and make stress a little less stressful.” Using a task planner, limiting time she spends online, and connecting with friends also helps her manage stress well, she says.
Hadley Graham, a senior majoring in Kinesiology, has experienced the power of well-being practices in dramatic ways. Pursuing the well-being practices of exercise, gratitude, and prayer helped her survive a life-threatening blood disorder that required her to drop out of college to be hospitalized for treatment, then return and thrive on campus while still fighting the disease. “A lot of the stress I had to overcome was not only how the disease affected my life, but how it affected my loved ones. I had to become completely dependent on my parents, become completely isolated due to my low blood counts, deal with depression, and try not to burden anyone further with my health problems and accept my new life living with my disease. I am currently receiving treatment for my disease and in partial remission. It was definitely not easy pursuing a lifestyle of well-being, but through my faith in God, my friends, and family, I was able to get through some of the hardest times of my life. By the grace of God, my blood counts slowly improved and I was able to return to school while still undergoing treatment. The symptoms of my disease and the side effects of the therapy I’m receiving can be harsh on my body and mind, but I persevere by practicing as many mindful, well-being practices as I can.”
Graham encourages all Mason students to pay attention to their own well-being. “Your health is so vital – not only your physical health, but your mental and emotional health as well. Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed and life is too short and precious to not take care of yourself so you can enjoy the life you create. Even if you don’t think anyone else cares about you, I promise you somebody in this world deeply cares about you. We need you here and as healthy as possible. And the first person that can ensure your well-being is yourself. Get the help you need to improve your well-being in all aspects including physical, mental, and emotional health. Make an effort slowly but surely to make sure you are feeling good about your mind and body, whatever that means to you. By implementing well-being practices in your life, you not only benefit yourself, but you will benefit others by impacting them in ways you wouldn’t expect. It’s like a chain: when you are in the right mindset and physical condition you can be there for others when they need you. You must help yourself before you can help others.”
The well-being mentoring is a powerful aspect of the scholarship, recipients say. They expressed enthusiasm for meeting with Mason mentors during the coming academic year.
Sancia Celestin, a junior majoring in Psychology, says that the mentoring is especially valuable to her as a first-generation college student. “Without mentors, I would not have been able to get to where I am today and I would not have accomplished so many of my goals. All throughout my life I had mentors. I had mentors at church, at school, and at home. My mentors at school had the biggest impact on me and my future. I am a first-generation college student and I am a first-generation American in my family. I wear those titles in honor, but it has never been easy to achieve my dreams.”
She adds that she regularly invests in her well-being by meditating at her church – but on campus, she can get caught up in her work and forget about pursuing well-being. So, she says, a mentor’s reminders will be helpful. “I have a huge workload, and making sure my mental and physical well-being is good is often forgotten. With a well-being mentor, I will be reminded to take the time out of my day to take care of myself. It would also give me an opportunity to have someone to talk to about everything that has been going on. I value relationships with others and I believe that having a well-being mentor would be beneficial for my health and my success for the remainder of my academic career.”
Autum Greene, a sophomore majoring in Nursing, is also a first-generation college student. “Being a first-generation college student made college a learning experience in many ways for me. One thing I learned was having a support system and asking for help is a necessity. So having a mentor who understands struggles with school and who I am able to ask for help or learn from is a valuable part of my college journey.” Greene also encourages all Mason students to reach out for help living well. “Never hesitate to ask for help or even just take time for yourself,” she says. “So many people at Mason are willing to help, especially with well-being and stress.”
Rebecca Durant, a sophomore majoring in Global Affairs, says that meeting regularly with a mentor “will help me to practice my well-being more frequently and to have it be a higher priority in my daily activities. I also value having someone who will follow up and check on my progress, which will enforce the daily well-being practices. I think that having someone who is invested in me and my well-being is awesome and exciting.”
Durant uses a weekly planner to reduce stress in her schedule, and every evening she practices nightly reflections. “Every night before I go to bed, I look back on my day and reflect what went well and what didn’t. I then think about what I have to do the next and see what I can do to make the next day better. I also reflect on what I was grateful for that day.”
Mary Mozingo, a senior majoring in Social Work, will be a full-time student while also working a full-time job during the 2018-2019 academic year. "It is my hope and expectation that this scholarship and the mentoring allotted will strengthen my well-being during my senior year by learning skills to balance my dual roles," she says. "I believe well-being is a key component to me successfully balancing my responsibilities next year. As they say, 'You can't pour from an empty cup.' This concept is the reason well-being is so important to me, especially as a Social Work major where my focus will be helping others."
Every student at Mason can benefit from incorporating well-being practices into their lives regularly, the scholarship recipients say. “I would definitely encourage anyone to try and focus on their well-being,” says Yoder-Tiedt. “Even starting out small by taking maybe five to 10 minutes a week to reflect on how you are doing is a great start!” No matter how busy students are, everyone has time to practice well-being if they choose to prioritize it in their lives, Durant says – and the positive impact is worthwhile. “… if you practice your well-being more often, other aspects of your life improve as well.”
June 11, 2018