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Cal State LA announces Mind Matters Champions

December 21, 2018

Awardees honored for outstanding contributions to well-being

By Jillian Beck | Cal State LA News Service

Cal State LA President William A. Covino and First Lady Debbie Covino presented Mind Matters Champion awards recognizing exceptional contributions that have helped instill a university-wide culture of caring, compassion and well-being.

The three awardees—student Melissa Venegas, faculty member Marissa Pitts and staff member Amy Miller—were nominated by members of the Cal State LA community. This is the second year of the awards, which recognize students, faculty and staff who show extraordinary and innovative dedication to the well-being of others.

“The Mind Matters Champions are faculty, staff and students who have contributed in a unique and significant way to the inner well-being of the campus community,” President Covino said of the awardees, who were recognized on Dec. 18.

Debbie Covino noted that the recipients have made extraordinary efforts to ensure the university is “both welcoming and has a great message of well-being.”

Venegas is a peer health educator with the Student Health Advisory Committee, known as SHAC. Since 2017, she has been a tireless advocate for improving the mental well-being of her peers and represents the Mind Matters initiative at the Health Hut on the Main Walkway during Well-Being Wednesdays. Through her work with SHAC, Venegas plans programs and encourages conversations with students about their mental health.

Pitts, a recent Cal State LA alumna and current faculty member, incorporates mindfulness exercises, such as short meditations and check-ins, in her vocal techniques for stage class in the Department of Theatre and Dance housed within the College of Arts and Letters. These exercises help her students deal with the stress that can come from juggling academics and other responsibilities. Pitts’ efforts cultivate an environment that promotes student success in her classroom and provides tools to help alleviate stress.

Miller, assistant to the associate dean for the College of Natural and Social Sciences, assists students in navigating the complexities of the university with a compassionate and caring attitude. She was one of the first in the college to complete the eight-hour Mental Health First Aid training provided by the Mind Matters initiative. Miller has organized numerous workshops to help train faculty and staff about mental health issues faced by students and other university community members and on how they can assist them with their overall well-being. She also organizes an annual food drive within her college to support the Cal State LA Food Pantry.

Photo: From left to right: President William A. Covino; Mind Matters Champions: faculty member Marissa Pitts with daughter, Lilac, staff member Amy Miller, and student Melissa Venegas; and First Lady Debbie Covino. (Credit: J. Emilio Flores/Cal State LA).

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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 28,000 students and has more than 245,000 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