Name: Francesca Sassoon
Major and current year at UCI: psychology B.S. fourth-year transfer student
Scholarship received: Outstanding Community College Transfer Scholarship
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA

What major life experiences stand out for you thus far?

Initiating and fundraising to create a scholarship for undocumented students at my community college, Golden West College, moving to NYC and back, and getting into UCI!

How did you decide on UCI for your undergrad, and the psychology B.S. for your major?

I knew that I wanted to get into research and was impressed with how many opportunities UCI had to offer. I have been interested in psychology for as long as I can remember and have always wanted to be a psychologist.

What would you consider your biggest accomplishment at UCI?

I’m a first-generation college student, and first-generation Colombian-American, who was raised by my wonderful single mother, Luz. UCI has given me so many opportunities for growth, but my biggest accomplishments have been receiving the UCI Esports Health & Wellness Scholarship and receiving funding for undergraduate research from UROP.

What activities have you been involved with while at UCI?

I’ve spent time playing on UCI Women’s Rugby Club, lifting at SoCal Powerlifting, and volunteered in the community with Priceless Pets Rescue.

Tell us a bit about your undergrad research.

I joined Dr. Rao’s BRoAD Lab in 2019 as a research assistant and will be returning in fall ’21 to continue research on biobehavioral markers of stress and trauma in adolescents. Additionally, I am working on another project focused on psychophysical stress, under the mentorship of Alex Bower, MA.

Who’s been your role model?

My single mother, Luz, has supported me, stuck by my side, and advocated for me through everything. We lost my father to cancer when I was a child and have been a team ever since. We had to struggle to get where we are, but that has majorly shaped who I am today. She is my biggest role model. She raised me to be empathetic, independent, and tenacious. Everything I have, I owe to her.

What challenges have you faced in getting to where you are today?

I have worked around 30 hours a week for most of my time in college, which has made getting where I am quite challenging. Additionally, frequently moving around, leaving an emotionally abusive relationship, and losing some important people in my life, have at times made my academic journey difficult. But this past year, living with the COVID-19 pandemic, has been one of the hardest years I’ve endured in a long time. I lost people I loved, had to move around multiple times, and got sicker than I’ve ever been, which led to my diagnosis with a chronic illness. Regardless, my commitment to getting an education has not faltered and now I know nothing could possibly dampen my determination.

Where can you most often be found on campus?

The Science Library

What’s your best memory thus far from your undergraduate experience at UCI?

All the late-night study sessions I’ve spent with classmates and friends in the campus libraries, especially the ones when we spent most of the time laughing instead of studying.

When do you plan to finish your degree and what do you plan to do after?

I’ll be done with my degree by winter or spring of 2022. Afterward, I plan to work full-time as a research assistant and will be applying to graduate programs.


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