Cassandra Olivia Nielsen, recipient of the Jeremy D. Friedman Award, transferred to UCSB in fall 2012 and quickly became a champion for students in recovery from addictive behaviors. With passion, initiative and long-term vision, she embarked on the challenging task of creating the Gauchos for Recovery program, and she was the first recovery peer intern.
Within the program, Nielsen has helped develop and facilitate Students for Recovery, a weekly 12-step meeting in which she assisted students along their paths to recovery by encouraging them to facilitate meetings. Through her leadership and innovative outreach strategies, she took the Gauchos for Recovery program from a three-person group to a growing and dynamic organization with its own space, several weekly meetings and additional fellowship programs.
Seeing the ongoing needs of students in recovery, she created innovative ways to engage that population with services such as study groups, carpool teams for the 12-step meetings and social gatherings.
Nielsen also has actively advocated for the establishment of recovery programs on campuses throughout the UC system, and she was honored as the distinguished speaker at the 2013 California Unified Collegiate Recovery Conference.
Nielsen’s nominator described her as “passionate, creative and committed to serving others” and cited her greatest accomplishment as “helping students stay sober who may not otherwise have continued without her support.” Through the creation of a sustainable support system for struggling students, the nominator continued, Nielsen leaves an important legacy that will help her fellow Gauchos for years to come.
In addition to her work with Gauchos for Recovery, Nielsen has demonstrated her commitment to transfer student success through her role as a discussion co-leader for Education 118, the transfer student success course. She also has served as a peer facilitator for Gaucho F.Y.I., a required seminar for all incoming students.
After graduating with her bachelor’s degree in psychology, with a minor in applied psychology, Nielsen will continue her education at the University of New Haven, where she will begin a master’s program in industrial organizational psychology.