The UC Irvine Professor’s Life Skills course will be expanded to all 10 UC locations

Mahtob Jafari’s Life 101 course, which has long been successful at the University of California at Irvine, will be offered at all 10 UC locations in the coming winter quarter. The class teaches healthy living habits, promotes the well-being of the students and helps them to recognize and cope with their stress.

“We have an epidemic of stress among college students,” said Jafari, professor of pharmaceutical science. “Without a healthy mind and body, it is impossible to be personally or professionally successful.”

Over the past few decades, numerous studies and student surveys have found increased levels of stress for students, especially freshmen adapting to new living and academic environments.

Now that COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the country and schools are forced to drastically change the way they teach in a short period of time, students face even greater mental and physical health problems.

At a TEDx event, UC Irvine professor Mahtob Jafari shares how a sobbing student motivated her to create Life 101.
Photo credit: TEDx Talks

“Self-care is a critical element of academic success. This course introduces mindfulness and emotional intelligence strategies that will support students during the pandemic,” said Ellen Osmundson, program director of the UC-wide initiative for innovative learning technologies.

Launched in 2013 as the UC Irvine Pharmaceutical Sciences course, Life 101 teaches students how to manage stress and improve quality of life through topics such as diet, exercise, sleep, the effects of performance-enhancing drugs on campus, and even the health benefits of Volunteering. From dealing with personal finances to finding affordable products, the class gives students the opportunity to approach the remainder of their studies in the best of mental and physical shape.

“Taking Life 101 with Dr. Jafari has really helped me overcome the challenges I – and many other college students – face in terms of school and everyday life,” said Sydney Aimua, who holds a BS in chemistry this year has acquired. “I have learned to deal with my mental health and to be more careful and disciplined with my eating, exercise and sleeping habits.”

Jafari developed the popular course with two students and continuously optimized the curriculum based on student reviews and the changing environment outside of the classroom. For example, over the summer she added a module on anti-racism to address the Black Lives Matter movement and racial tensions.

“I consider this course an ongoing job,” said Jafari. “For example, because of the winter quarter pandemic, I will include more information on emotional health.”

This year’s winter session is usually held in person and is fully online to allow for distance learning and to expand the class to all UC students. Jafari expects about 400 participants. Each week they watch a recorded talk and online videos, take a quiz, reflect on how the topics relate to their own lives, and respond to comments from their peers.

In this video from the Winter 2021 Life 101 curriculum, students learn how a balanced diet can strengthen their brains.
Photo credit: TED-Ed

In this video from the Winter 2021 Life 101 curriculum, students learn how a balanced diet can strengthen their brains.

All of this can be done on your own schedule so that this stress reduction course in itself does not cause stress. Instead, it will be a resource for students to learn from each other’s lectures and experiences and ideas.

“In the new online learning environment, the main challenge students face is the lack of social interaction,” said Jafari. By connecting them across multiple locations, she wants to create a “better sense of community”.

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