New Dream Fund allows students to more easily pursue experiential learning

Snehal Choudhury, Contributing Writer

There’s no question that the academics at Case Western Reserve University are challenging and time-consuming. However, if you ask any student at CWRU what activities they do, chances are they participate in extracurricular activities on top of their classes, like clubs, sports or, most importantly, experiential education. 

Experiential education is an umbrella term for real-world opportunities that allow you to learn beyond the classroom and distinguish yourself from other students. This includes studying abroad, doing internships or co-ops and conducting/presenting research. These sorts of opportunities at CWRU are endless, and it’s up to every student to make the most of them. 

However, many deserving students lack the financial resources to access and pursue these meaningful opportunities outside the classroom. Sometimes, departments who sponsor experiential education may be limited in funding their pursuits. Fortunately, these students no longer have to fret about being at a disadvantage in this regard due to the Dream Fund. 

Established on Jan. 16 in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, the aptly named Dream Fund equalizes the playing field by expanding experiential learning access to under-resourced students, ensuring that they can make the most of what’s offered at CWRU. This fund is for undergraduate students only. Students who apply could earn a $2,500 financial award to fund all sorts of experiential education opportunities, including but not limited to traveling and living expenses for practicums and internships, conducting and presenting research, studying abroad, conferences, leadership/professional development and other forms of experiential education. 

The application for the award can be accessed through the “Dream Fund” webpage, found under the Division of Student Affairs (DOSA). Within the application, students have to provide documents demonstrating the costs of their experiential opportunity. They must also write an essay, up to 500 words, about how the Dream Fund award would help them pursue their specific passion within experiential education. Winners are expected to attend a one-on-one professional development coaching session to help turn their dreams into a reality.

Once they put their funds to good use, recipients must provide receipts of costs funded by the award and submit a written or video testimony of how the Dream Fund has benefited them. Students should take care to submit an application at least 4 weeks before they need funds disbursed for their experiential opportunity because, as the application notes, “awards are processed on a four-week rolling basis.”

The Dream Fund has the potential to make a massive difference. However, CWRU would’ve never established such a fund without the generosity of Candace and Vince Gaudiani. Vince (MED ‘73) has been a thoracic and cardiac surgeon in California for over 30 years, having completed thousands of cardiac operations. Incredibly esteemed in his field, he also currently serves on CWRU’s Board of Trustees. 

Vince recently told The Daily his compelling rationale for creating the Dream Fund: “We want everyone to succeed, no matter what their resources are. Every student was carefully chosen to be part of the Case Western Reserve community, and [my wife] Candace and I want every student to be able to experience anything they dream about.” Since then, they’ve put forth $50,000 to further expand the program and make even more students’ dreams come true. 

The Gaudianis were also pivotal in establishing the Student Emergency Fund, meant to help students who experience a sudden financial emergency or event that could disrupt their ability to pursue an education at CWRU. 

Anyone interested in perpetuating the Gaudianis’ legacy can contribute to the Dream Fund to match the $50,000 they recently donated. 

Overall, the Dream Fund appears promising and has the potential to benefit many deserving students with ambition but were held back due to a lack of financial resources. It’ll be interesting to read testimonies of how the Dream Fund has impacted its recipients someday.