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The Studenski Memorial Award is a grant of up to $6000 established in the memory of Paul Studenski, a Caltech student who was killed in an automobile accident while traveling across the United States in 1974. It is awarded to a Caltech undergraduate who having reached a crossroads in life and would benefit from a period away from the academic community to gain a better understanding of self and explore possible directions for the future.

Applications Due: January 20th by noon          Finalist Interviews: Friday, January 27th between 3 and 6 pm

Who is Eligible

  • Applicants must be enrolled Caltech Undergraduate students in good academic standing

  • Applicants choosing an international destination must be 18 years or older.  There is no age restriction for domestic destinations, however a parent/guardian will be expected to sign a waiver.


Proposal Guidelines

If you are an interested Caltech undergraduate who is in good academic standing, you should submit the itemized budget form with anticipated expenses and an application that provides:

  • The requested demographic information

  • A concise written narrative describing the "crossroad" in which you find yourself, what you are proposing to do and how what you are proposing will help you find clarity.  Consider the following questions:  What are the choices you face?  How will this opportunity help you better understand yourself and your future plans?

  • Added details, if travel is proposed

  • Acknowledgement of the agreements that recipients will be expected to sign

Application and Selection Process:

  • A review committee consisting of Caltech Y Board Members, students, faculty and/or staff will review proposals, identify and interview finalists, select the recipients, and determine award amounts based on need, and funding available.

  • Awardee(s) cannot hold multiple travel awards (e.g. Bishop, San Pietro, ACT, etc).

  • SURF students are not permitted to have other commitments during SURF, including evenings or weekends.  However, activities before or after the SURF period are eligible.

What Awardees Receive

  • Awardees may request up to $6,000 to cover expenses for the educational experience, including registration and program fees, travel, lodging, food and incidentals. The selection committee will determine award amounts (may be full or partial funding) based on need and funding available.  Awards may have tax and financial aid implications.  Students are advised to consult with a tax advisor and/or the financial aid office with any questions.

What is required of Recipients

  • Meet with Y staff to review and sign an agreement outlining expectations and deadlines.

  • Complete the proposed experience as outlined and approved by September 30th. Any changes to the proposed experience must be pre-approved. 

  • Submit an expense report with receipts for reimbursement.

  • Submit a report sharing details on what was done, learned / gained from the experience, along with pictures, that can be shared with donors, and used for reports and promotional materials. Reports can be made in in a mutually agreed upon format (for example, but not limited to - a written document, video presentation, blog post, interview, article for the Tech or the Caltech Y Newsletter, etc.)

  • Recipients may also be asked to give an optional presentation summarizing the experience to members of the Y Staff, Board of Directors, and/or donors, as well as interested students as available.


The Caltech Y is here to help! Applicants with questions about the award or application process are encouraged seek input via phone 626-395-6163, email, or in-person at the Caltech Y.

Some of the 49 Recipients:

2022 Aanica Gonzalez Rogers studied sewing and fashion in New York City

2022 Jennah Colborn studied scientific illustration with a Marine Conservation organization

2022  Camila Buitrago volunteered with conservation organizations in the Amazon

2019 Jake Mattinson studied narrative-based scientific communication with Jet Propulsion Theatre in Italy

2019 Anise Rau studied Dance and Theatre in New York City

2018 Amanda Lin studied cooking in Japan

2017 Jessica Cheng studied ceramics in New York City

2016 Dan Ilyin studied improv with the renowned Second City Improv in Chicago.

2016 Mara Green volunteered with One Circle through the LA County Sherriff

2015 Alice Michel was a wildlife conservation volunteer with Operation Wallacea in South Africa.

2014 Margaux Lopez helped prototype exhibits at the Exploratorium in San Francisco.

2013 Teo Wilkening traveled for service and leadership development with NextGen Academy.

2011 Laura Decker trained and competed in fencing.

2010 Katie Brennan volunteered in a nutrition program in Malawi.

2009 Sara Hunt studied majority world technologies in Guatemala.

2008 Erin Flanigan volunteered on a traveling medical team in Tanzania.

2007 Elena Hartoonian studied the art of Flamenco dancing in Spain.

2006 Herschel Mukherjee studied environmental policy in Tunisia.

2005 Felicia Katz volunteered in a rural medical clinic in Nicaragua.

2004 Libin Zhang volunteered with a sea turtles project in Suriname.

2003 Iram Bilal studied filmmaking in England.

2002 Katie Homann volunteered in a rural medical clinic in Guatemala.

Note: The Studenski Award is not a paid vacation, a chance to get in touch with your roots, an opportunity to pad your resume, or a way to choose between two scientific career paths. It is also not a community service grant although doing service can be proposed if it helps you address the crossroad you face. The Studenski Award is intended to help the recipient find clarity of purpose.

The Caltech Y reserves the right to revoke the award at any point due to safety and security concerns or changes in recipient eligibility or proposal. 

To apply you must submit both the application and a budget.

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