April 19, 2016
By Mary Alice Maloney
Dominican officials have been firing on all cylinders in attempt to find viable options to help students who are being affected by the lack of MAP grant funding from the state of Illinois. Many budgetary and institutional sacrifices have been made; including the decision to not match monetary amounts put into faculty members’ retirement funds for the next six months.
Even with these institutional efforts in place, there were still members of the Dominican community who felt moved to do more, something more personal, to help students in need. Vice President of University Advancement, Grace Cichomska, gave us details about this glimmer of hope amidst a widespread financial crisis.
“The MAP Emergency Fund has been specially designed to secure philanthropic gifts and fundraising outcomes, primarily from our community here or from our alums who are geared to assist students who have outstanding debt and no way to pay for it,” Cichomska said.
The opening of the MAP Emergency Fund was prompted by Dominican’s Italian Club. Every year, the Italian Club holds their annual St. Joseph’s Day Table, which asks for monetary donations in exchange for a meal. The club usually allocates the funds to local charity groups, but this year, the funds, totaling $1,300, were donated to students affected by MAP.
“When the Italian Club donated this money, the question was ‘what fund do we put it in and how do we manage it?’” Cichomska said. “This was really the first gift that was intended directly for MAP recipients in need and motivated us to think about this kind of response.”
A fund of this nature is not unprecedented, as Dominican has had other funds for various needs over the years. “This time though, the need is so great and immediate, and a fund like this is a short-term way to address the gap that is so critical to so many of our students,” Cichomska said.
Now that the MAP Emergency Fund is established, others have stepped up to donate.
“On Saturday, April 9, there was a special faculty gathering,” Cichomska said. “A lot of faculty contributed to the fund by just giving cash. Somebody else fueled it with a beautiful five-figure gift. People are rising to the occasion and giving anywhere between a couple of dollars to a couple thousand dollars.” Faculty and staff can also make online donations.
Dominican regularly contacts alumni to fundraise money for scholarships and general donations, but the lack of MAP grant funds is being communicated.
“A lot of alums feel compelled, in light of the current situation, to participate in a special way,” Cichomska said. “Any fundraising above and beyond our budgeted goal for our general fund will go to the MAP Emergency Fund.”
Cichomska emphasized the fact that the MAP Emergency Fund is part of a much bigger Dominican effort to address the great need that students are experiencing.
“There’s a huge institutional commitment to help students now during the MAP crisis, but also across the board for anything our students need to thrive, graduate, and contribute to society beyond Dominican,” Cichomska said.
As far as the allocation of the funds raised for the MAP Emergency Fund, the office of financial aid will monitor which students are in the greatest need or have run out of other options to make up the funds lost through MAP and distribute the money accordingly.
In general, Cichomska is hopeful for the positive impact of the MAP Emergency Fund.
“I think it’ll be a wonderful support for our students and their families,” Cichomska said. “This fund is a way in which the Dominican community demonstrates caritas in a very real way. We have need right here among us, and people are generous. No matter how big or small the monetary amount, it comes from the heart.”