CMC student wins prestigious Obama-sponsored scholarship

Michael Gadinis ’24
October 17, 2022

Michael Gadinis ’24 couldn’t believe he was actually speaking with former President Barack Obama.

“Is this real?!” he wondered, while on the Zoom call.

It was most definitely real, as Obama and Brian Chesky, co-founder and CEO of Airbnb, personally congratulated the inaugural cohort of Obama-Chesky Voyager Scholar recipients, which includes Gadinis.

Last spring, Chesky along with Barack and Michelle Obama established the Voyager scholarship program, which aims “to identify rising juniors in colleges across the country who are making a difference and plan to pursue careers in public service.”

A host of benefits comprise the newly launched scholarship, including financial aid, funding for a “summer voyage” before senior year, and travel credits for 10 years after graduation. Gadinis—a government major pursuing the gender and sexuality studies sequence—plans to head to a state that restricts reproductive rights, where he intends to support survivors of sexual violence.

The Voyager Scholarship is administered by the Obama Foundation, while Airbnb provides accommodations and other support to participants. The program is funded by a $100 million personal contribution from Chesky.

Gadinis discovered the scholarship thanks to CMC Professor Diana Selig, who met Gadinis when he took her LGBTQ history class and through her work as the gender and sexuality studies sequence faculty advisor.

In addition, Selig was aware of Gadinis’ leadership responsibilities with CMC Advocates, the student organization that serves as a resource for sexual violence survivors.

“When I saw the announcement of this new scholarship, I immediately thought of Michael because of his intellectual curiosity, empathetic approach, leadership on campus, and deep commitment to public service,” Selig said.

Gadinis reached out to Brian Davidson ’08, director of fellowships advising at CMC, who assisted Gadinis with his application, which included a series of essay-type questions and the submission of a short video.

“Brian helped so much with that, just with being able to whittle down my answers and get to the core of what I was trying to express,” said Gadinis, who was working in D.C. as a congressional intern with the Victory Institute as he was applying for the scholarship this summer.

“They asked where I see myself in five years, and then, where I see myself in 10 years,” said Gadinis, who is from New York. “Working on Capitol Hill made me realize that is somewhere I could see myself working, so that brought clarity to that answer. I was able to talk with people about the legislation they’ve worked on relating to sexual violence and sit in on briefings about banning forced arbitration in sexual violence cases, for example.”

“As someone interested in combating sexual violence, Michael is clearly ‘mission-driven’” Davidson said. “But more than that, he is acutely self-aware…. He absolutely deserves this honor—I am delighted for him, and I can’t wait to see what he is able to accomplish during his summer ‘voyage.’ Moreover, I am eager to continue working with him on more fellowship opportunities to deepen his impact as a future public servant.”

For now, Gadinis is getting to know his fellow Voyager scholars—who represent 35 states and territories and 70 colleges and universities—via an ongoing group chat.

And, this November he’s scheduled to travel to New York for a fall Voyager summit to meet Barack Obama—for real and in-person.

 

Valuable experiences such as these are made possible at CMC, in part, by the generous support of donors and philanthropists. Through the Campaign for CMC: Responsible Leadership and the specific pillar of honoring our leadership mission, we will ensure that the College continues to deliver on its liberal arts and leadership mission.

 

Anne Bergman

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