Alumni Couple Establishes Scholarship for CSUN Dreamers

  • Ray and Adina Calnan create an endowment for CSUN Dreamers.

    Donors Ray and Adina Calnan attend CSUN's annual Distinguished Alumni Awards. Photo courtesy of Ray Calnan.

CSUN alumni Adina and Ray Calnan have a personal understanding of the unique challenges faced by young immigrants to the U.S. At the age of 15, Adina ’04 (Accountancy), ’04 (Finance), M.S. ’17 (Accountancy) immigrated to the United States from Romania; at the age of three, Ray ’03 (Finance) immigrated to the U.S.

Thanks to California State University, Northridge, they also understand the unique, life-changing power of higher education. The couple recently established an endowed scholarship at CSUN, the Calnan Family Dreamers Scholarship Endowment, to assist immigrant students pursuing higher education.

They chose to donate to CSUN because, as undergraduates, they discovered a student body that mirrored their own families and communities, the couple said.

“I saw many students who were like me,” Adina said. “As an immigrant, there are many hurdles that you encounter. While many students face financial struggles regardless of legal status, immigrants are also facing a language barrier and adapting to a new culture. I understand these hurdles, as I have faced them myself.”

“We wanted to donate to CSUN because its students often need more resources, especially Dreamers,” Ray said. “Why not allow [Dreamers] more opportunity for a higher education?”

It’s estimated that 1,400 CSUN students live with undocumented immigrant status. Many of these young people came to the U.S. as children, with parents or other relatives who dreamed of starting a new life, a better life, in this country. Those who fall under the provisions of the DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act are referred to as Dreamers.

The annual distributions from the Calnan Family Dreamers Scholarship Endowment will provide at least one annual scholarship to CSUN students who have AB 540, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) or other undocumented status.

Additional criteria may be used to determine scholarship recipients, including continuing education, scholastic achievement (a minimum 2.5 grade point average), demonstrated financial need and demonstrated exceptional leadership and community service. Students also need to have completed at least one personal finance course at the university or be working on a degree in the David Nazarian College of Business and Economics.

Ray and Adina credit CSUN for providing an education that helped them advance in their professional careers. In 2003, Ray earned his bachelor’s in finance. In 2005, Ray earned his master’s in international business from California Lutheran, and for 10 years, he taught real estate and finance courses as part-time lecturer at CSUN. He became a full-time faculty member in the Department of Business Law in 2015. On the same year, Ray earned his Ph.D. in policy planning and development from the University of Southern California’s Sol Price School of Public Policy.

“CSUN really impacted my life,” he said. “Faculty really cared about us, and [they] were really practical. Several of my professors in the business school were practitioners in addition to being instructors. This practical experience provides students with a greater insight into how the real world works and better prepares them for a career. I was fortunate to have some instructors that didn’t just provide theory, but also provided real-world experience. I actually took over my real estate professor’s position here at CSUN, and working in real estate changed the direction of my life.”

In 2004, Adina earned her bachelor’s in accountancy and earned her bachelor’s in finance the same year. She went on to become controller of a private company in the San Fernando Valley, but she also wanted to continue her education. In 2017, she received her master’s in accountancy.

The new scholarship will make a difference for current and future Matadors.

“We chose an endowment because it’s perpetual,” Adina said. “We want to leave this place better [for Dreamers and other students of undocumented status]. We hope that this endowment will be something that will go on, and even encourage other faculty to give back.”

“This university really gave us the opportunity to have the life that we wanted,” Adina continued. “Education really changes students’ lives.”

For more information on contributing to scholarships for CSUN, please contact Jerry De Felice at or 818-677-3935.

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