This fund was created in 1991 in honor of Ina Kristiansen, a UCSB Intramural employee, who was diagnosed with leukemia. Ina’s inability to receive proper medical care due to financial reasons led to her premature death. In an effort to celebrate Ina’s life, her family, friends, and coworkers created a student medical emergency fund at UCSB.
Seven years later, Jack Canfield, author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul® series, compassionately donated $30,000 with a matching grant of $10,000 from fundraisers sponsored by UCSB Recreational Sports. This amount created the Jack Canfield Chicken Soup for the Soul endowment. From these endowed funds, only the interest was distributed to students in need. It was soon realized that approximately $3,000 in annual interest from the fund was simply not enough.
In the spring of 2005, students in Recreational Sports placed the Student Medical Emergency Relief Fund (SMERF) initiative on the ballot for election. SMERF asked students to pay 89¢ per quarter to support student medical emergencies. Both the undergraduate and graduate student body overwhelmingly passed the initiative, thus providing financial assistance to UCSB students in need.
In 2022 the Equity in Mental Health Assistance Grant was provided by the State of California to help University of California address the mental health needs of students. The Equity in Mental Health Assistance Grant at UCSB is specifically intended to address the financial barriers which prevent students from accessing mental health resources. Some examples of costs associated with Mental Health include assessment & testing, medications, & co-pays that are not already covered by insurance. Other expenses related to accessing needed mental health services & supports may be considered.
The SMERF Grant is currently overseen by the Financial Crisis Response Team in the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships.