SAS establishes scholarship

The South Asian Society recently established a scholarship to help students with a cultural background in South Asia fund their GW education.

Continuing students with ancestral roots in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka who have completed 30 credit hours now have another option to help finance their tuition.

“In the past, many student groups, including SAS, have taken revenues from various events and donated them to charities,” said Mital Desai, SAS president. “This is a great idea but the 1997-’98 SAS board felt we should also try to directly help our students.”

He added SAS hopes the scholarship will help increase South Asian students’ involvement in their community.

“It rewards students who have helped their fellow students by discussing issues, finding solutions and taking action to bring about change within the South Asian community,” he said.

“(The scholarship) reinforces the values of the international community and diversity of the body,” said Judith Green, director of International Services.

Although the scholarship will be funded through a student organization, the recipient will be chosen by a three-member selection committee consisting of the SAS faculty adviser, a representative of the financial aid office and a representative of the International Services Office.

The executive officers have no input into who receives the scholarship, Desai said.

Previous SAS executive board members considered the idea, but those in office last academic year instituted the idea, said Kiran Devisetty, a 1998 GW graduate who was an SAS officer last year. Devisetty also worked on the logistics of establishing the scholarship last year.

Devisetty said the scholarship is funded through an SAS endowment fund – part of the GW Centuries Campaign – that will receive about $25,000 annually from the student organization. The fund also will collect 15 percent interest, five percent of which will be allocated to the scholarship.

“The scholarship fits in with Centuries Campaign because one of the focuses is to raise student support funds,” said Eugene Finn, director of Development for Special Programs.

“It includes countless scholarships,” he said. “I am not aware of any other students efforts to set up a scholarship of this size. This is a unique effort on the part of the organization.”

As it stands now, the organization only will award one scholarship this year, but Desai said the organization hopes to increase the number awarded in the future.

The success of the scholarship program will depend significantly on the growth of the group’s endowment fund and future executive board members, Devisetty said.

But Finn said the endowment has been set in perpetuity to protect the original purpose of the fund and it should continue to grow.

Desai and Devisetty said the event that advanced the establishment of the scholarship was Bhangra Blowout, an event SAS has hosted for the past five years. But last March, the event was taken to new heights, as more than 3,000 people piled into Constitution Hall to watch an exhibit of bhangra, an Indian folk dance.

Desai and Devisetty noted the strength of the event and the revenue it brought helped make it financially feasible.

“Bhangra Blowout permitted (the scholarship) to be a reality,” said Devisetty, who was the Bhangra Blowout executive chair.

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