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Scholarship Provides Opportunity for International Student


Darshaka Dias' college career does not fall into the category of "traditional." Growing up in Sri Lanka, Dias had a desire to make college more than just an experience; he hoped to make it a life-shaping journey.

"We have a really good education system in Sri Lanka," said Dias. "I just felt it would be an adventure to come to America. My father did his bachelor's in Germany. He kind of took a chance and went there and I thought maybe I could recreate that experience."

While Dias wanted to have that adventure that his father had before him, he decided Germany was not the place to make it happen. His interests in studying computer science and math led Dias to focus his attention on the U.S., where computer science was a hot topic.

In order to find a university in the U.S., Dias turned to a friend of his fathers, Dr. Athula Kulatunga, who is a professor of Industrial Engineering at Southeast Missouri State University. With the help of Dr. Kulatunga, Dias soon found himself in Cape Girardeau, Mo., applying for college and apartment hunting. Though Dias successfully made the 30-hour flight to a foreign land, his true college challenges were yet to come.

Dias quickly discovered the challenges of paying for his education.

"Because of the out of state tuition, I had to pay between $4,000 and $5,000 a semester," said Dias. "And even though I had a good GPA, being an international student, it was very hard to get the I paid through credit cards."

The financial challenges would not deter Dias from focusing on his goal of obtaining his bachelor's degree. In order to make this goal more attainable, Dias searched for any help he could find in funding his education. His search led him to apply for one of the many scholarships available to Southeast students.

"I was very delighted to find out that I became a recipient of the Russell and Elnora Michel Mathematics Scholarship," said Dias. "While I was working for minimum wage, having a scholarship was like having an extra two weeks or a month to work. Every little bit was like an hourly raise for me!"

The Russell and Elnora Michel Mathematics Scholarship was established by family and friends of the Michels to commemorate Russell's service to Southeast. Mr. Michel was a professor for 36 years, serving as chair of the Mathematics Department for all but one of those years.

Even though Dias still had to work in the cafeteria in his freshman year and as a tutor all through college, the scholarship helped him to focus more on his education. With a major in math and a double minor in computer science and engineering physics, Dias managed to graduate from Southeast in December 2007 with a 4.0 G.P.A. He credits his success to hard work and the assistance of others.

"I have always thought, even when I was getting the scholarship, what a wonderful thing that these people have done," said Dias. "Donors might not realize but it is enormous when it comes to a student's life."

Upon graduation, Dias landed a job as a computer programmer at Element74, a website development company in Cape Girardeau. Sometime in the future he plans to go back to school to get a master's degree in financial engineering, focusing on making models of how the financial market behaves. Ultimately, Dias intends to go back to Sri Lanka with his wife and child, where he is considering pursuing a career as a college professor.

"Leaving my comfort zone in Sri Lanka and traveling to a foreign country for education has been a truly life changing experience," said Dias. "However, I believe most of the learning took place outside of the classes just through exposure. I can say that I have a better sense of the world around me than I used to, but most importantly, these experiences have helped me get closer to understanding my own self. Though at times it has been quite difficult, I feel fortunate to have this part of the journey of my life!"

For more information on supporting scholarships at Southeast contact Trudy G. Lee, Ed.D. at 573.651.5935 or 888.812.3769 or <a href=""></a>. This e-mail address is being protected from spambots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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A charitable bequest is one or two sentences in your will or living trust that leave to the Southeast Missouri University Foundation a specific item, an amount of money, a gift contingent upon certain events or a percentage of your estate.

an individual or organization designated to receive benefits or funds under a will or other contract, such as an insurance policy, trust or retirement plan

"I, [name], of [city, state, ZIP], give, devise and bequeath to Southeast Missouri University Foundation, Cape Girardeau, Missouri, 63701, [the sum of _____] or [_____% of the rest, residue and remainder of my estate, both real and personal] for its charitable purposes in support of Southeast Missouri State University [for its unrestricted use] or [to establish the _____________ Fund]."

able to be changed or cancelled

A revocable living trust is set up during your lifetime and can be revoked at any time before death. They allow assets held in the trust to pass directly to beneficiaries without probate court proceedings and can also reduce federal estate taxes.

cannot be changed or cancelled

tax on gifts generally paid by the person making the gift rather than the recipient

the original value of an asset, such as stock, before its appreciation or depreciation

the growth in value of an asset like stock or real estate since the original purchase

the price a willing buyer and willing seller can agree on

The person receiving the gift annuity payments.

the part of an estate left after debts, taxes and specific bequests have been paid

a written and properly witnessed legal change to a will

the person named in a will to manage the estate, collect the property, pay any debt, and distribute property according to the will

A donor advised fund is an account that you set up but which is managed by a nonprofit organization. You contribute to the account, which grows tax-free. You can recommend how much (and how often) you want to distribute money from that fund to Southeast or other charities. You cannot direct the gifts.

An endowed gift can create a new endowment or add to an existing endowment. The principal of the endowment is invested and a portion of the principal’s earnings are used each year to support our mission.

Tax on the growth in value of an asset—such as real estate or stock—since its original purchase.

Securities, real estate or any other property having a fair market value greater than its original purchase price.

Real estate can be a personal residence, vacation home, timeshare property, farm, commercial property or undeveloped land.

A charitable remainder trust provides you or other named individuals income each year for life or a period not exceeding 20 years from assets you give to the trust you create.

You give assets to a trust that pays our organization set payments for a number of years, which you choose. The longer the length of time, the better the potential tax savings to you. When the term is up, the remaining trust assets go to you, your family or other beneficiaries you select. This is an excellent way to transfer property to family members at a minimal cost.

You fund this type of trust with cash or appreciated assets—and may qualify for a federal income tax charitable deduction when you itemize. You can also make additional gifts; each one also qualifies for a tax deduction. The trust pays you, each year, a variable amount based on a fixed percentage of the fair market value of the trust assets. When the trust terminates, the remaining principal goes to Southeast as a lump sum.

You fund this trust with cash or appreciated assets—and may qualify for a federal income tax charitable deduction when you itemize. Each year the trust pays you or another named individual the same dollar amount you choose at the start. When the trust terminates, the remaining principal goes to Southeast as a lump sum.

A beneficiary designation clearly identifies how specific assets will be distributed after your death.

A charitable gift annuity involves a simple contract between you and Southeast where you agree to make a gift to Southeast and we, in return, agree to pay you (and someone else, if you choose) a fixed amount each year for the rest of your life.

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