July 09, 2012
Giving His Great Joy: Grad from Sri Lanka Creates Anthropology Awards
Sri Lanka native Sasikumar Balasundaram, ’09, ’12, who earned his graduate degrees in Anthropology at Carolina, believes giving selflessly to others opens doors—of educational opportunity. His gift will soon help open doors for anthropology students.
“Sasi,” as friends call him, was raised in abject poverty in the colonial mountain town of Hatton. There, his mother still works at a tea plantation and lives in a concrete dwelling alongside his brother and sister.
Sasi draws from their strength as his inspiration to give back to others. As a doctoral student at Carolina, his fieldwork improved living conditions for Sri Lankan refugees in India. And while an undergraduate at the University of Peradeniya in his home country—where he met former Carolina Anthropology Professor Ann Kingsolver, who was teaching— he started a non-governmental organization. It provides schooling to children in his home area.
Giving Back: His Awards Honor Professor
For five years, Sasi’s cheerful manner and giving ways were embraced by fellow students and faculty in the Department of Anthropology. So it was no surprise to Kingsolver that Sasi would do something “inspiring” before departing USC in June to join her at the University of Kentucky for his post-doctoral research.
Sasi did not disappoint: He created two, $200 awards each year for the next five years, to benefit USC Anthropology undergraduates. The only stipulation is that they write about the importance of diversity.
“I think because of education, I have a better life, so I want to give children and all students that chance,” Sasi offered.
Faculty Contributes to Awards Cause
The Anthropology awards are his way to honor Kingsolver. He describes her as a champion of minority rights and those marginalized on the fringes of society. She responded by contributing to his awards fund, as have other faculty members.
“Sasi teaches his students to think critically about how people get devalued, and what becomes possible when people listen to each other, with respect, across vast differences,” she said. “He has certainly been an inspiration to all of us who know him.”
–Larry Di Giovanni, Development Communications