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WF apartment complex supports grad student through scholarship

Published: Sep. 21, 2021 at 2:58 PM CDT
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WICHITA FALLS, Texas (KAUZ) - The generosity of an apartment complex in Wichita Falls means that a local grad student has one less thing to worry about this year.

Every year, one lucky MSU Texas graduate student gets a year without rent in a fully-furnished unit at Arbor Creek Apartments. Valued at around $7,500, the Arbor Creek scholarship is one of the most competitive financial awards from the university.

The scholarship was created after apartment management realized how overwhelming finances could be for students pursuing advanced degrees. The apartment complex partnered with MSU Texas in 2009, and has since provided 13 students with a place to live without the burden of rent.

“We love doing this,” said apartment manager Kathie Trant.

This year’s recipient, Shenella Karunaratne, said that the scholarship was a relief. “This couldn’t have happened at a better time,” she said.

Shenella was only 16 years old when she left her home in Sri Lanka to study at MSU Texas. While her older brother also attended the university, the two siblings led very separate lives, and Shenella initially struggled with being across the world from her support system. However, she overcame those obstacles as she made friends and found mentors in professors like David Carlston, Paul Guthrie, and Michael Vandehey.

Shenella Karunaratne will receive a year rent-free at Arbor Creek Apartments.
Shenella Karunaratne will receive a year rent-free at Arbor Creek Apartments.(MSU)

“Shenella is a very focused student who knew what she wanted and directed her energy toward achieving her goals,” Vandehey said. “As an international student, she has had to deal with separation from family, the pandemic and travel restrictions, which affected seeing family during breaks, and yet has maintained her professionalism. We are very proud to have her in our department and as one of our future graduates.”

International students face more burdens than most when it comes to keeping up with financial obligations. Limited employment opportunities with a student visa meant that Shenella had to balance a job in the graduate admission office with teaching a general psychology course, an internship at the Veterans Affairs clinic, and working on her thesis. With all of these obligations, it was hard to make ends meet. In her application essay, she wrote: “Arbor Creek Apartments has always been a place I could have only idealized as a home.”

But thanks to the generosity of the apartment complex and Haley Residential, Shenella will be able to enjoy the proximity to campus, safety, and accessibility that Arbor Creek provides for a year without worrying about rent.

“Getting the scholarship relieves so much of the stress,” said Shenella.

Shenella earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology in 2018, and is currently on track to earn her master’s in May of 2022. The scholarship will allow her to focus on her goal of being accepted into a Ph.D. program, earning a doctorate, and returning home to Sri Lanka as an advocate. “There’s not a lot of mental health awareness in Sri Lanka. I would see people suffering, but there was no one to help them,” she said.

The Arbor Creek scholarship, and the many helping hands behind it, will help position Shenella to be the help she so desperately wanted to see as a child.

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