Endowed scholarship focuses on immigrant and refugee issues

Latika Mangrulkar, M.S.W. '94 was a young girl in India when a visiting Fulbright Scholar noted her English writing skills and invited her to apply to continue her studies in the United States. In 1967, she moved to the U.S. with one suitcase, and no family or connections to help her navigate life in a confusing new environment. Her fellowship didn't cover all her expenses, so she added some financial stress into the mix. She became part of the South Asian diaspora, far from the traditions and community that shaped her earliest memories.

Latika Mangrulkar, M.S.W. smiling
Latika Mangrulkar, M.S.W.

Latika earned her master's of english and transferred to Wayne State University to work on her Ph.D. After raising a family, she began a career in social work and decided to complete her M.S.W. at Wayne State. She graduated in 1994.

Then adventure beckoned again, with a short-term opportunity in California. Once again, she boarded a flight to a place she'd only heard about. This time, instead of leaving her parents behind, she left her adult children and her community. After seven years in California, she returned to Michigan in 2012, excited at the prospect of watching her grandchildren grow up.

Latika's life required her to create community through trial and error, and the experience left her with a desire to support students who follow in her footsteps. Reflecting on the selfless support her parents provided in allowing her to pursue her dreams, she created an endowed scholarship in their honor. The Dr. M.R. and Malti Tatwawadi Endowed Scholarship supports social work students, giving preference to students with a demonstrated interest in immigrant and refugee issues, especially related to the Indian subcontinent diaspora.

"The South Asian diaspora doesn't get much attention or support," she noted, referencing the success that seems to accompany efforts of Indians to emigrate. "It seems like we don't have any problems, but that isn't true. There are challenges."

Latika also endowed the Robert and Sylvia Farnsworth Fellowship in English at the University of Missouri - Kansas City to recognize the professor who encouraged her to come to Detroit because of her interest in American urban culture.

Two thoughts helped her decide to create these endowments: First, her parents instilled the notion of affordability as a relative concept, saying, "Wealth is just a state of mind." Laughing, she recalled her father saying, "If you get a bike, you want a car. When you get a car, you want a nicer car - it keeps going."

In addition, her mother's youngest brother mentioned his own philosophy that after age 60, all his work should be pro bono. That vision of giving back made a powerful impression on Latika, and it can inspire future students at the School of Social Work in perpetuity, thanks to this generous endowed fund.

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