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Fellows' Bios

Spring 2012 Fellows

Jasmeet Ahuja

Award to support continuing study toward a JD degree at Yale Law School

JASMEET AHUJA was born in California to Punjabi Sikh parents who immigrated to the United States in the 1970s. Her family’s harrowing experience with religious intolerance in India continues to energize her to fight for the American constitutional promise of equal protection under the law. After graduating with honors and Phi Beta Kappa from Stanford University with MS and BS degrees in engineering, Jasmeet accepted an appointment as a Presidential Management Fellow at the Office of the Secretary of Defense in the Pentagon. She then went on to serve as the director of South Asia in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs at the Department of State and as a professional staff member on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. While with the House, Jasmeet helped craft foreign policy legislation on aid to Pakistan, negotiate the civil-nuclear deal with India, and lobby for Sikh Americans to wear turbans while serving in the United States military. She also served as the Chair of the Conference on Asian Pacific American Leadership, a non-profit dedicated to building leadership within the Asian American community. Upon completing her studies at Yale Law School, Jasmeet plans to continue her work in foreign affairs to ensure that rule of law guides our national security decisions.

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Jason Bae

Award to support study toward an MBA at Harvard Business School

JASON BAE was born and raised in Korea. At age 14, he immigrated to Southern California where his father -- previously a corporate manager in Korea -- found a job as a mechanic. Jason entered Harvard University four years after arriving in the U.S. Following his sophomore year, he won a Weissman Fellowship, which supported his volunteer service in a clinic in East Timor. Impressed by the gross inequities in access to health care he observed, he then took a year off to study mother-to-child transmission of HIV in Botswana. During that period, he also founded and directed Hope for Survival, a Zimbabwean-based organization that provided educational support for children affected by HIV. He then spent a semester in Peru where he worked to improve TB diagnostics. Subsequently, in Brazil, he did research on why patients delay seeking care for TB symptoms. Committed to enhancing equity and quality in health care delivery, Jason entered Yale School of Medicine in 2008 and co-directed Yale Global Health Working Group. He has published six academic papers in the field of infectious diseases. He was first author on three of them. He is currently in the first year of an MBA program at Harvard Business School.

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Pablo Barrera

Award to support work toward an MA in East Asian Studies at Harvard University

PABLO BARRERA was born in Chicago but grew up in Texas, one of numerous children of Mexican parents who were in this country without documentation.   His father was a member of the Huichol clan and Pablo spent his summers in Mexican jungles, learning hunting and crafts from his uncles and traditional medicine and rituals from his grandmother, the village shaman.   He excelled in high school, but went to work at 16 to help support his family and his eldest brother’s graduate education.  Working in several states over the following eight years, he eventually was granted citizenship. He then gained admission – at 24 -- to the University of Pennsylvania.   His interests, stimulated by visits to museums in earlier years, focused on how different heritages are characterized in art and art history.  Not wishing to focus on his Huichol heritage, he studied artistic representation of other cultures.  After spending a summer in Korea under the Penn-in-Seoul program, he developed a serious commitment to the study of Korean vernacular architecture.  An honors thesis on that subject, work in Korean institutions, and a Fulbright Scholarship have helped him acquire academic and linguistic skills that are prerequisites for doctoral training – and an academic career – in East Asian art and architectural history. The MA in East Asian Studies at Harvard is the next step toward that goal.

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Boroka Bo

Award to support study toward a Ph.D. in medical sociology at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF)

BORÓKA BÓ was born into the persecuted Hungarian minority in Communist Romania and emigrated with her family to the U.S. as political refugees when she was 14. Two years later her life was again upended when child protective services rescued her from her abusive parents and placed her in a group home. She worked full-time in a bookstore and a factory while she finished high school, and continued working full-time during her first two years in an acupuncture college to support herself and her younger sister’s education at Reed College. She is now majoring in sociology and public health at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Boroka is committed to “improving the lives of impoverished children in developing countries.” In her first undergraduate year at Colorado, she founded the nonprofit Transylvanian Community Foundation, whose goal is to end the systematic discrimination of  Roma – Gypsy – and other persecuted minorities in Transylvania. She serves on the boards of the university’s Wardenburg Student Health Center and the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee for Minority Affairs. Boroka is also the elected chair of the university’s Health and Wellness Committee. She is planning a doctorate in medical sociology at UCSF.

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Piotr Brzezinski

Award to support study toward a JD at Yale Law School

PIOTR BRZEZINSKI was born in Boston. His parents had come to this country from Poland more than a decade earlier. After going to Philips Academy, Piotr started his undergraduate studies at Wesleyan University and then transferred to Harvard University, where he graduated magna cum laude in Social Studies. While at Harvard he served as an editorial executive for the Harvard Crimson, editor-in-chief of The Dissident, a classic liberal college magazine, and Vice-President of the Harvard Speech and Parliamentary Debate Society. He also won the Max Greenman Prize for parliamentary debate. After graduation, Piotr joined McKinsey & Company, a strategy consultancy, and worked with Fortune 500 companies in the US and Latin America. He then moved to London to become a policy advisor for David Cameron, leader of the Conservative Party. After the 2010 British election, he helped setup the Big Society Network, a charity that seeks to promote political reform and civic engagement, and founded the Digital Government Unit at Policy Exchange, a technology policy research group. He also worked on the Alternative Vote national referendum campaign. Piotr then returned to the U.S. to pursue a JD degree at Yale Law School and is exploring options for a joint MBA degree.

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Daniel Duzdevich

Award to support ongoing study toward a Ph.D. in biological sciences at Columbia University

DANIEL DUZDEVICH was born in New York City to a Hungarian mother and Croatian father. As an undergraduate research assistant in Eric Greene’s laboratory at Columbia University, he showed remarkable talent with highly technical studies of interactions of single molecules. On graduation, Daniel received a prestigious Cambridge European Trust Fellowship to pursue his master’s degree at the University of Cambridge. Working in the labs of Robert Henderson and Michael Edwardson with atomic force microscopy, he studied the unusual, repetitive DNA structures that appear in patients with Huntington’s disease. That work led to lead authorship of a paper published in a major academic journal. Returning to Prof. Greene’s lab as a Ph.D. candidate, Daniel is now aiming to devise a way to visualize DNA replication and repair at the molecular level. In his first year he won the James Howard McGregor Award, given to “the graduate student [who] shows unusual promise as a teacher of zoology.” Daniel also has a deep interest in making biology accessible to a general audience. His “translation” of Charles Darwin’s “surprisingly difficult” Victorian prose in the Origin of Species into “clear modern English” will be published by Indiana University Press in early 2013. He plans a career in basic research as well as in popular science writing about biology.

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Abdul El-Sayed

Award to support continuing study toward an MD and a Ph.D. in social medicine at Columbia University

ABDULRAHMAN EL-SAYED was born in Michigan to parents who had come to this country from Egypt. As a freshman at the University of Michigan, his academic performance was outstanding, he was a key defenseman on the university’s varsity lacrosse team, and he had a clear path to medical school. In the wake of 9/11, however, he felt conflicted by his American, Muslim and Egyptian identities and undirected in his pursuits. A summer in Egypt helped him see identity issues as opportunities and medical education as a basis from which he could begin to rectify health inequalities. He went on to become the top student in his class and the senior speaker at his graduation. Bill Clinton said of Abdul’s speech: “I wish every person in the world who believes that we’re fated to have a clash of civilizations and cannot reach across the religious divide could have heard you speak today.” Entering Columbia University’s medical school, Abdul worked on epidemiology at the lab of Sandro Galea. His work has resulted in 24 publications. He won a Rhodes scholarship following his second year of medical school and earned a doctoral degree in public health at Oxford. He is now completing his MD and a Ph.D. in social medicine at Columbia.

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Mario Giron-Abrego

Award to complete his MA in Archaeology at California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA) and begin work toward a Ph.D. in Archaeology

MARIO GIRON- ÁBREGO was born in Guatemala City, within a few blocks of a major Maya archaeological site. His enthusiasm for archaeology, however, was overwhelmed by the realities of civil war.  His father, a teacher who sympathized with contemporary Maya communities, was pursued by the military and disappeared.   His mother sought political asylum in the United States when Mario was seven, leaving him with his grandparents for seven more years. He and a cousin then undertook a two-month odyssey through Mexico to reach California.   Though financially strapped, he excelled in high school. It took him four years to obtain a green card, so he was 22 when he enrolled at CSULA to take advantage of its offerings in archaeology, focusing on the Maya Civilization. Mario worked in digs in the Mojave Desert and southern Utah, but it was in Maya sites in Belize that he found his calling. He worked three successive seasons in the Midnight Terror Cave, where he made discoveries that he documented in a series of papers delivered at annual meetings of the Society for American Archaeology. He is currently completing an epigraphic and iconographic study of polychrome vessels from the Belize site for his MA thesis, and plans to continue on to earn a Ph.D., focusing on archaeology and hieroglyphic decipherment of Maya texts.

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Karina Gonzales-Herrera

Award to support ongoing work toward a Ph.D. in Biological and Biomedical Sciences at Harvard University

KARINA GONZALEZ-HERRERA was born in a remote town in Guatemala.   Violence and a death threat persuaded her parents to emigrate when Karina was 11.   Requesting asylum status, they settled in San Marcos, CA, in northern San Diego County.  Within several years, Karina had distinguished herself academically and entered the college-prep AVID (Advancement via Individual Determination) program.   Her undocumented status seemed to rule out more ambitious goals, so she entered California State University, San Marcos (CSUSM). She joined the RISE (Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement) program, which prepares students for graduate study in the sciences. Her research led to presentations at a Genome Project Jamboree in Woods Hole, MA and the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology. Threatened with deportation when she turned 21, Karina stayed at CSUSM for a master’s degree while she challenged – and eventually won – her immigration case.   With a green card in hand, she was admitted to Harvard University’s Ph.D. program in biology, where she is currently in her second year.  In her first six months in the laboratory of Dr. Marcia Haigis, she has generated data that shed light on metabolic pathways that are important in the treatment of cancer.

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Eduardo Hariton

Award to support ongoing study toward an MD at Harvard Medical School

EDUARDO HARITON was born in Caracas, Venezuela, to parents of Jewish Eastern European descent. His grandfather, a former surgeon who traveled to remote areas of Venezuela to provide medical care to the poor, served as an enduring role model for Eduardo. The family escaped the instability and crime of Venezuela to settle in south Florida when Eduardo was 15.  Quickly learning English, he entered the University of Florida, where he earned a BS in biology.   He served as Associate Director of Research for a study assessing efforts to promote culturally sensitive health care.  He also volunteered at the university’s clinic for the homeless and uninsured. Eduardo entered Harvard Medical School in the fall of 2010.  In his first year he was active in analyzing enrollment patterns in hospitals and successfully recommended steps that would lower barriers to minority admissions. He co-founded the first university-wide Latino student organization and served as its first president. Eduardo has worked to increase Latino students’ access to a range of the university’s resources. During the summer of 2011 he travelled to Rwanda as part of a high-level team that helped the Ministry of Health develop a national plan for cancer treatment.     

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Sam Khalifian

Award to support ongoing work toward an MD degree at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

SAAMI “SAM” KHALIFIAN was born in California to parents whose “mixed” marriage – his father was Baha’i and his mother was Muslim – had led them to flee Iran in the early 1970s.  Growing up in Orange County, Sam’s life and career goals were transformed when he was 12.  An automobile accident left his father comatose and with extensive brain damage and his mother with multiple fractures and severe internal injuries.   After five years, his mother was unable to cope with the situation and returned to Iran, leaving Sam responsible for his father.  After working, taking care of his father, and attending Orange Coast College for two years, he was able to transfer to the University of California-Berkeley when his mother returned to the family.   He did research on the role of stem cells in regenerative medicine and issues of demographic disparities in emergency room wait times.   At the MD program at Johns Hopkins, Sam continues his study of regenerative medicine.  His lab research focuses on nerve regeneration and repair using stem cells, tissue engineering and transplantation. In addition to his lab work, Sam serves as president of the Hopkins chapter of the AMA.  He also serves as president of the student chapter of the American Academy of Neurology.  He has co-founded three organizations: a distinguished speaker series, a project to promote healthy lifestyle behavior, and a program to develop curricular innovation in the medical training curricula.      

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Christine Lamprea

Award to support ongoing study toward a Master’s in Music Degree at the New England Conservatory of Music

     CHRISTINE LAMPREA was born in New York City to parents who had come separately to this country from Colombia 20 years earlier.  Soon after her birth, the family relocated to San Antonio, TX, where her father has a realty business.   The cello was only one of her interests until she attended a summer music festival in high school.   It then became her primary commitment.  Intense study and practice earned her admission to the undergraduate cello performance program at The Juilliard School.   As a student of Bonnie Hampton, she quickly established herself as a talented and accomplished solo and chamber music performer.  Itzhak Perlman, who coached Christine and performed with her in numerous chamber music ensembles, not only admires her technique and musicality, but also chose her to be his granddaughter’s cello coach, noting that Christine is a “born teacher.”  Committed to the notion of music as service, she actively pursues opportunities to perform in settings where she can spread awareness of classical music to new audiences.   A Gluck Community Service Fellow for two years at Juilliard, Christine performed at senior centers and hospitals in the New York area, often provoking enthusiastic responses to music that is typically seen as inaccessible.  Christine is enrolled in the Master’s Degree in Music program at New England Conservatory (NEC).  She makes her Jordan Hall debut on April 18th, performing Samuel Barber’s Cello Concerto with the NEC Philharmonia.

      

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Marisol Leon

Award to support ongoing work toward a JD degree at the University of California’s Berkeley Law School

MARISOL LEON was born in Los Angeles to parents who had come from rural Mexico, Marisol and her older sister grew up in an underserved inner-city community.  They were determined, however, that education would be their route of escape from an intolerable environment.   Marisol was awarded a full scholarship at a top private high school in Los Angeles, but still, as a 14-year-old, had to work as a waitress to make ends meet. Due to cultural norms, her father opposed her accepting an opportunity to go to Yale University. She did, however, attend – and graduate from – Yale.  She spent a semester at the School for International Training in Brazil, won a fellowship with Humanity in Action, and attended summer public policy institutes at Spelman College and the University of Maryland. After Yale, she returned to Los Angeles to teach at both the inner-city middle school and the private high school she had previously attended.  Marisol also completed an MA in Urban Education at Loyola Marymount University. The UCLA Law Fellows Program helped prepare her for a career in law and, in the fall of 2011, she began work towards a JD degree at the University of California’s Berkeley Law School.

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Henry W. Leung

Award to support ongoing work towards an MFA in fiction writing at the University of Michigan–Ann Arbor

HENRY W. LEUNG was born in a village in Guangdong, China as an illegal second child under China’s One-Child Policy. Shortly thereafter, his parents received permission to emigrate to the US. Henry’s father suddenly died, however, leaving his mother alone to raise two small children, first in Honolulu, then in California. Henry, at age 16, was accepted to a writing program in New York hosted by the National Book Foundation. He then earned a BA degree in English Literature and Creative Writing from Stanford University, where he also led the university’s first Asian American writers’ workshop. His poetry, short fiction and essays have appeared in several respected literary publications, and he has served as a consulting editor to the Stanford Journal of Asian American Studies; as a columnist for the Lantern Review; and as an editor for the Best American Nonrequired Reading. Now an MFA student at the University of Michigan, he is completing a book-length manuscript of poetry while at work on his first novel, which “engages with the martial arts as an American anachronism of spiritualism and tradition.”

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Rose Li

Award to support MD/Ph.D. study at the University of Pennsylvania

 

YUN “ROSE” LI grew up in Beijing during China’s post-Cultural Revolution socioeconomic struggles. When she was six, her parents came to the U. S. in search of graduate education and employment opportunities. Rose lived with her grandparents until her parents could afford to have her join them two years later. At age 16 she won a full-tuition scholarship to Bard College at Simon’s Rock.   She interned with the American Cancer Society and at a walk-in clinic. As a junior, Rose transferred to Duke University, where she studied molecular mechanisms regulating olfaction in the lab of Hiroaki Matsunami. She is first author of a featured cover article in Science Signaling and of an associated patent. She also interned at the Duke Cord Blood Bank/Bone Marrow Transplant Center. At the University of Pennsylvania’s MD/PhD Program, she identified genetic risk factors for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in the lab of Aaron Gitler. Her work led to publications in Neurology and Human Molecular Genetics.She also worked at the Center for Applied Genomics at Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania. Her studies of next generation genome sequencing resulted in coauthored publications in the American Journal of Human Genetics and theLancet. For her Ph.D., she will join the lab of Patrick Seale to study the developmental biology of brown adipose stem cells.

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Johnny Lin

Award to support work toward an MBA at Stanford Business School

JOHNNY LIN was raised in southern Taiwan until he was 13, when his family moved to Los Angeles.  His abilities in a range of art forms led to his first job working as Disney’s youngest caricaturist. He chose to pursue his undergraduate studies at Brown University, in part to continue training in illustration and photography at the Rhode Island School of Design.  While in college, Johnny founded Strait Talk, a program that brings together young leaders from mainland China, Taiwan, and the United States for in-depth dialogue. Strait Talk now runs programs across Asia and the US, aimed at creating a generation of leaders with the knowledge, empathy, and trust necessary to build sustained peace between Taiwan and China. After graduating from Brown -- where he triple-majored in Education, Economics, and International Relations -- Johnny worked for The Bridgespan Group as a strategy consultant for nonprofits and foundations in the education sector.  A Fulbright Scholar to India, he studied the relationship between the two emerging global giants: China and India.  Johnny speaks each of the world’s four most widely spoken languages: Mandarin, Spanish, English and Hindi-Urdu. Committed to building more innovative approaches to education as a social entrepreneur, he is working toward a Joint Degree of MBA and MA in Education at Stanford, starting this fall for two years.

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Cesar Lopez Angel

Award to support continuing work at Stanford Medical School toward an MD and a Ph.D. in Immunology

 

CESAR LOPEZ ANGEL was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, Cesar came with his family to San Jose, California when he was four.   His parents worked multiple labor-intensive jobs for minimum wages in the hopes that their children would take advantage of educational opportunities.  Cesar gravitated towards the sciences, but as a volunteer at a food bank that served the HIV-positive, low-income community, he soon became interested in medicine as a career.   He won admission to Harvard University and pursued translational research on HIV vaccination in the labs of Norman Letvin and Lindsey Baden.   He also directed Peer Contraceptive Counselors and led STI prevention workshops for teenagers with Harvard Peer Health Exchange, where he volunteered for over 600 hours.   Cesar returned to the Bay Area to attend Stanford Medical School. He is studying the influence of age on T-cell function in the Mark Davis lab, work that is leading to a Ph.D. in Immunology.  In addition to his academic work, he has administered seasonal flu vaccinations to migrant farm workers, staffed community health screening events, and overseen the opt-out HIV testing program at Stanford’s free clinic for low-income, uninsured adults.  He is also president of the Latino Medical Student Association and a mentor to freshmen interested in medicine and biomedical research.

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Eva Luo

Award to support study for an MBA at Havard Business School

EVA LUO was born in Florida to parents who had only the year before reached this country in the aftermath of the Chinese Cultural Revolution.  Their struggles against adversity and successful transition in the United States inspired Eva’s commitment to medicine and improving health care systems. She graduated in 2008 with honors in biochemical sciences from Harvard, where she worked for three years on Alzheimer-related research in the lab of Cynthia Lemere and co-captained Harvard’s Asian American Dance Troupe. Before beginning work on her MD at the University of Michigan, she worked for a year as Special Assistant to Dr. Donald Berwick, the CEO of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI). Her work focused on national health reform where she identified innovative health systems that provide high quality care at low costs and developing a new student initiative—The IHI Open School for Health Professions. During the summer following her matriculation in medical school, Eva served a Global Impact Internship in rural Ghana as a Fellow of the William Davidson Institute. Over a period of 2 ½ months, she assessed the quality and effectiveness of a program that trained obstetricians for rural service in Ghana. In order to develop her skills to lead health care systems improvement, Eva will pursue an MBA to complement her MD.

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Ahmed Moor

Award to support ongoing study toward an MPP at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government

AHMED MOOR was born in a Gaza Strip refugee camp. Ten years later – after having moved to Sudan, back to Palestine, and on to Sierra Leone, and Haiti – his family came to the U.S.  He subsequently became an American citizen and moved to Philadelphia. The family returned to the West Bank, however, before settling in the U.S. in 2000. Ahmed earned a BA in political science and psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, and then moved to Wall Street, initially at Standard & Poor’s, and subsequently at Swiss Re Capital Markets. After three years, he returned to the Middle East to begin a career as a freelance journalist, based initially in Beirut. He subsequently moved to Cairo and covered the revolution based in Tahrir Square. His writings have been published in the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Review, Al Jazeera English, The Guardian, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Huffington Post, among other outlets. Sensing that his effectiveness as a writer and human rights advocate would benefit from further professional training, he gained admission to the MPP program at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, where he is a first-year student. This semester he organized and managed a major international conference that explored what a one-state solution for Israel/ Palestine might look like. 

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Darya Nachinkina

Award to support work toward an MBA at MIT’s Sloan School of Management

 

DARYA NACHINKINA was born in Moscow, Darya was only nine years old when the Soviet Union collapsed. In the dark days and economic turmoil that followed, her school’s administrative principal brazenly decided to sell the gold medal she had won for outstanding academics to the family of a C student. Darya’s appeal to the Department of Education persuaded it to intervene and restore the medal to her. She immigrated to the US at age 19, won admission to Harvard University, and graduated summa cum laude with a major in government. Two years later she earned her MPA at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. Having started her career at McKinsey & Company, Darya was selected for the Firm’s year-long Social Sector Fellowship, which allowed her to work exclusively with social-sector clients. Eager to continue working in the sector, Darya then joined Bridgespan, a nonprofit consulting group. While at Bridgespan, Darya has worked with a range of nonprofit and philanthropic organizations, including leading a cohort of CEOs through a strategic business planning process. Darya is the founder and executive director of the nonprofit Arts for Crafts, which partners with artists to sell their work. The proceeds are used to purchase craft supplies for Russian orphans. Darya will pursue an MBA at MIT’s Sloan School of Management.

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Stephen Narain

Award to support work an MFA at Iowa Writers’ Workshop

STEPHEN NARAIN was born in the Bahamas four years after his parents, both schoolteachers from Guyana, fled a burgeoning political crisis in their home country. When Stephen was 16, he and his family received U.S. green cards, enabling them to join an extended family already living in Florida. Just a year later, after graduating from high school, he was hired by the Florida American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) as chief fact-finder for an investigation into violations of free speech by the Miami Police Department. Accepted to Harvard University, he majored in English, with an emphasis on creative writing. A novella, which he wrote for his honors thesis, won the Edward Eager Memorial Fund Prize for “best creative writing” and summa cum laude recognition from the English department. After graduation he worked once again for the ACLU, assisting attorneys on First Amendment cases. He is now writing his first novel, a coming-of-age story set against a backdrop of cultural change in the Caribbean and the U.S., while he continues to refine his creative writing in the MFA program at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. From June 2011, he began contributing critical pieces on Caribbean and diaspora literature to the New York-based Small Axe Project.  This January, he began contributing pieces to the Trinidad-based Caribbean Review of Books.

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Elinathan Ohiomoba

Award to support ongoing work toward a JD degree at Harvard Law School

ELINATHAN OHIOMOBA was born in Houston to Nigerian immigrants. Beginning her writing career as a child, Elinathan was soon producing a novel and a series of short stories that describe the Biafran Civil War from the perspective of the ordinary lives lived and lost in the war.   She was admitted to Harvard, where she won numerous prizes for her short stories and was twice awarded the Harvard Monthly Prize for creative promise.  Her senior thesis, Through a Glass Darkly, received the Hoopes Prize for an outstanding thesis and was judged to be “a work of magisterial brilliance, force, originality, truthfulness and beauty.”  After graduating from Harvard in 2006, she was admitted directly to the University of Iowa Writer’s Workshop, where she earned an MFA in 2008 and received the Stanley International Fellowship and a Leggett-Schupes postgraduate fellowship. Elinathan is currently a Ph.D. candidate in English at Cornell and a second year student at Harvard Law School, where she has continued to develop her interests in human rights, writing, and the law.  She is a submissions editor on the Harvard International Law Journal and a member of Harvard’s Jessup Moot Court Team.  As a Chayes Fellow, she spent the summer in Kenya working on several human rights cases, including a death penalty appeal.

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Victor Roy

Award to support ongoing study toward an MD at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine

 

VICTOR ROY was born in New Jersey to parents who emigrated from India, Victor’s commitment to medicine was inspired by his physician-grandfather, who he shadowed in his rural clinic in Bengal. Victor entered Northwestern University’s Honors Program in Medical Education, a seven-year combined BA/MD program. Contacts with indigenous Mayans in Guatemala, street children in the slums of a major Bengali city, and villagers in rural Ghana shaped his insights on the health of vulnerable populations. Those experiences led him to co-found GlobeMed, an organization that partners student-led chapters with community-based organizations to improve the health of people living in poverty. Deferring medical school, Victor became the full-time executive director of GlobeMed, bringing students and local leaders together to expand rural health centers in Rwanda and Ghana, support the training of community health workers in Nicaragua, and create chronic-disease-prevention programs for Detroit’s uninsured. Today GlobeMed engages more than 1,500 students at 46 universities that have completed over 150 projects worldwide. A Gates Cambridge Scholarship funded his M.Phil. research on the way in which various classical social theories can be applied to an analysis of global health policy. In the fall of 2010 he resumed his medical training at Northwestern.

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Dekow Sagar

Award to support study toward an MPA at Drake University

DEKOW SAGAR was born in war-torn Somalia, Dekow was only eight when militiamen from a rival tribe attacked his village and tortured and bound his father while he looked on. When the militiaman guarding them went to the latrine, Dekow cut the ropes binding his father and the two of them were able to escape.  Then, along with other survivors of the attack, they walked for a month to reach a refugee camp on the Kenyan border. Dekow resolved to excel in academics in order to survive.  At age 16, still living in the camp, he was hired as a community health worker by Doctors Without Borders. Studying exclusively by correspondence school courses, he earned a two-year diploma at Cambridge College and won a job as a supervisor in the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and GIZ –Deusche Gesellschaft Fur Internationale Zesammenarbeit partnership operations. In 2007, after 16 years as a refugee, he was resettled in Des Moines, Iowa. There he earned a GED at Des Moines Area Community College and a BA from Grandview University. He majored in human services and political science. He has served as a delegate to the National Conference on Refugees and Immigrants in Washington, DC, and is a passionate advocate for women’s rights among refugees. Dekow has held several supervisory positions in health, nutrition, community development, education, social work, refugees and immigration with international organizations and state governments. He will be working on MPA and MBA degrees at Drake University in September, 2012.

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Indra Sen

Award to support work toward an MPP at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government

INDRA SEN was born in Norwalk, Connecticut, to an Indian father and Chinese mother. His immigrant parents and family history motivated him to study Culture and Politics at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. He won a Truman Scholarship, was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and was a recipient of the Thomas P. McTighe Prize, the university’s highest honor. Along with a Palestinian classmate and an Iranian Jewish friend, Indra co-founded Inspire Dreams, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that has been recognized by President Bill Clinton for its work in providing education programs to more than 700 Palestinian refugee youth in the West Bank. As Executive Director, Indra has lived and worked in several refugee camps in the Palestinian territories. In 2008, as a field organizer in Greensboro, NC, for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, Indra organized a voter-registration drive spanning four public-housing communities that eventually yielded a 2000-vote net margin for Obama. A summer spent supervising home rebuilding efforts in New Orleans cemented his passion for public service. A rapper and a poet, Indra has performed his musical work at more than 30 benefit concerts. He is currently a first year MPP candidate at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, where he is a Harvard Public Service Fellow.

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Michael Slama

Award to support ongoing study toward an MD at Harvard Medical School

MICHAEL SLAMA was born in Dijon, France, the son of Sephardic Jews from Tunisia and Morocco who fled political turmoil in their home countries to settle in France in the 1960s. As a French teenager, Michael became particularly sensitive to racism and social injustice toward minorities. As a child, he studied the violin and later played as the lead violinist of an Eastern European music band, performing throughout France and Monaco. At the age of 14, he was awarded first prize in music theory and later first prize in composition, from a French conservatory.  He studied engineering at l’Ecole Supérieure d’Electricité in Metz, France, and went on to earn a master’s degree in electrical and computer engineering from Georgia Tech in 2005. He immigrated to the U.S. the following year and was naturalized in 2011. Combining his interests in acoustics, music, electrical engineering, neuroscience and surgery, Michael earned a PhD in 2011 from the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology in the Speech and Hearing Bioscience and Technology Program. There his innovative laboratory experiments on middle ear function and hearing in noisy environments have led to three published papers in leading research journals (including two as first author), and to two additional papers in preparation. He began work toward an MD at Harvard Medical School this past fall, with the goal of bridging the divide between research and clinical practice.

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Ioana Tchoukleva

Award to support continuing study toward a JD at the University of California-Berkeley School of Law

IOANA TCHOUKLEVA was born into a low-income family in Sofia, Bulgaria. When she was four, her mother left her and moved to the U.S. Ioana grew up with her father and grandmother who were traumatized and deeply resentful of her mother to the point that they did not let her have much contact with Ioana and her sister. At a young age, Ioana learned to empathize and forgive her parents for their shortcomings. When Ioana was 15, her mother succeeded in winning green cards for her children. They moved to a Washington, D.C. suburb, where Ioana learned English and finished high school. Admitted to the University of Chicago, she majored in international studies and minored in human rights. In her junior year she won a competitive grant for an internship in Rwanda, where she taught English to widows and orphans who had survived the genocide. She soon realized, however, that language alone would not help them find jobs or afford higher education. So she helped them organize themselves into a self-sustaining business: a bakery catering to embassies, offices and eventually local schools. Returning to Chicago, she graduated with the department’s award for the best undergraduate thesis. Now going into her second year of law school at Berkeley, Ioana balances social justice work at home and human rights work abroad. Deeply troubled by the rise of mass incarceration, she volunteers at San Quentin State Prison and advocates for a restorative justice framework to address crime in communities. Also, as the co-chair of the Boalt Hall Committee for Human Rights, she is currently working on a project to improve Liberian sexual violence laws.  

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Esther Tetruashvily

Award to support work toward an MA in Russian, Eastern European, and Central Asian Studies at Harvard University

ESTHER TETRUASHVILY was born in Baku, Azerbaijan in 1989, as the Soviet Union was collapsing and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict was erupting.  As Azerbaijani Jews, her family was forced to flee, first to Moscow, then to Austria, Italy and, as refugees, to the United States.  Settling in New Jersey, Esther excelled in school but her family was unable to afford the private institutions to which she was admitted, so she decided to attend The College of New Jersey (TCNJ), a competitive state school. Studying in Spain as a sophomore, she began to uncover her own family’s ethnic and religious heritages in Central Asia and the Caucasus.  Returning to TCNJ, she founded the Central Eurasian and Middle Eastern Studies Society, focused her academic work on Central Eurasian Studies and attended lectures on Azerbaijan at Princeton. Following her junior year, she interned in Moscow with the International Organization for Migration and the Open Society Foundations’ NGO Fund Tajikistan.  She served as translator and researched patterns of slave labor and labor trafficking between Russia and countries of Central Asia. Twenty-two years after leaving Baku as an infant, Esther returned as a Fulbright Scholar. She will begin work on a Master’s Degree at Harvard University in the Department of Russian, Eastern European, and Central Asian Studies in the fall of 2012.

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Rina Thomas

Award to support work toward a JD at Harvard Law School

RINA THOMAS was born in New Orleans to parents from India. She attended a Catholic high school that blended tradition, liberal thinking and a focus on community engagement; values that remain important to her. Valedictorian of her high school class, she began her undergraduate work at the University of Pennsylvania. After Hurricane Katrina devastated her home city following her freshman year she immediately began fundraising for hurricane victims through the Wharton School’s student council.  She then created a program that connected undergraduate business students to the hurricane recovery efforts. After graduating with a joint BA/BS in international studies and business, she returned to Louisiana to work with the state’s Department of Economic Development on projects designed to reverse the state’s brain drain and to combat its high rates of poverty. She deferred her admission to Harvard Law School in order to accept a position as Governor Jindal’s advisor on economic development, taxes and budget policy. Rina’s current projects include passing economic development and public pension reforms through the state legislature. 

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Alice Zhang

Award to support continuing work towards an MD and a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences at the UCLA/Caltech Medical Scientist Training Program

ALICE ZHANG was born in Maryland.  Her father had been an activist in the 1978 Democracy Wall Movement in China and was granted political asylum in the U.S. several years later.  As a 12-year-old, she went to China for the first time, but was put under house arrest and then, with her parents, expelled from the country. As a high school senior, she returned to China to work in Henan Province with AIDS orphans whose parents had been victims of a government-sanctioned blood-selling scheme. As a Princeton undergraduate, Alice started a chapter of Physicians for Human Rights and served as an officer in the Student Global AIDS Campaign. Meanwhile, she was establishing herself as a serious scientist, interning in two National Cancer Institute labs and working in the Saeed Tavazoie lab at Princeton on the regulatory networks of genomic signatures in cancer-drug resistance. Her research resulted in two peer-reviewed journal articles and one in preparation. In 2010, Alice entered the UCLA-Caltech Medical Scientist Training Program. She hopes to pursue research in systems biology as it applies to personalized medicine. On the human rights front, she is starting the university’s first clinic that provides medical evaluation for asylum seekers.

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