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P.D. Soros Fellowship for New Americans

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Meet the Class of 2021

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The 2021 Class of Paul & Daisy Soros Fellows is made up of 30 outstanding immigrants and children of immigrants from all over the country and world who are pursuing graduate school here in the United States. Selected from 2,445 applicants, each of the recipients was chosen for their potential to make significant contributions to the United States and will receive up to $90,000 in funding over two years. Interested in applying? Learn more here.

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AZIZA ALMANAKLY
PhD in electrical engineering & computer science at MIT
Born and raised in Northern New Jersey, Aziza Almanakly is the daughter of Syrian immigrants, who came to the United States in the early 1990s in pursuit of academic opportunities.
 
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ALALEH AZHIR
MD at Harvard & MIT
Alaleh Azhir grew up in Iran where she pursued her passion for mathematics. Alaleh immigrated with her mother to the United States at the age of 14. Determined to overcome strict gender roles she had witnessed towards women, Alaleh was determined to improve healthcare for them. 
 
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HAJJAR BABAN
MFA in poetry at the University of Virginia
Hajjar Baban is an Afghan Kurdish poet who was born in Pakistan and immigrated to the United States with her parents when she was two. Hajjar’s mother had sought refuge in Pakistan from the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, where she was born, and Hajjar’s father had escaped persecution in Pakistan as a Kurd in Iran. Having arrived in the United States with no real community, Hajjar and her siblings grew up in Dearborn, Michigan.
 
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SITA CHANDRASEKARAN

PhD bioengineering at UC Berkeley
Raised in the Bay Area, Sita Chandrasekaran is the daughter of Indian immigrants. As a child, Sita’s parents encouraged her connection to her roots, and she grew up learning classical South Indian music and dance, performing at local community centers, such as the Livermore Temple, with her sister. 
 
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POOJA CHANDRASHEKAR
MD/MBA at Harvard
Born in Fairfax, Virginia, Pooja Chandrashekar is the daughter of immigrants from Bangalore, India who came to the United States to pursue their graduate educations. Pooja’s parents are both engineers and taught her to think critically and build solutions to problems around her, while her great-grandfather’s role as a leader in the Indian independence movement inspired her commitment to equity and public service.
 
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BRIAN Y. CHANG
MD at Harvard & MIT
Born in Johnson City, New York, Brian Y. Chang is the son of immigrants from the Shanghai municipality and Shandong Province in China. Brian’s father completed his graduate studies in engineering and his mother continued her medical training when they came to the United States. 
 
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FIONA CHEN
PhD in economics at Harvard
The daughter of immigrants from China, Fiona Chen was born in Cedar Park, Texas. Her parents had moved to the United States several years prior with the goal of pursuing graduate school. Growing up in a predominantly white neighborhood and not learning English until she was a young child, Fiona’s status as a New American greatly shaped her interactions with all of her neighbors and peers.
 
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RYAN DZ-WEI CHOW
MD/PhD in genetics at Yale
Ryan Dz-Wei Chow was born in San Jose, California to artist Chun-Min Su and software engineer Jyh-Herng Chow, Taiwanese immigrants who came to the United States in pursuit of educational opportunities. Immersed in the heart of the Silicon Valley, Ryan grew up in an environment that celebrated innovation and exploration of the unknown, a mindset that has guided him throughout his career.

 

Click to read Ryan's full biography.

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JAMES DIAO
MD at Harvard and MIT
James Diao grew up amid Chinese restaurants, street signs, and supermarkets in the largest Chinatown of Houston, Texas. He was first raised by his grandparents, who delighted in teaching him parodies of famous poems to recite. Later, when his grandparents returned to Jiangxian, James continued to spend almost every summer with them and his extended family.
 
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HOLLY EKAS
PhD in chemical & biological engineering at Northwestern University
Holly Ekas was adopted from rural China when she was one year old. Both of Holly’s adopted parents were first-generation college graduates who instilled in her the values of perseverance, resourcefulness, and community outreach.
 
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HAROLD EKEH
JD at Columbia
Born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria, Harold Ekeh moved to the United States with his parents and three brothers when he was eight. The following few years taught him the importance of optimism, a mindset that did not come easily.
 
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KATHERINE FANG
JD/PhD in management at Yale
Katherine Fang was born in Houston, Texas, where she was raised by parents and grandparents from China. Because of her family’s background, Katherine has long been dedicated to understanding issues of citizenship and political participation.
 
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STEPHANY FLORES RAMOS
PhD in biomedical sciences at UC San Diego
Stephany Flores Ramos was born in Peru to parents that fell in love despite the prejudice of her father’s family towards her mother’s family of campesinos, farmers of indigenous Quechuan descent. The familial struggles, in addition to the economic stressors they imposed, made it impossible for Stephany and her parents to live in peace, motivating her parents to move the family to the United States.
 
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RAIE GESSESSE
MPP at Harvard
Born and raised in Minnesota, Raie Gessesse vividly remembers nights where her parents would hand her off as her father came home from work as a taxi driver and her mother went to work the overnight shift as a postal worker. They had emigrated from Ethiopia by way of the Diversity Visa just four months before Raie was born. 
 
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SERGIO INFANTE
PhD in global and transnational history at Yale
Sergio Infante was born in Bogotá, Colombia and moved with his parents to Houston, Texas at the age of five. 
 
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ELLIOT SHUWEI JI
PhD in politics at Princeton
Born in Beijing, China, Elliot Shuwei Ji is the son of a family of immigrants from China’s capital city. Elliot’s aunt, who came to the United States in the late 1980s, sponsored immigration visas for Elliot and his parents who later settled in New Jersey in 2012. Elliot, then 13, taught himself English and experienced first-hand what it takes to become a New American.
 
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CHARLIE CHANGWON LEE
MD at Harvard & MIT
Born in Seoul, South Korea, Charlie ChangWon Lee was ten when his parents and younger brother immigrated to the United States in search of a new beginning. Growing up in a Korean American community in Palisades Park, New Jersey, Charlie vividly remembers the acts of kindness he and his family received since the day of his immigration.
 
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BIYA HAILE
PhD in in electrical & computing engineering at Georgia Tech
Biya Haile was born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He was 10 when his mother emigrated to Kenya and then the United States to escape poverty and a corrupt government that was constantly oppressing people like her based on her Oromo ethnic identity. Seven years later, Biya and his two sisters immigrated as refugees and joined their mother in Norcross, Georgia.
 
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JONATHAN HERRERA SOTO
MFA in printmaking & painting at Yale
Jonathan Herrera Soto was born in Chicago, Illinois to Adela and Feliciano—his undocumented parents who are originally from Iguala, Mexico and immigrated to the United States in the early 1990s. 
 
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NAOMI TWEYO NKINSI

MD/MPH at the University of Washington
Naomi Tweyo Nkinsi was born in Yaoundé, Cameroon to parents who originated from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Naomi moved to the United States with her family when she was in elementary school.
 
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NIKOLAS OKTABA
PhD in comparative literature and trauma studies at Yale
Nikolas Oktaba was born in New York City to a single mother who came to the United States seeking opportunity and safety from reprisal after helping to overthrow the Communist regime of her native Poland. Raised in post-industrial Greenpoint, Brooklyn, Nikolas’ greatest solace was its small public library. 
 
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ARCHANA PODURY
MD at Harvard & MIT
Archana Podury was born in Mountain View, California, to parents who emigrated from India in search of educational opportunities for their children. Shortly after, her family returned to India for five years so Archana could share the daily lives of her grandparents and deeply explore her heritage.
 
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SYED MAHMUD RAZA RIZVI
JD at Harvard
Syed Mahmud Raza Rizvi was born in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, to Pakistani immigrants, who were escaping sectarian persecution and seeking greater educational opportunities for their children. As a toddler, Syed was diagnosed with Stargardts, which would render him blind. 
 
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ASHWIN SAH

PhD in mathematics at MIT
Ashwin Sah is the son of Indian immigrants who came to the United States in pursuit of higher education. Born and raised in Portland, Oregon, some of Ashwin’s earliest and fondest memories are of his mother teaching him arithmetic.
 
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HASSAAN SHAHAWY
JD at Harvard
Born in Los Angeles, Hassaan Shahawy is the son of Egyptian immigrants who came to the United States in the 1980s. His grandparents suffered the perils of war, political prison, and exile to fight for justice in Egypt and elsewhere, and his mother’s name in Arabic means “to refuse,” meant to signify his family’s refusal to tolerate injustice.
 
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ENRIQUE TOLOZA
MD/PhD in physics at Harvard & MIT
Enrique Toloza was born in Los Angeles, California, the child of two immigrants: one from Colombia who had come to the United States to study for her PhD and the other from the Philippines who grew up in California and went on to medical school.
 
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MICHAEL N. TRINH

MD/PhD in molecular genetics at UT Southwestern Medical Center
Michael N. Trinh was born in Dallas, Texas to parents who fled Saigon with their families in the aftermath of the Vietnam War.
 
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VK VU
MBA/MPP in Business & Policy at Harvard
VK Vu was born in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Partially motivated to escape the living conditions of a developing country, her family moved to the United States when she was six years old.
 
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NAZANIN YEGANEH KAZEMI

MD/PhD at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine
Nazanin Yeganeh Kazemi was born in Iran and raised in the small town of Borujerd on the foothills of the Zagros mountains where her ancestors had lived for generations. Desperate to give Nazanin a better future limited only by her own imagination, Nazanin’s parents moved their family to Kansas after winning the United States Green Card Lottery.