P.D. Soros Fellowship for New Americans

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Laila Ujayli, 2022

JD, Harvard University

Laila Ujayli is the child of immigrants from Syria

Fellowship awarded to support work towards a JD at Harvard University

Born in Beckley, West Virginia, and raised in Columbus, Ohio, Laila Ujayli is the daughter of Syrian immigrants. She inherited a love of storytelling from her grandfather, a well-regarded author from Raqqa, Syria. Years later, Raqqa’s occupation by ISIS and subsequent destruction has motivated her to fiercely advocate for the rights of victims of conflict and elevate their stories.  

Laila is passionate about the intersection of narrative and human rights. She graduated summa cum laude from The Ohio State University with a double major in international relations and English, and a double minor in screenwriting and business. As a Rhodes Scholar, she spent two years at the University of Oxford pursuing consecutive master’s degrees in film aesthetics and public policy, attaining distinction in both degrees.

Laila previously worked in Washington, DC as a Herbert Scoville Jr. Peace Fellow at the advocacy organization Win Without War, where she advocated for a vision of foreign policy and national security that prioritizes development, diplomacy, and respect for human rights. She also worked as an associate editor at Inkstick Media, elevating new voices and perspectives in the national security space. Laila is also particularly interested in the use of storytelling to inspire change and her screenplays about Raqqa have won several accolades. 

Laila is now pursuing a JD at Harvard Law School, where she is cultivating a legal toolkit to advocate for human rights, demand accountability for atrocities, and protect fundamental freedoms. She continues to write screenplays with her twin sister, telling stories that not only entertain, but complicate, humanize, and diversify representations of Arabs and Muslims. Laila hopes to be a screenwriter and human rights lawyer, with a future dedicated to elevating the voices of marginalized populations, cultivating empathy, and utilizing storytelling to uplift laws that safeguard the wellbeing of people within the United States and abroad.

Education
  • MPP | Oxford University 2021
  • MS Film Aesthetics | Oxford University 2020
  • BS English and International Relations | Ohio State University 2018
  • JD | Harvard University
Awards
  • Rhodes Scholar
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