P.D. Soros Fellowship for New Americans


Leslie Ponce-Diaz, 2024

MArch II, Harvard University

Leslie Ponce-Diaz is the child of immigrants from Mexico

Fellowship awarded to support work towards an MArch II in Architecture at Harvard University

The child of immigrants from Mexico, Leslie Ponce-Diaz was born in Kansas City, in an upbringing surrounded by construction and labor. For as long as she can remember, seeing her father and other family members prepare the 24 ft ladder to start the day in roofing construction became the norm. Her exposure to the realities of a construction-site at an early age sparked her curiosities in the built environment.

Her cultural background and passions for design and communities led her to pursue a bachelor’s degree in architecture with double minors in nature sustainability and Latin American cultural studies at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). Stemming from her personal experiences, Leslie founded her community-organization, First-Gen Chisme, to help support first-generation and low-income students across the US. By hosting online mentorship workshops and gifting school-supplies in an ice-cream cart in Kansas City, Leslie utilized her creativity to embark on adventures dedicated to empowering students in her community.

In her final year, Leslie was awarded the RISD First-Generation Legacy Building Award for her commitments to supporting first-generation and Latinx students on and off campus. In addition, her award-winning thesis titled, “Rasquachismo,” culturally illustrated the many ways her public-service educational pursuits would co-exist within her architectural professional practice.

Currently, Leslie attends Harvard University Graduate School of Design and is pursuing a Master’s in Architecture II degree as a Dean’s merit scholar. You can find Leslie mentoring first-generation students across the world and embarking on her architectural aspirations of supporting marginalized communities as an aspiring Latina architect.

  • BArch Architecture and Fine Arts, Nature Culture Sustainability Studies, Latin American Cultural Studies | Rhode Island School of Design 2023
  • MArch II Architecture | Harvard University
  • Kansas City Architectural Foundation Scholarship
  • RISD First-Generation Legacy Building Award
  • RISD Architecture Undergraduate Thesis Prize
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