P.D. Soros Fellowship for New Americans


Matthew Nguyen, 2017

JD, Yale University

Matthew is the child of refugees from Vietnam

Fellowship awarded to support work towards a JD in Law and Education at Yale University

Matt’s parents fled Vietnam as child refugees at the height of the Vietnam War. Arriving in America with minimal English and pennies to their name, they lived in resettlement camps before making California their home. Through their own perseverance and the support of generous social programs that gave them the opportunity to succeed, Matt’s parents built a better life for themselves and their families. Born and raised in California, and grateful for his parents’ sacrifices, Matt has dedicated his career to empowering everyday Californians through teaching, policy advocacy, and constitutional rights litigation.

Matt has championed social and economic opportunity for all Californians. As a former aide to Governor Jerry Brown, Matt worked tirelessly to raise the minimum wage, invest in California’s K-12 and community college systems, improve access to affordable housing and healthcare, and balance the state budget. Following the 2016 election, Matt advanced bipartisan legislation to protect California’s Dreamers as part of Senator Kamala Harris’s transition; and after the 2018 election, he managed a policy team to advise Governor Gavin Newsom’s transition. Matt currently clerks for Associate Justice Goodwin Liu on the Supreme Court of California.

Matt has also been a leading advocate for education equity. Matt directed an education rights clinic representing children and families in landmark constitutional cases challenging school segregation and protecting students’ right to an education. He supported the ACLU of Southern California in a legal challenge to the school-to-prison pipeline and in a groundbreaking $150 million settlement for underserved Los Angeles schools. In June 2018, Matt received 29,771 votes (over 25% of votes cast) in a three-way race for the Orange County Board of Education, receiving bipartisan endorsements from dozens of elected officials and community leaders, and from the OC Schools Educators Association. For his work on education, Matt was recognized as a 2018 changemaker by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara and as an emerging global leader by U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Bob McDonald.

Matt is a proud alumnus of Orange County public schools. He graduated salutatorian from the University of California, Berkeley, and earned his law degree from Yale Law School, the only Vietnamese American student in his graduating class. Matt has taught education law and policy courses at both UC Berkeley and Yale. At Yale, he served as a Coker Fellow, President of the Project for Law & Education at Yale, Notes & Comments Editor of the Yale Law Journal, and Managing Editor of the Yale Law & Policy Review. Matt was also a founding member of the Connecticut Parentage Act Coalition, which works to protect the rights of LGBT parents and their children, and of the Immigration Index (Immdex), which maintains a policy database for reversing Trump’s immigration actions. In his free time, he raises his Shiba Inu, Natsu, and volunteers for OC Boy Scout Troop 319, where he was an Eagle Scout.

  • Matthew Nguyen GIF
  • JD Law, Education | Yale University 2019
  • BA | University of California, Berkeley 2015
  • Eagle Scout | Boy Scouts of America, Troop 319
  • Elected as a Junior | Phi Beta Kappa
  • McDonald Leadership Fellow | US Military Academy at West Point
  • Distinguished Service Recognition | US Mission to the European Union
  • Salutatorian (University Medal Finalist) | UC Berkeley
  • California Executive Fellow | Office of Governor Jerry Brown
  • Diversity and Inclusion Scholar | Arnold & Porter LLP
  • CAFE 100 Changemaker | U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara
  • Forbes 30 Under 30 honoree
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