P.D. Soros Fellowship for New Americans


Ruva Chigwedere, 2024

MFA, University of California, San Diego

Ruva Chigwedere is an immigrant from Zimbabwe

Fellowship awarded to support work towards an MFA in Acting at University of California, San Diego

Ruva Chigwedere was born in Harare, Zimbabwe, and is a Mwenewazvo, of the Tsoko-Mukanya totem in the Shona culture. While her parents moved to the United States to pursue higher education, Ruva lived on her grandparents’ farm in Marondera, Zimbabwe. She joined her parents in Massachusetts at the age of four.

Ruva was mostly raised in a small town in Northern New Jersey, whose majority Italian-American population helped her to understand the United States as a country that celebrates immigrants. In this environment, Ruva learned to empathize with different perspectives and gained a curiosity for cultures outside of her own.

At Harvard College, Ruva dove headfirst into connecting with her culture by taking Shona language courses, joining every Black student group that aligned with her identity, and centering her coursework on the Black diaspora. Ruva also performed with groups like the Kuumba Singers of Harvard College and Harvard College Opera, trained at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts, and worked at the acclaimed American Repertory Theater. Ruva was elected president of Black Community and Student Theater at Harvard, where she worked to implement structures to ensure institutional memory and facilitate student art making. Ruva was naturalized as an American citizen in 2019, after having lived in the United States for 15 years.

Frustrated by the lack of complex acting material for Black actresses, Ruva decided to write a play for her undergraduate thesis. Through creative work on For Daughters of Ezili; or, How to Be a Black Girl and Find Love and Survive 101 and critical engagement with other texts, Ruva came to the conclusion that talking about love is important because systems of oppression show themselves most glaringly in interpersonal relationships. Therefore, how we love ourselves and one another can greatly restore the damage done by imperfect systems.

Ruva graduated from Harvard College with a joint degree in theater, dance and media and history and literature. This degree was especially meaningful to Ruva, because of her grandfather, the late Aeneas Soko Chigwedere, who had not been able to accept his offer to an Ivy League university in 1971 due to the political situation in Zimbabwe.

Ruva is currently pursuing her Master of Fine Arts in acting at the University of California, San Diego. In the future, Ruva would be thrilled not only to do much needed representational work in theater, television, and film, but also to create stories that maintain her people’s cultural dignity and subjectivity.

  • BA Theater, Dance and Media, History and Literature | Harvard University 2021
  • MFA Acting | University of California, San Diego
  • Jonathan Levy Award for the Most Promising Undergraduate Actor
  • Philippe Wamba Prize for Best Senior Thesis in African Studies
  • Kwame Anthony Appiah Prize for Most Outstanding Thesis Relating to the Harvard University African Diaspora
  • Phyllis Anderson Prize for Playwriting
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