P.D. Soros Fellowship for New Americans


Syed Mahmud Raza Rizvi, 2021

JD, Harvard University

Syed Mahmud Raza Rizvi is the child of immigrants from Pakistan

Fellowship awarded to support work towards a JD in Law at Harvard University

Syed Rizvi was born to Pakistani American immigrants, who were fleeing sectarian persecution and seeking greater educational opportunities for their children. As a toddler, Syed was diagnosed with Stargardts disease, which would render him blind. As Syed's life progressed, he lacked the proper resources and guidance to overcome his disability, and he struggled immensely.

At 19, Syed was contacted by the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), a revolutionary group of blind people, transforming the blind narrative. After graduating from their intensive training program in Louisiana, where he was equipped with the best blindness skills and an alternative philosophy on blindness, Syed enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin. He combined his parents' passions for education and humanitarian work to study the systems in place that limit individuals, such as himself, and began working to reform those systems.

During college, Syed served as the vice president of the National Association of Blind Students (NABS), the largest organization promoting independence and confidence for blind students. Traveling the country hosting empowerment seminars for blind students, Syed chaired the NABS' legislative committee and worked to remove arbitrary barriers within higher education through policy making. Syed cofounded the NABS Diversity and Inclusion Committee, and as the appointed Central Texas field director for the NFB, he traveled to Capitol Hill, promoting domestic policies and international treaties to empower the disabled in their access to education and employment. In May 2020, he graduated with his BA in government, receiving the university's highest honor, named as the Dean's Distinguished Graduate.

Most recently, Syed cofounded the Together Achieving Dreams Foundation, a nonprofit that is leveraging the power of the private sector to increase employment opportunities for the blind in corporate America. As a member of Diversity Lab’s disability advisory group, he participated in the development of the first ever Disability Inclusion Commitments, that have now been adopted by over ninety major corporate law firms and inhouse legal departments. Syed helped relaunch Harvard’s Disabled Law Students Association, where he partners with corporate law firms to support disabled students in entering big law. As a student advisor to the Law School Admissions Council, Syed works to reform the systems that hinder underrepresented groups from succeeding in the legal industry, and that once served as a barrier in his own journey. 

  • BA Government, Philosophy | University of Texas at Austin 2020
  • JD Law | Harvard University
  • Rudolph Dillman Scholar
  • Jacobus tenBroek Fellow
  • Lighthouse Guild Scholar
  • Charles and Melva T. Owen Scholar
  • SEO Law Fellowship
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