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P.D. Soros Fellowship for New Americans

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Q&A: MBA Student Steph Speirs Looks Back At The Fellowship

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The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans provides two years of funding for outstanding graduate students who are immigrants and children of immigrants. After two years the Fellows join a lifelong community of past Fellows. We asked Stephanie Speirs, a 2015 Paul & Daisy Soros Fellow, to look back at the first two years of the Fellowship and what they have meant to her.
 
Stephanie was born in Hawaii to parents from Korea and China. Stephanie received a bachelor’s degree from Yale University and a master’s degree in public affairs with a focus on international development from Princeton University. The Fellowship supported her MBA at MIT's Sloan School of Management.
 
You’re now finishing up the second year of The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans program. Has the Fellowship been what you expected?

It's easy to mistake the primary benefit of the Fellowship as the tuition and stipend it provides. I would not have been able to attend graduate school without it, so I went into the Fellowship program simply grateful for the support. I quickly realized that the actual Fellowship experience was comprised of much more than just resources. The best part about my two years as a Fellow was my cohort, who continuously blew me away with their work ethic, intelligence, resilience, and humility. I only wish we could have spent more time together outside of the annual conferences. I learned so much from their example and I strive to be better because I know them. 

Do you have any favorite memories from your Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship experience?

During our first gathering as a cohort, Fall Conference, the Fellowship kindly took us to see Hamilton on Broadway. This was in the early days of the musical's premiere, so we got extremely lucky that the foundation had the foresight to take us to a then-unknown work of art about immigration and the American Dream. During the musical, a character sings, "Immigrants, we get the job done!" And unanimously, my entire cohort erupted in whoops and hollers and clapping. It felt like we had been seen, and it reminded us why we were there. It was humbling. 

What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of applying?

If at first you don't succeed, try try again. It's important that some people reading this know that I didn't get the Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship the first time I applied. Never give up. 

You received the Fellowship to attend MIT. Where are you with your graduate program now? What’s next?

I just graduated with my MBA from MIT, and I'm going to keep working on the startup I've been doing throughout school. The problem we're trying to solve is that 80 percent of America is locked out of the solar market because they cannot install solar on their roof. Our Boston-based startup, Solstice, radically expands access to clean energy by providing community-shared solar power to American households. This model enables any resident to enjoy clean energy at no upfront cost and save money on their electric bill every year. We are wrapping up the Echoing Green Fellowship and we just concluded Techstars Boston, so it's an exciting turning point for the organization and I'm excited about what lies ahead. 

How do you plan to stay active with the Fellowship community in the years to come?

I'm going to attend (and hopefully organize) gatherings in whatever city I'm in. If you're in Boston, holleratchagurl.