P.D. Soros Fellowship for New Americans


Q&A: Akbar Hossain 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 Akbar Hossain, a 2016 Paul & Daisy Soros Fellow, to look back at the first two years of the Fellowship and what they have meant to him.

Akbar was born in Bangladesh and later moved to Saudi Arabia, where his father was a migrant worker. His family immigrated to the United States on September 9, 2001, through the Diversity Visa Lottery. After the passing of his father, Akbar learned the importance of perseverance and community, as members of his hometown, Norristown, Pennsylvania supported and helped raise his family. Akbar is a graduate of Franklin and Marshall College and a 2012 Truman Scholar. The Fellowship supported his JD at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. 

Why is being a New American an important part of your identity?      

Being a New American is a recognition of all that is good about this country–hope, resilience, and opportunity. It is an incredible honor to be among the millions of immigrants across the nation who carry with them stories of the past, scars of their struggles, yet are moved by the promise of the future. My parents like many immigrants, came to this country and gave everything to make sure I have access to opportunities they could never imagine back home. Being a New American is also a tribute to them and a reaffirmation of their sacrifices.

Where are you with your graduate program now? What’s next?

I recently graduated with a JD from the University of Pennsylvania Law School. I am planning on studying all summer for the Pennsylvania Bar exam and then working as an associate at a law firm in Philadelphia. I plan to stay engaged in local government issues by serving on the Planning Commission for my hometown while also working on access to education and economic development opportunities for low-income communities. Additionally, I hope to stay involved in immigrant advocacy work by taking on asylum and refugee cases. 

Do you have any favorite memories from the past two years as a Paul & Daisy Soros Fellow?

One of my most memorable moments from the past two years was going to see Kinky Boots on Broadway. It was my first time ever going to a Broadway show and I loved it! I remember sitting with some of my closest friends from my cohort and enjoying every moment of the show. I have been to quite a few local theater shows after this experience and plan to continue to support the local arts! The sheer amount of talent in theater is incredible and I am thankful to the foundation for including a Broadway show on the roster of things to do during the Fall Conference.

Who has inspired you from the Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship community?

The Paul & Daisy Soros community is filled with incredible individuals who continue to inspire me in every aspect of life. Our community is vast and our reach in terms of interest and impact is broad–from public health officials, to scientists, to artists, to educators–the range of talent is unmatched. But considering the word limit, I want to focus this response on one member of the community: Dr. Abdul El-Sayed. Indra Sen, a close friend and also a Paul & Daisy Soros Fellow, introduced me to Abdul the year before I became a Fellow. I have been following him since and have been inspired by his campaign for Governor of Michigan. You rarely see immigrants in politics, let alone a Muslim. As someone who is also interested in local government and finding opportunities to serve various communities, watching Abdul has been encouraging. It was a proud moment for me to welcome Abdul to Philadelphia a few months ago for a small fundraiser. He recognized me and gave me a hug–that’s what the PD Soros community is about–love and support.

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

I plan to make Philadelphia a hot spot for Paul & Daisy Soros Fellows! It has been incredible to learn about the many Fellows who study, work, and live in the area. I recently met up with Paul & Daisy Soros Fellow Natalie Jesionka, who is a professor at Rutgers Newark and lives in Philadelphia. She and I are interested in creating a presence and a community for Fellows who are in the Philadelphia region. We are excited to host events and connect with the alumni network!

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