We announced the 2018 Paul & Daisy Soros Fellows with a full-page ad in the New York Times. We asked each of the new Fellows to take a photo with the ad. Here is what they came up with:
Natalia Reyes (2018 Fellow) was born in Indio, California to immigrants from Michoacán, Mexico. Her father graduated from a university-preparatory school, but he could not afford university tuition. As a result, he sold the family refrigerator to pay for his passage to the United States. Natalia’s parents’ experiences and sacrifices sparked her desire to write stories honoring the complexities of immigrant lives. Now, Natalia, who is a graduate of UC Berkeley, crafts narratives from both sides of the US-Mexico border at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she also studies pedagogy.
Born in Nigeria, Jamaji Nwanaji-Enwerem immigrated to North Carolina with his parents when he was an infant. From watching his parents navigate a new country while pursuing their education, raising a family, and giving back, Jamaji learned the weight of the Igbo proverb “nwayo nwayo ka e ji eri ofe di oku” (moving steadily/purposefully is how to overcome a difficult task). Jamaji is a graduate of Morehouse and is currently an MD/PhD student at Harvard.
Angela Ma (2018 Fellow) was born in Madison, Wisconsin, and is the daughter of Chinese immigrants. Seeing how her parents overcame language, cultural, and financial barriers to build a new home in this country has inspired Angela to stay hungry and curious. She's pursuing a PhD in business economics at Harvard.
Jonathan Marquez (2018 Fellow) was born in Houston to parents who migrated there from Mexico and Colombia. As a child, Jonathan saw his family navigate economic, language, and cultural barriers and learned a great deal about perseverance from his family’s example.Inspired to pursue clinical and research training to address pediatric diseases though developmental biology and genetics, Jonathan, a graduate of Yale, joined the MD/PhD program at Yale.
Jennifer (Jen) Yunhee Shin’s (2018 Fellow) immigration story originates with her grandparents, who fled what is now North Korea in 1953 to South Korea, eventually immigrating to the United States to seek a brighter future for their family. Jen was raised in Ocean, New Jersey by her mother, who instilled within her the core ethical values that motivate and guide her today. Jen, a graduate of Drexel, is currently pursuing joint degrees in architecture and environmental management at Yale, where identity, regionalism, and environmentalism remain important to her work. She aims to cultivate an environmental ethic that restores a joint ecological culture between the built and natural worlds.
Born in Nairobi, Kenya, Joel Sati (2018 Fellow) immigrated to the United States at the age of nine. Early on, Joel's mother worked night and double shifts at a Kennesaw, Georgia gas station to make ends meet. In 2010, after moving to Maryland and as he was applying to colleges, Joel found out that he was undocumented. He attended Montgomery College, and later City College of New York. Now, he is a JD/PhD student in jurisprudence and social policy at UC-Berkeley and Yale.
Burcu Bozkurt (2018 Fellow) immigrated to the United States from Istanbul with her family when she was seven. Her parents settled in Raleigh, North Carolina, in pursuit of a brighter and more peaceful future. Burcu saw her immigrant classmates and their families face challenges accessing healthcare, which seeded an abiding interest in public health and ensuring healthcare access for all. Burcu, a graduate of UNC, returned to UNC in the fall of 2017 to pursue a PhD in health policy and management at the Gillings School of Global Public Health as a Royster Fellow. Her research focuses on understanding and overcoming obstacles that young people and other vulnerable populations face in accessing safe, comprehensive reproductive health services.
Muhammad Saad Shamim (2018 Fellow) is pursuing an MD/PhD in bioengineering at Baylor College of Medicine and Rice. He was born in Karachi, Pakistan, and immigrated to the United States with his family at the age of two. Inspired by his Islamic faith, his parents’ sacrifices, and experiences during his visits to Pakistan, Muhammad gained a sense of responsibility for giving back to his community.
Though Julissa Muñiz (2018 Fellow) was born in San Diego to Mexican immigrant parents, she lived in Tijuana, Mexico the latter half of her childhood, commuting to and from school in San Ysidro, California. Her maternal grandmother was the first in the family to immigrate to the United States with her then husband and two children, including Julissa’s mother. While neither of her parents graduated from high school, they instilled in Julissa a deep love for reading, learning, and justice. Now, Julissa is a PhD student in human development and social policy at Northwestern. She is interested in the ethnographic and interactional study of learning environments within carceral spaces, specifically as understood and experienced by incarcerated youths.
Anthony So (2018 Fellow) is an MFA student at Syracuse. He is a Cambodian-American writer, cartoonist, and graduate of Stanford, where he majored in English literature and art practice. A native of Stockton, California, Anthony was raised by two survivors of the Khmer Rouge genocide who, despite immigrating to the United States with sixth grade educations, found economic success.
Wazhma Sadat (2018 Fellow) was born in Kabul, Afghanistan in a setting where her educational opportunities were severely limited by the Taliban’s ban on girls’ education. When the Taliban’s stringent policies threatened the lives of Afghan civilians, Wazhma’s family joined the millions of displaced Afghans who crossed multiple borders in search of peace and education. As a refugee in Pakistan, Wazhma attended a school for displaced Afghans during the day and wove carpets with her six siblings at night. Wazhma would subsequently be the first Afghan woman to graduate from Yale College. Currently, Wazhma attends Yale Law School.
Iris Cong, the daughter of Chinese immigrants, decided early on to pursue scientific research, so she took calculus at age 11. At age 13, she skipped high school to enter UCLA, majoring in computer science. Amongst classmates of much stronger academic backgrounds, Iris persevered and graduated with a 4.0 GPA. That year she received the only school-wide Outstanding Bachelor of Science Award. Iris is now pursuing a PhD in physics at Harvard.
Born in Incheon, South Korea, Chung-ha Oh Davis’s (2018 Fellow) privilege of growing up in the United States was due to the love and generosity of his uncle and aunt. His uncle, Irving Davis, served in the US Air Force and married Chung-ha’s aunt, Hui-In Davis, while he was stationed in Osan Air Force Base in South Korea. He was eventually adopted into his uncle’s family, taking the last name Davis. The sacrifices that Chung-ha’s birth parents and adopted parents have made play a foundational role in his sense of identity and purpose—Chung-ha seeks to pay his parents’ sacrifices forward by pursuing his passions with relentless energy. Chung-ha is working towards a PhD in neuroscience at Stanford. Here he is pictured with Dr. Nick Marsh-Armstrong, who Chung-ha describes as "foundational in my development as a scientist and a person."
Asmaa Rimawi chose to take her photo on the Harvard campus with this statement because it reads, "among the basic rights of every human is the right to the highest standard of health attainable." Born in New York, Asmaa is the daughter of Palestinian immigrants who came to America in 1982. In the Arab-American Muslim enclave of Bay Ridge within Brooklyn, she watched her parents fearlessly embody the American spirit by celebrating their Palestinian and Muslim identities in the shadow of 9/11. From her parents, Asmaa learned the value of remaining proud of one’s identity. Asmaa became the first graduate of her high school, a gender-segregated Islamic school, to attend Harvard. After college, she received a master’s degree in Middle Eastern and Asian philosophy at Trinity College, University of Cambridge. That year, she explored her Palestinian heritage further, conducting field research on the Palestinian concept of sumud, steadfastness, and nonviolent resistance. She's now working towards an MD at Harvard Medical School.
Benjamin Chou (2018 Fellow) at the Pritzker School of Law at Northwestern University. Ben, who is pursuing a JD/MBA at Northwestern, was born in Houston to Chinese and Taiwanese immigrants who arrived in the United States in 1980. After graduating from Rice, Ben served in Congress as a fellow for former Speaker Nancy Pelosi and policy advisor for the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. Prior to beginning graduate school, Ben worked as the political director for Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley where he led the governor’s political action committee.
Suchita Patil Nety (2018 Fellow) was born in Sunnyvale, CA to immigrants from India who came to the United States to attend graduate school. She draws inspiration from her upbringing in the dynamic and diverse Silicon Valley as well as her grandparents’ experiences as freedom fighters for Indian independence. Suchita is a graduate of Caltech and is now pursuing an MD/PhD at Harvard and MIT.
Born in Philadelphia, Andrea (Sylvia) Biscoveanu (2018 Fellow) is the daughter of Romanian immigrants. Fearing for their safety after participating in the anti-communist revolution of 1989, her parents left behind their families and their careers in pursuit of increased freedom and opportunity in the United States. Knowing that her family lived without basic civil rights in Romania has given Sylvia a deeper appreciation of the liberties afforded by the US Constitution, and watching her parents struggle to create a name for themselves in the US has taught her the value of dedication and hard work. Sylvia was in Australia when the announcement of the new Fellows happened, so she took this FaceTime photo with the ad! She is pursuing her PhD in astrophysics at MIT.
Yessica Martinez (2018 Fellow) was born in Medellin, Colombia and migrated to Queens, New York with her family when she was ten as a result of violence caused by her country’s civil war and drug related conflict. Growing up undocumented, Yessica learned English and adapted to life in the states, though always yearning to return to her homeland. Yessica is a graduate of Princeton and is now pursuing an MFA in creative writing at Cornell. Here she is in Flushing Meadows–Corona Park in Queens, New York.
Aseem Mehta and Carl Jiang (2018 Fellows) took this photo together outside of Yale Law School, where they are both students. Carl was born in Tianjin, China and attempted to claim asylum in the United States at an early age. After he arrived, Carl faced an uncertain immigration status, experienced intermittent hunger and homelessness throughout adolescence, and was abandoned by his family while residing on the South Side of Chicago. Aseem was born in Syracuse, New York and is the child of Indian immigrants. At Yale Law School, he is grateful to work with thoughtful mentors and colleagues in the Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic to challenge exclusionary practices that underlie the logic of borders.
Born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Wendy De La Rosa (2018 Fellow) is the daughter of an inspiring political activist who fought for the working class. Amidst economic uncertainty, Wendy immigrated to the United States in hopes of a better life and settled in a small apartment in the Bronx with her large, extended family. It was in that apartment that Wendy’s interest in financial decision-making began. She entertained herself by observing how her family managed their limited finances. Wendy is a graduate of UPenn and is a PhD student at Stanford where she studies consumer behavior and financial decision-making.
Samuel H. Kim and Seul (Kathy) Ku (2018 Fellows) at the Stanford library. Sam was born in New Jersey to immigrant parents from South Korea. His family then moved back to South Korea, where Samuel grew up. At the age of 10, his family moved to Los Angeles where they faced financial and health difficulties. However, through his Christian faith and working at a cardiology clinic, Samuel discovered his passion for medicine and its empowerment of our most vulnerable. He is an MD/PhD student in biomedical sciences at Stanford. Born in Seoul, Kathy immigrated to the suburbs of Chicago with her family when she was three. She attended a high school with a predominantly low-income student population that spoke more than sixty different languages, and the free clinic in the basement of her high school helped to spur her interest in providing much needed resources to underserved populations. Now she's an MD/MBA at Stanford and Harvard.
Diana Yanez (2018 Fellow) Facetimed with her family and the New York Times ad to share the good news! She was born in California and raised in Tijuana, Mexico. From a young age, she learned the value of hard work from her parents who sacrificed their life to raise their four children. After high school, she moved back to the United States in pursuit of academic and professional opportunities. She is grateful to her significant other, parents, siblings, aunts, and uncles for their unconditional support throughout her journey. She is a graduate of Cerritos Community College and UCLA, and is now an MD/PhD student at Yale.
Jenna Cook was adopted from Wuhan, China in 1992 and grew up in Newburyport, Massachusetts. With the support of her adoptive family, Jenna traveled back to China for the first time at age ten and began intensively studying Mandarin in high school. In 2014, Jenna graduated from Yale with a BA in women’s, gender, & sexuality studies. Now, she's a PhD student in sociology at Harvard.
Norma Torres Mendoza immigrated to Houston from Queretaro, Mexico with her mother in the back of an 18-wheeler looking for the American Dream. Norma went on to attend Rice University and cofounded the Young Owls Leadership Program, a non-profit that has raised over $250,000 and helped over 400 students in the Houston-area become the first ones in their families to attend college. It was through this project that she discovered her love and passion to serve as a bridge of resources for non-profits through consulting work. She holds an MPP from the Harvard Kennedy School and will attend Rice's Jones Graduate School of Business for her MBA as a 2018 Paul & Daisy Soros Fellow.
Norma Torres Mendoza (2018 Fellow) with her mother at Rice University. Learn about Norma's story here: https://www.nbcnews.com/news/latino/what-harvard-latina-did-bring-undocumented-mom-graduation-n579681