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P.D. Soros Fellowship for New Americans

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Q&A: Economist Angela Ma Looks Back At The Fellowship

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Born in Madison, Wisconsin, 2018 Paul & Daisy Soros Fellow Angela Tian Ma 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.

Angela became captivated by economics because of its emphasis on both logic and creativity. While studying economics and computer science at Harvard, she pursued her passion for research and teaching by building a stock bubble detector for the Behavioral Finance and Financial Stability Project, serving as editor-in-chief of the Harvard Economics Review, and working as a teaching fellow for statistics and economics courses. Angela is pursuing a PhD in business economics at the Harvard Business School and the Harvard Economics Department. 

Why did you apply to The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans? 

I am currently a third-year PhD student in the business economics program at Harvard. The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships has supported my research and studies over the last two years. It has also shown me a vibrant and welcoming community of New American scholars that I feel grateful to be a part of.

I read about the Fellowship in my high school newsletter and then learned more from an economics graduate student. I could tell that this Fellowship was really special. It supports so many students in so many different types of graduate programs. It recognizes the struggles & successes of immigrants and celebrates their New American stories. Over time, the Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships has created a tight-knit and proactive community of scholars that passionately pursue the forefront of their fields. When I was applying to economics PhD programs, I also applied for the Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship. There were moments when I felt overwhelmed and didn't see the point of applying when I didn't even know if I would get into graduate school. But my family, teachers, and interviewers for this Fellowship encouraged me. For that reason, I wanted to say that if you feel unsure about applying, I hope you'll go for it.

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

Through the Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship, I got to reconnect with a brilliant and kind high school classmate, learn about the day-to-day of my new theoretical physicist friend, witness another Fellow work in real-time to help families manage SNAP and EBT, and much more. Basically, every person in this community inspires me with their curiosity, kindness, and grounded-ness.

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

I have many! Some of them are:

- visiting the Museum of Chinese in America

- following Eric on a food tour of Chinatown

- watching the new Oklahoma! with explanations by another Fellow

- watching Dear Evan Hansen together, tearing up at 'You Will Be Found'

- watching it again in Boston, tearing up at the same moment

- trying to figure out if that ice cream was vegan

- taking the 6AM Amtrak together

- meeting Daisy and her sons

What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of applying to The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans? 

Ask about your family's stories, even ones that you have heard many times before. I think that familiar stories can take on new meanings as we get older. For example, I realized as I was applying that I was at a similar age but in a very different situation compared to my parents when they first immigrated to the United States.

Another tip is that the application is designed in a unique way. It builds in several open-ended opportunities to express yourself, e.g. the exhibits, allowance of up to five recommendation letters, and inclusion of two different statements. In this way, the application tries not to restrict you and is rooting for you to succeed!

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

I'm heading into my third year, which will be full-time research. I'm discovering which pieces of behavioral and financial economics especially interest me.

Some of my PD Soros classmates are graduating, so I'm also excited to see where they go! ∎