Campus & Community

Sixteen affiliates win Soros Fellowship for New Americans

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Sixteen Harvard-related students are among the 30 recipients for the 2002 Paul and Daisy Soros New American Fellowship. Fellows receive a $20,000 maintenance stipend plus half-tuition for as many as two years of graduate study at any institution of higher learning in the United States. Of the 16 recipients from Harvard, 11 are present or to be enrolled graduate students, four are alumni, and one is an undergraduate.

Now in its fifth year, the Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans have already become one of the most highly recognized and sought-after awards for graduate study in the United States. More than 1,000 naturalized citizens, resident aliens, or children of naturalized citizens applied this year.

“The Harvard candidates truly exemplify the kind of creative, multitalented, and extraordinarily accomplished New Americans that Paul and Daisy Soros want to honor and support through this program,” said Warren Ilchman, director of the program.

Following is a list of Harvard affiliated Soros Fellows:

Ravi Shah, 21, whose parents are from India, was raised in Tempe, Ariz. A Harvard senior, Shah began college chemistry at Arizona State University when he was 12 years old, and conducted independent research throughout high school at a neuro-oncology laboratory. Shah is a chemistry major and holds a 3.99 GPA. Placing second in the Westinghouse Science Talent Search and in the top 20 nationally in the U.S. National Chemistry Olympiad, he founded and secured private funding for a Harvard Biological Science Olympiad to encourage excellence in high school biology students — efforts that were recently recognized by Science magazine. Shah plans a career as a medical scientist.

Ronald Chen, 28, grew up in Hastings, Neb. He graduated summa cum laude in economics from Harvard, and was awarded the John Williams Prize as the top graduate in economics. A recipient of a Marshall Scholarship to Oxford, he completed his M.B.A. and his M.Sc. in history there and has served as a lecturer in economics at Oxford, a consultant with McKinsey & Company, and as a staff economist on the Council of Economic Advisers in the White House. Chen has also been an exploratory candidate for a U.S. congressional seat, choosing not to run when a statewide athletic hero declared his candidacy. He is in his second year at Harvard Law School.

Madhu Chugh, 25, is a health policy fellow on the staff of Sen. Edward Kennedy. She was born in Canada to parents of Indian descent and grew up in Longview, Texas. She majored in journalism and government at the University of Texas at Austin, graduating with honors, and election to Phi Beta Kappa. Working in a successful gubernatorial campaign in Iowa, she later served in the governor’s press office and had special relevance to the legislation arising from the tobacco liability settlement. Chugh is in her second year at the Kennedy School of Government.

Bert Huang, 27, is pursuing a combined J.D. at Harvard Law School and Ph.D. in economics at Harvard University. Huang grew up in Houston and attended Harvard College, where he was elected student chairman of the Institute of Politics and received his A.B. summa cum laude. As a Marshall Scholar, he attended Oxford University and later served as a staff economist for the President’s Council of Economic Advisers in the White House. He also worked for the head of the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, during the Microsoft case. In February, he was elected president of the Harvard Law Review.

Lei Liang, 29, is in his first year of study for a Ph.D. in music composition at Harvard University. He came to the United States as a teenager from Beijing in the wake of the Tiananmen Square tragedy. Since high school in Austin, Texas, to the New England Conservatory of Music (where he completed his bachelor’s and master’s degrees and received the Chadwich Medal) he has supported himself throughout his education. He has enjoyed many commissions for his musical compositions and has been identified as the “cutting-edge of 21st century music.” He spent three years as a junior fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows.

Irene Linetskaya, 24, of San Francisco, was born in Kiev, the capital of the former Ukrainian Republic of the Soviet Union. At the age of 12, she came to the United States with her grandparents as a Jewish refugee. Attending Stanford University, where she majored in human biology with a concentration in community health, she was active with Stanford Medical Youth Science Program and led the Alternative Spring Break program. With her interest in community health, she has developed workshops on domestic violence in Nicaragua, focus groups on Latino health beliefs at a San Francisco HIV/AIDS project, and an HIV education program for sex workers in the Dominican Republic. She is in her first year at Harvard Medical School, working toward her aspiration to become a community physician.

Erick Miranda, 25, was born in Jojutia, Mexico, but grew up in South Central Los Angeles. Attending the University of California, Irvine, where he majored in biological sciences and undertook medical research in Spain and Mexico, he is now in his second year at Harvard Medical School. Before medical school, he taught English as a Second Language science to seventh- and eighth-graders in Los Angeles, and maintains a full schedule of tutoring and mentoring inner-city youth in Boston.

Sujit Raman, 23, was born in the United States to parents of South Indian origins and grew up in Houston. Attending Harvard University and majoring in history, he graduated magna cum laude and earned highest honors for his senior thesis. In addition to editing two student publications and heading the Minority Student Alliance, he was also captain of the National Champion Harvard crew. At present, he is completing his master’s at the University of Bristol (U.K.) on a Marshall Scholarship and will enter Harvard Law School in September.

Eric Sheu, 24, was born in the United States to parents who emigrated from Taiwan. He grew up in Atlanta. Graduating summa cum laude from Harvard, where he majored in biochemistry and did research in cellular immunology, he received a Marshall Scholarship to Oxford University, where he completed his doctorate in immunology. Involved in peer counseling at Harvard and offering piano lessons to local inner-city high school students unable to afford instruction, he recently engaged in field research on malaria in Kenya. He is studying for his M.D. degree at Harvard Medical School in the Harvard/M.I.T. Health Science and Technology program.

Jose Vargas, 24, was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and came to the United States at the end of the eigth grade. He lives in Gaithersburg, Md. Overcoming the efforts to “stream” him into less challenging classes, he pursued a program of family-student help founded by his parents in the Dominican Republic. Vargas later attended Loyola College in Maryland, where he graduated summa cum laude with election to Phi Beta Kappa as a junior. He was not only involved in leadership positions on campus, but steadily conducted research at National Institutes of Health. He is presently completing his doctorate in human genetics at Oxford University, where he is a Rhodes Scholar, and will start Harvard Medical School in the fall.

Neelaksh Kumar Varshney, 23, was born in the United States to parents who emigrated from India. His family makes its home in Madison, Ala. Varshney attended the University of Alabama at Birmingham where he majored in electrical engineering. With a 4.0 GPA, he was also the student representative to the University board of trustees, and on the search committee for the University’s president and provost. Now at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, he is completing his master’s in neuroscience and is also studying mathematics. He will begin in the Harvard/M.I.T. Health Science and Technology M.D. program in the fall.

Markella Zanni, 24, was born in the United States to parents who emigrated from Greece. She grew up outside of Boston and attended Harvard University, where she received her B.A. (in English literature) summa cum laude, with election to Phi Beta Kappa. Having appeared in many dramatic productions at Harvard and serving on the fiction board of the Harvard Advocate, she is now completing three novellas on Greek-American life. Currently in her second year at Harvard Medical School, she serves on the school’s admission committee. She has research interests in Alzheimer’s disease and hopes to pursue a career in academic medicine.

Alex-handrah Aime, 25, was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and grew up in Brooklyn. After graduating from Harvard College cum laude in biochemistry, she worked in Washington, D.C., London, and Johannesburg, South Africa, for Mercer Management Consulting. While working on a railroad privatization project in South Africa, she became impassioned about international economic development. Returning to Africa, she undertook a project pro bono to assist Junior Achievement of Nigeria to evaluate its core economic education programs and prepare for strategic expansion. Planning a career in promoting economic development in Africa and the Caribbean, she is doing a joint degree in business and law at Stanford University.

Derrick N. Ashong, 26, was born in Accra, Ghana, but grew up in Saudi Arabia and suburban New Jersey. Attending Harvard, where he received a summa cum laude distinction for his honors thesis, he was active in the Harvard Black Students Association and in such public affairs projects as the National Voting Rights Institute and the Fannie Lou Hamer Project. He played the supporting role of Buakei in Steven Spielberg’s film “Amistad,” and has remained active in film and television. A songwriter, he has recently produced his first CD, titled “The Black Rose Project.” He will pursue doctoral studies in ethnomusicology, where he wishes to focus on “the role that music plays in the creation of social identity and a communal ‘will’.”

Laela Sturdy, 24, was born in Kingston, Jamaica, and grew up in Cooper City, Fla. She completed her B.A., cum laude, in biochemical sciences at Harvard University and her master’s at Trinity College, Dublin, where she held a George Mitchell Postgraduate Fellowship. An accomplished athlete, she was captain of Harvard’s women’s basketball team and was named to the NCAA First Team All-Ivy League. She has worked in Senegal and most recently in a primary school in Kenya. She will study for her M.B.A.

Julie Chi-hye Suk is a second year student at Yale Law School. She was born in Korea in 1975 and came to the United States as a young child. She grew up in Queens. She received her B.A. summa cum laude in English and French literature at Harvard, where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa in her junior year. She completed her M.Sc. in politics at Oxford, where she held a Marshall Scholarship. She expects to complete her D.Phil. on state recognition of racial and cultural minorities in 2002. She is now an editor of the Yale Law Journal. Upon graduation, she will clerk for Judge Harry T. Edwards of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. She anticipates a career in constitutional litigation and international human rights law.