Campus & Community

Harvard students named Soros Fellows

4 min read

Four Harvard students are among the 30 recipients recently named Paul and Daisy Soros New American Fellows. Now in its 11th year, the fellowship helps prepare new Americans, including naturalized citizens, resident aliens, or the children of naturalized citizens, for opportunities for leadership in various fields in the United States.

Soros Fellows receive half-tuition for as many as two years of graduate study (up to $16,000 per year) at any institution of higher learning in the United States, as well as a maintenance grant of $20,000 per year. This year’s group of fellows was chosen from more than 700 applicants from 257 undergraduate and 123 graduate institutions.

The fellowship is funded by income from a charitable trust of $65 million created by philanthropists Paul and Daisy Soros. Since its inception, more than $26 million has been spent in support of graduate education of new Americans.

This year’s fellows from Harvard are as follows:

Connie Chen is a senior at the College and has applied to begin medical school in fall 2008. Throughout college, she has sought to bring about institutional changes on issues relating to her great passion: reducing inequities in global health. For her senior economics thesis, Chen traveled to Kenya to conduct field research on female sex work. She has also committed herself to service in the local Boston community, co-leading a prisoner education program and helping to establish a Harvard tutoring program for female offenders transitioning back into their communities. As co-programming chair of the Phillips Brooks House Association at Harvard, Chen oversaw the day-to-day running of 73 service and advocacy programs. She was born in 1987 in Chicago. Her parents came to the United States from Taipei, Taiwan.

Sushma Gandhi is in her second year at Harvard Law School. She graduated magna cum laude from Yale University in 2003, majoring in history and ethnicity and race and migration. After graduating from Yale, she ran New Haven Mayor John DeStefano’s campaign for re-election and subsequently took a job directing his efforts to receive the Democratic Party nomination for governor. While working for DeStefano, she participated in a successful citywide effort to force a demutualizing bank to establish a “city bank” to focus on community issues, helping her realize how critical safe credit is to the stability of communities. Gandhi has focused her legal interests on economic security issues for people and communities — working currently on the threat of foreclosures resulting from subprime loans — though her clinical and advocacy work, academic writing, and contributions to the Warren Reports blog. Now 26, she was born in the United States to parents of Indian origin who are now naturalized citizens.

Robert Koffie is a first-year student of the Harvard M.D./Ph.D. program pursuing his M.D. training through the joint Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology. He will soon begin work on a Ph.D. in biophysics. Koffie completed his undergraduate work at Indiana University (IU) in three years, graduating summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa with degrees in physics and biochemistry. Koffie was born in Ghana in 1983 and came to the United States in 2002. While still in Ghana, he volunteered with Doctors Without Borders, helping to care for villagers with infectious diseases in Ghana and Togo. He helped found the Indiana University Organization of Black Chemists, served as the community service chair of the Black Student Union, coordinated events for the IU Science Olympiad, represented student government on the IU Family Student Council, interned in the Emergency Department of the Bloomington Hospital, and volunteered with Red Cross blood drives. He intends to be a physician-scientist.

Vijay Yanamadala is a first-year student at Harvard Medical School in the Harvard/MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology. He received his B.A. in biochemical sciences, magna cum laude, and an M.A. in chemistry, both from Harvard University. He has conducted research on topics including synthetic organic chemistry, and hypertension, and on the biochemical signaling pathways of G proteins and apoptosis in polycystic kidney disease, the most common monogenic genetic disease in the world. This work has led to first-author publications in various journals, including the Journal of Biological Chemistry. At Harvard, Yanamadala also found time to be a teaching fellow, teaching in five courses and receiving several certificates of distinction. Yanamadala’s long-term goal is to pursue a career in academic medicine, allowing him to combine his passion for research, teaching, and clinical care. As he explains, “Physician-scientists are in a particularly important position at the crux between science and society.” Now 21, Vijay was born in Dallas to parents who had emigrated from India.

The deadline for applications for the next round of Soros Fellowships is Nov. 1. Visit for more information.