Campus & Community

Eight graduate students awarded Soros Fellowships

5 min read

In 1997, Paul and Daisy Soros created a charitable trust to support graduate study by new Americans — immigrants and children of immigrants. This year, out of the 750 applications nationwide, eight of the 31 Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship winners are Harvard graduate students.

In the past 12 competitions, 354 fellowships have been given and there are now 61 fellows at 20 universities undertaking graduate study in 18 different fields. There are also 293 alumni, including authors of 44 books, holders of 39 patents, four composers whose work was premiered this year by leading orchestras, and 45 clerkships for federal judges, with 10 clerking at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Chitra Akileswaran is a third-year student at Harvard Medical School (HMS) and will begin her first year in a combined program with Harvard Business School (HBS) for her M.B.A. in September 2009. Born in Portland, Ore., to parents who immigrated to the United States from India, she earned a B.A. in community health, magna cum laude, from Brown University and was awarded the Jin Prize for academic performance and commitment to service. Akileswaran received a Fulbright Grant to South Africa in 2004-05 to study sexual violence and HIV infection among female migrants. Akileswaran’s long-term goal is to provide effective health financing options in the world’s poorest areas.

Sa’ed Atshan has begun a dual doctoral degree program in anthropology and Middle Eastern studies at Harvard, where he had previously completed in 2008 a master in public policy degree from the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS). Born in the United States to a Palestinian refugee family and raised in the Occupied Territories, Atshan was one of a few HKS students to be admitted immediately after his undergraduate education. At the Kennedy School, his work was supported by a Jack Kent Cooke Fellowship. For Commencement he was also elected to be the Kennedy School’s Marshal by his classmates. For his undergraduate degree he attended Swarthmore College and wrote a senior thesis in political science and in Middle Eastern studies. Atshan considers his calling to be one of an explorer of differences and similarities between and among groups: Muslim and Christian, Arab and Israeli, the Middle East and the West, and students and teachers.

Tarun Chhabra is a first-year J.D. candidate at Harvard Law School and a second-year D.Phil. candidate at Merton College at the University of Oxford. Born in Chattanooga, Tenn., to Indian immigrants, Chhabra graduated in 2002 with honors and distinction from Stanford University where he received his B.A. in international relations and Russian language and literature. His interest in foreign policy, and particularly U.S. engagement with international institutions, led him to work at the United Nations and later as a consultant for the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. At the United Nations, he was a research officer for the secretary-general’s High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change. In the future, Chhabra aspires to work for the U.S. government in the fields of foreign and national security policy.

Shantanu Gaur, a first-year M.D. candidate at HMS holds a B.S. in biology from Harvard where he graduated summa cum laude with election to Phi Beta Kappa. Gaur, the son of Indian immigrants, grew up in western Pennsylvania and was first engaged in scientific research while still in high school, at the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health, earning him numerous accolades at the national and international level. Gaur plans to pursue a Ph.D. in biological and biomedical sciences after he completes medical school and ultimately to work both as a practicing physician and as a researcher in basic science.

Sina Kevin Nazemi sees a career for himself in easing world inequalities through business and technical developments. To help prepare for this, he is in the first year of a three-year joint M.B.A./M.P.P. program offered by HKS and HBS. Born in Tehran, Iran, Nazemi came to the United States with his parents when he was 5 years old. He completed his undergraduate work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) before working for Microsoft Corp. Nazemi began as an associate product marketing manager, won seven promotions in four years, and eventually became the youngest director at Microsoft.

Tomasz Stryjewski, a first-year M.D. student at HMS, received his undergraduate degree in biological sciences from Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge. Born in Krakow, Poland, Stryjewski came to the United States with his parents at the age of 2. He plans a career in medicine and public health, focusing on addressing the issues of blindness.

Jane Vaynman is a second-year Ph.D. student in government at Harvard. Born in Kiev, Ukraine, Vaynman immigrated to the United States with her family in 1989. In 2004, she earned her B.A. with distinction in international relations at Stanford University and minored in Russian, East European, and Eurasian studies. Focusing on Russia and the former Soviet Union, Vaynman is particularly interested in international security, arms control, and nuclear nonproliferation. Vaynman plans a career as a scholar in international relations, and in her career she hopes to contribute to broader policy debates as an academic and policymaker.

Previn Warren is in his first year at Harvard Law School. He completed his A.B. at Harvard, majoring in social studies and graduating magna cum laude with election to Phi Beta Kappa. Born in California to parents who had emigrated from India, Warren sees his legal education as an effort to get beyond stories to find “the philosophical foundations of law.”