Eight Yale students and alumni have been selected as recipients of the 2018 Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans, a graduate school fellowship for immigrants and their children.

The Yalies selected are part of a 30-person cohort chosen from a pool of 1,766 applicants and were recognized for their “potential to make significant contributions to United States society, culture or their academic fields.” All fellows receive up to $90,000 in funding to pursue a graduate degree of their choice.

The eight Yalies selected are Aseem Mehta ’14 LAW ’20, Jonathan Marquez ’13 GRD ’20, Wazhma Sadat ’14 LAW ’19, Jennifer Yunhee Shin ARCH ’19, Hao Yang “Carl” Jiang LAW ’20, Joel Sati LAW ’22, Diana Yanez GRD ’22 and Jenna Cook ’14. All 2018 fellows are children of immigrants, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients, green card holders or naturalized citizens, according to the press release.

“I’m delighted for the new Yale cohort of Soros Fellows — it’s an outstanding, inspiring group,” said Rebekah Westphal, director of the Yale Office of Fellowship Programs “This is a wonderful, important fellowship, and we are always happy to support Yale students through the interview stage of the competition.”

Mehta, a child of immigrants from India, is “committed to dismantling the laws, ideologies and structures that deny communities agency and mobility,” according to his bio on the fellowship website. At Yale, he studied Ethics, Politics and Economics and co-led the Visual Law Project, where he co-directed a documentary film investigating the use of solitary confinement in maximum security prisons.

He was also a fellow with Immigrant Justice Corps, where he advocated against deportation alongside immigrant communities in New York and South Texas.

“I am deeply inspired by all of courage that composed the powerful histories of movement that intersected to bring me to life as a New American,” Mehta said. “I am in constant awe of just how contingent my very existence is — on the work and sacrifices of my family and of communities, that I will never know, but who, nonetheless, laid the foundations for my opportunities.”

Mehta is currently pursuing his Juris Doctor at the Yale Law School, where he is a part of the Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic.

Marquez, born in Houston, Texas, to parents who immigrated from Mexico and Colombia, arrived at Yale “with a suitcase that contained everything he owned,” according to his bio. He majored in molecular, cellular and developmental biology.

He is currently pursuing a joint medical and doctorate degree program at Yale and conducts research with the Pediatric Genomics Discovery Program, which works with young patients suffering from unknown diseases.

Sadat was born in Kabul, Afghanistan, where her educational opportunities were severely limited by the Taliban’s ban on girls’ education. She travelled to the U.S. for the first time as a high school exchange student and worked on various initiatives to improve women’s access to education upon returning to Afghanistan.

Sadat was the first Afghan woman to graduate from Yale College, where she studied global affairs. After college, she co-founded Firoz Academy, a startup that aims to provide educational and e-employment opportunities in war-stricken countries, like Afghanistan.

She is currently pursuing a Juris Doctor at the Yale Law School.

Shin, whose grandparents fled what is now North Korea in 1953, investigated the integration of North Korean defectors within South Korea for her undergraduate architectural thesis at Drexel University. After graduation, Shin co-founded the Raymond Farm Center for Living Arts & Design, a nonprofit cultural arts center and artist residency in Pennsylvania.

“When I first learned of the fellowships, I recognized that the application process itself was an opportunity for me to examine my own New American story more deeply,” Shin said. “The process of exploring my American identity through the application process was a true gift.”

Shin is currently pursuing joint degrees in architecture and environmental management at Yale University.

Jiang, born in Tianjin, China, sought asylum in the U.S. at an early age, but after he arrived, he faced an uncertain immigration status and was abandoned by his family while living on the South Side of Chicago. He survived with the support of friends and teachers, and at age 15 he was fostered by his high school debate coach.

As a participant in the Teach for America program, Jiang grew increasingly frustrated with the state of education in the U.S., and “the school-to-prison pipeline” in particular, according to his bio. He went on to become an Urban Fellow at the New York City Law Department within the Family Court Division where he worked on issues related to juvenile delinquency, restorative justice and implicit bias.

Jiang is currently pursuing his Jurid Doctor at the Yale Law School.

Sati, born in Nairobi, Kenya, immigrated to the U.S. at the age of 9. In 2010, as he was applying to colleges, he discovered that he was undocumented, severely limiting his financial aid options.

He ultimately received his bachelor’s degree at the City College of New York. While a student there, he mobilized African youth around immigration issues and co-designed and co-taught a “black political thought course” at CCNY, which is now a permanent offering in the college’s political science department.

Sati is currently pursuing a doctorate degree in the Jurisprudence and Social Policy program at the University of California, Berkeley and will begin his Juris Doctor at the Yale Law School in August 2019.

Yanez, a child of Mexican immigrants who was born in California and raised in Tijuana, Mexico, moved back to the U.S. after high school in pursuit of academic and professional opportunities. After graduating from the University of California, Los Angeles, she joined the laboratory of professor Jeremy Stark, where she co-invented a system that improves the CRSPR-Cas9 genome editing technology, which is used to study disease mechanisms and develop therapies.

Yanez is currently pursuing a joint medical and doctorate degree at Yale and is investigating the role of immune cells in the development of skin cancer.

Cook, who was adopted from Wuhan, China, in 1992, traveled back to the country for the first time at age 10 and began intensively studying Mandarin in high school. She graduated from Yale with a bachelor’s degree in women’s, gender and sexuality studies. After graduation, she returned to live in China for three years, where she conducted fieldwork on Chinese domestic adoption policy and practice as a Fulbright Fellow, served as a teacher at the Yale Young Global Scholars Program in Beijing and earned a masters in China studies at Peking University’s Yenching Academy.

“I think [the fellowship] is a really unique opportunity to meet so many incredible and diverse people, who are all from immigrant backgrounds,” she said.

Cook is currently pursuing a doctorate degree in Sociology at Harvard University.

Anastasiia Posnova | anastasiia.posnova@yale.edu