Harvard Law Student Aya Saed ’17 was among 30 recipients selected to receive the Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans, the premier graduate school fellowship for immigrants and children of immigrants. This year’s recipients, selected from a pool of 1,443 applicants, were chosen for their potential to make significant contributions to U.S. society, culture, or their academic field.
Saed, who is pursuing a J.D. at Harvard Law School and a master’s in public affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, was born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to Sudanese parents. Her family migrated to the United States in 1999 to escape political and economic turmoil at home. She hopes to pursue a career in litigation and community organizing in Muslim and Muslim-American communities to challenge national security policies that violate civil rights and civil liberties.
“I am grateful to be named a Paul & Daisy Soros Fellow. I look forward to building a community of friends and mentors who are as passionate about our new-found home as they are about our unique coming-of-age experiences as new Americans,” she said. “The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans is special in that it celebrates and nurtures the transformative journeys of people and ideas. This is especially profound given the political crisis around immigration globally, wherein millions of people are exposed to violence and drastic risks in hopes of finding opportunities elsewhere.”
Daisy M. Soros and Paul Soros, both Hungarian immigrants, founded the Fellowship program in 1997 and have contributed $75 million to the organization’s charitable trust. More than 550 Fellowships have been awarded over the program’s 18-year history.
The 2016 Fellows, who are 30 or younger, come from a range of socio-economic backgrounds. “The Fellows are from all different countries and socio-economic and religious backgrounds, and they have come to the United States in a myriad of ways – some were born here, while others are asylum seekers, refugees, and green card holders – but they all bring excellence to the table,” said Craig Harwood, who directs the Fellowship program. “They demonstrate that immigrants, regardless of their background, continue to be a critical part of our nation.”
Saed, inspired by youth-led protest movements in the U.S. and abroad, spent two summers curating technologies for activists during the Arab-Spring protests as a Google intern. She helped to launch the Speak2Tweet product in 2012, which allowed protesters across Sudan and Ethiopia to tweet using their analog phones despite sporadic Internet connectivity.
As a Quest Bridge Scholar at the University of Pennsylvania, Saed conducted independent research on Islamic finance, served as chair of an umbrella organization for student groups of the African Diaspora, and was a columnist for “The Daily Pennsylvanian.” Upon graduation, she worked with the Asian Women’s Leadership University Project as a Henry Luce Scholar in Malaysia.
At HLS, Saed is a student-attorney in the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau. She is also president of the Muslim Law Students Association, and a research assistant to Professor Intisar Rabb.
In addition to receiving up to $90,000 in funding for the graduate program of their choice, each new Fellow joins the prestigious community of recipients from past years, which includes U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, leading Ebola researcher Pardis Sabeti, and Oscar health insurance co-founder Kevin Nazemi.
In addition to receiving up to $90,000 in funding for the graduate program of their choice, each new Fellow joins the prestigious community of recipients from past years, which includes U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, leading Ebola researcher Pardis Sabeti, and Oscar health insurance co-founder Kevin Nazemi. Harvard Law faculty members Jeannie Suk ’02 and Daphna Renan were also Soros fellows.