Daniela Veloza was over the moon when she heard the news. She called her mom to say she’d been selected as a 2023 Daisy & Paul Soros Fellow. They cried together happily.
Veloza is one of 30 students being honored this year through a scholarship to recognize the contributions of “New Americans.” The gift is worth up to $90,000 for two years of academic support thanks to the Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship. The fellowship program exclusively supports the education of immigrants or children of immigrants as they pursue graduate degrees at leading schools like Harvard, Stanford, Yale, and MIT. The award includes access to a strong network of over 775 fellowship alumni, a select group that also famously includes the U.S. General Surgeon Vivek Murthy.
Veloza explains in an interview with Poets&Quants that for her it honors the sacrifices her mother made. Her mother emigrated from Colombia, South America in search of a better life. Veloza says she saw firsthand the many nights her mom spent working late, carving out a path for their family to be in the states.
ONLY 1.5% OF APPLICANTS WIN SOROS FELLOWSHIPS
Growing up in south Florida, Veloza is an 18-time Colombia national medalist in long-distance swimming, a Harvard alum, and a former manager of The Harvard Shop, an agency of the largest student-run company in the world. She now serves as a lead strategic planner at Coca-Cola FEMSA in Mexico City. She has previously worked at Bain and Company in the Boston offices, working in consumer products while also promoting racial, socio-economic and gender inclusivity across the North American offices as part of the recruiting team.
The fellowship’s selection rigor, entailing a process that begins with a pool of 1,976 applicants plus two selection interviews, a microscopic 1.5% of acceptance, is also a testament to Veloza’s own hard work and dedication.
Soon Veloza will return to her alma mater to pursue an MBA. She plans to remain studying and working in the consumer products industry post-graduation, but hopes to grow services specifically for the Latinx community in areas of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, sustainability, and wellness.
2023 PAUL & DAISY SOROS FELLOWS
2023’s class of Soros Fellows have heritage in 17 different countries, including places in Sri Lanka, China, Ethiopia, Honduras, India, Jamaica, and Mexico. Their fields of study are wide-ranging including physics, law, medicine but also screenwriting, painting, Chicano and Central American studies, women and gender studies and more.
Nathan Mallipeddi plans to get a medical degree and an MBA. Mallipeddi, a 2023 Soros Fellow, is currently in his second year of clinical rotations at Harvard Medicine. Next year, during the first year of the Soros fellowship, he’ll continue a third year of medical school with plans for attending the Stanford Graduate School of Business the year following. As a little kid in the 90s, Mallipeddi’s parents worked full-time. For this reason, he spent some of his childhood living with his grandmother and grandfather in India.
A large part of who he is draws back to family. Mallipeddi makes mention of his grandmother and her resiliency and intelligence. She has a photographic memory. Though she didn’t have much opportunity for education, she is a “real fighter,” Mallipeddi tells P&Qs.
“My dad who, he has the prototypical immigrant story of taking that leap of faith to America that really inspires a lot of the work I do, because entrepreneurship is in a similar way, the leap of faith,” he says.
Mallipeddi explains his career aspirations fall at an intersection of clinical medicine and entrepreneurship. While doing his undergrad at UCLA, he started Myspeech, an international non-profit organization that uses technology to connect people who stutter with resources across speech therapy and community services.
He is getting both an MBA and MD as means to grow the organization, which has already touched more than 25,000 people in more than 25 countries. The goal of Myspeech has always been about access. For Mallipeddi, this cause is directly associated with his personal experience.
“It was the question of ‘Hey, I grew up as a kid who stutters, how come I haven’t heard about personal stuttering all outside of Joe Biden, and that was more recently. How come it was so hard to find help?” he says.
Since its launch in 2017, Myspeech’s mission has taken on different forms. Some initiatives were focused on broader impact through education while others leaned toward advocacy through legislative work. The current phase is focused on how technology can create accessibility for underserved populations.
26 YEARS OF SOROS FELLOWSHIP
The Soros Fellowship has roots tracing to 1997. It began as a charitable trust of $50 million donated by Paul and Daisy Soros, both Hungarian immigrants who became distinguished American philanthropists.
The program was funded once again in 2010 through a gift from the Soros of $25 million. Paul Soros, the older brother of the financier George Soros, immigrated to America after living under communist and Nazi regimes in Hungary. He became an engineer, inventor and businessman, who founded Soros Associates, an engineering firm that revolutionized port technology. In 2013, Paul Soros passed away.
“It has been a joy to see how our Fellows leverage their education over the years to make a deep impact across communities. I’m delighted to welcome this year’s Fellowship class. As we commemorate the 10th anniversary of Paul’s passing, it is beautiful to see how his legacy lives on through every Fellow,” said Daisy Soros in a news release.
In its more than 25 years, the fellowship has awarded scholarships to a community of over 740 immigrants or children of immigrants, Green Card holders, naturalized citizens, DACA receipts, and refugees or asylum seekers. It’s supported students with heritages from over 90 countries. Some alumni includes the poet, pianist and visual artist Lera Auerbach, author Kao Kalia Yang, scientist and CEO Tony Pan, public heath leader Nirvav Shah, and more.
ADVICE FROM A 2023 SOROS FELLOW
Veloza grew up in a melting pot community in Florida. Naturally, the access to beaches and pools nearby led her to pursue the sport of swimming. A recruiter of the sport noticed her at a young age, which eventually led to an incredibly successful swimming career from age 11 to roughly 18.
“Swimming really requires a lot of consistency, a lot of perseverance, a lot of commitment to bringing in the best of yourself and the training you’ve invested in your conditioning alongside your coaches and your teammates,” she says.
Her advice about applying to B-school is not far off. But all jokes aside, she said the application process was intimidating to her because of the amount of material that’s expected to be prepared in advance. She had success in starting the process as early as possible, including budgeting enough time (about a year) to take the GMAT to reduce test anxiety.
She applied to several schools through a consortium, which Veloza says she recommends for any person of color in the U.S. because it allows you to apply to multiple and varied schools. Veloza ultimately felt strong ties to her alma mater HBS, and it eventually became her school of choice.
“It’s going to be an incredible two years returning back to campus, being back in Boston … I’m hoping to migrate from big corporation to a smaller, more uncertain brand that I can work as part of their corporate strategy or brand management team,” she says.
Applications for the 2024-25 are now open and due October 26.
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