Three from UNC-Chapel Hill selected as 2016 Paul & Daisy Soros Fellows

The new Soros Fellowship recipients.
The new Soros Fellowship recipients.

Aisha Saad ’09, Vishwajith Sridharan ’14, and Heidi Vuletich were recently selected as recipients of The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans. This is the first time Carolina has had more than one person selected as a Paul & Daisy Soros Fellow in the same year.

Each year The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans grant up to $90,000 to 30 people for tuition, fees, and stipend support over two years of graduate study in any field and in any advanced degree-granting program in the U.S. for immigrants and children of immigrants. Awardees gain membership in an active community of current and past Fellows that includes U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy.

This merit-based competition seeks applicants with demonstrated creativity, originality, initiative, and sustained accomplishment. Commitment to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights is valued, and the program has no quotas for types of degrees, universities or programs, countries of origin, or gender.

“We congratulate Aisha, Vish, and Heidi on their selection as Paul & Daisy Soros Fellows,” said Chancellor Carol L. Folt. “We are proud to have such distinguished scholars as part of our Tar Heel family. We are a stronger, more diverse Carolina community thanks in part because of the contributions made by students who were born in other countries and complete their studies here before they embark on careers of service in our state, nation and world.”

“We were thrilled to learn that Aisha, Vish, and Heidi were recognized for their potential and achievements,” said Mary Floyd-Wilson, director of Carolina’s Office of Distinguished Scholarships. “The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans is an incredible resource in that it eliminates financial barriers for young people who are determined to succeed and serve.”

Aisha Saad

Saad, 28, was born in Cairo, Egypt and moved to the U.S. with her family during her childhood. She came to Carolina as a Morehead-Cain Scholar and double majored in environmental sciences and engineering from the Gillings School of Global Public Health and Romance languages from the College of Arts and Sciences. After being selected in fall 2008 as a Rhodes Scholar, she earned master’s and doctoral degrees at the University of Oxford and taught for two years at the American University in Cairo. Saad is currently earning a juris doctorate at Yale Law School and plans to pursue both legal scholarship and impact litigation to assist marginalized communities that are fighting environmental and corporate injustice. “It’s no exaggeration to say that UNC instilled the values and foundations that have animated my later academic and professional experiences with academic rigor, commitment to the public interest and a joy of discovery and adventure,” said Saad.

Vishwajith Sridharan

Sridharan, 24, moved to the U.S. from southern India during elementary school. While earning his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the College of Arts and Sciences as a Chancellor’s Carolina Scholar, he was recognized as a Goldwater Scholarship Honorable Mention and a Buckley Public Service Scholar, became a member of Phi Beta Kappa, and served as development director for the Community Empowerment Fund. Sridharan is currently earning a medical degree in the Harvard-MIT Health Sciences program and an MBA at Harvard Business School and hopes to develop translational therapeutics that can be brought to market and benefit cancer care in underserved communities. “I have only fond memories of my time in Chapel Hill,” said Sridharan. “UNC is a place that teaches you that service to your community matters, and teaches you life lessons that are just as important as those learned in the classroom.”

Heidi Vuletich

Vuletich, 27, was born in Chihuahua, Mexico and moved to the U.S. at age five, attending school in both countries until high school. She earned a bachelor’s of science in neuroscience from Regis University in 2011, and is currently enrolled in the College of Arts and Sciences’ department of psychology and neuroscience as its first dual program doctoral student. “My future goal is to work at a research university,” said Vuletich. “I would like to continue investigating the barriers to academic achievement and motivation in underserved youth. This award will allow me to work towards that goal by enabling me to focus more time on research but will also provide me with an opportunity to gain invaluable teaching experience.”

Paul and Daisy Soros, Hungarian immigrants and American philanthropists, established their Fellowship program for New Americans in December 1997 with a charitable trust of fifty million dollars. In 2010, Mr. and Mrs. Soros contributed an additional $25 million to the charitable trust that funds their Fellowships for New Americans.

The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans website: