Four CUNY women – two graduate students and two alumnae who are charting extraordinary academic, cultural and professional paths in this country – are among 30 immigrants or children of immigrants awarded the highly competitive Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans this spring.
The new Soros Fellows were selected from 1,200 applicants. The award provides each Fellow with up to $90,000 for graduate studies.
Two of the CUNY winners are graduates of Macaulay Honors College at Hunter College. Amal El Bakhar, who graduated in 2011 with a B.A. in biochemistry and women and gender studies, is a previous recipient of a Coro Fellowship in Public Affairs (2011-12) who attends Harvard Law School. Born in Morocco, an immigrant at 9, she sought a secular high school and college education over some of her traditional family members’ objections, and has worked at the Center for Reproductive Rights. She hopes to work for the New York State Attorney General’s office prosecuting sex crimes.
Evgeniya Kim, a 2010 Macaulay at Hunter graduate, is currently pursuing an MBA at Yale School of Management. The product of four generations of migration – from North Korea to the Soviet Far East to Uzbekistan where Kim lived until 14 — she and her family arrived in the United States in 2002, only to fall victim to a visa scam and face eight months in a lockup before receiving asylum. Kim studied international relations as an undergraduate, then worked at the Soros Economic Development Fund, analyzing the impact of its investments on 21.4 million people in 20 countries.
Polina Nazaykinskaya, now in a Ph.D. program in composition and music theory at the CUNY Graduate Center, was born in Russia, where she studied performance and composition at the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory before earning a master’s degree in composition and theory at Yale School of Music. Now studying with Distinguished Professor Tania León of Brooklyn College, Nazaykinskaya has won numerous awards including the Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and her work has been performed by the Minnesota Orchestra, the U.S. Army Orchestra, and the Russian National Orchestra among other ensembles.
Julie Zhu, now earning an M.F.A. in painting at Hunter College, double majored in mathematics and art at Yale, the daughter of parents who were among the first to go to college after China’s Cultural Revolution and who came to this country for graduate school in mathematics. She plays the carillon – a tower of hanging bells played from a keyboard — pursued advanced studies at the Royal Carillon School in Belgium and recently was appointed carillonneur at St. Thomas Church in midtown Manhattan. In 2012, she cofounded the Sitka Fellows Program, a multidisciplinary residency in Alaska for people under 30 that has drawn astrophysicists, CEOs, artists, writers and cartoonists. At Hunter, she is working on accordion books that evoke an experience of time and music, much as one might experience memory.
About The City University of New York: The City University of New York is the nation’s leading urban public university. Founded in New York City in 1847, the University comprises 24 institutions: 11 senior colleges, seven community colleges, the William E. Macaulay Honors College at CUNY, the CUNY Graduate School and University Center, the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, the CUNY School of Law, the CUNY School of Professional Studies and the CUNY School of Public Health. The University serves more than 274,000 degree-credit students and 218,083 adult, continuing and professional education students. College Now, the University’s academic enrichment program, is offered at CUNY campuses and more than 300 high schools throughout the five boroughs of New York City. The University offers online baccalaureate degrees through the School of Professional Studies and an individualized baccalaureate through the CUNY Baccalaureate Degree. Nearly 3 million unique visitors and 10 million page views are served each month via www.cuny.edu, the University’s website.