Joel Sati came to the United States from Kenya when he was nine, became a DACA recipient at 19 and graduated with a degree in philosophy from City College in 2016. Last week, Sati’s journey reached a milestone when he was named a winner of one of the nation’s most hard-earned academic honors, the Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans.

Sati, who is now working on a Ph.D. in the Jurisprudence and Social Policy program at the University of California at Berkeley – to be followed by a law degree at Yale – was chosen as one of 30 Soros winners nationwide from a pool of 1,766 applicants. The $90,000 fellowship rewards high achievement by immigrants and children of immigrants who are selected on the basis of their potential to make significant contributions to American society, culture or their academic fields.

Sati’s award, announced April 17, is among a host of prestigious honors for CUNY students and recent graduates so far this year. The list includes 15 Fulbright Scholarships that will send CUNY students to countries around the world for one-year research studies. And it includes nine National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships for graduate students in fields ranging from bioengineering to geophysics.

CUNY Chancellor James B. Milliken said, “CUNY students have won dozens of the nation’s most competitive and prestigious academic honors in recent years – Fulbrights, Soros and NSF fellowships, Rhodes and Truman scholarships, among others – and this is another banner year. We’re particularly proud of the determination and achievement of students like Joel Sati, a young man who represents our highest aspirations as a university and a country.”

The Soros Fellowships were established in 1997 by Paul and Daisy Soros, Hungarian immigrants and American philanthropists who created a $50 million endowment to help high-achieving, first-generation Americans further their graduate studies. For 25 years the fellowship winners were green card holders or naturalized citizens; now the program includes recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program established by President Barack Obama in 2012 to protect immigrants who came here illegally as children.

Sati came to this country with his mother in 2002 and lived in Georgia, and then Maryland, for 11 years. Because he was undocumented – something he learned only when he started applying to colleges – he was ineligible for most financial aid. His mother worked two jobs to send him to a community college in Maryland, but DACA was adopted soon after he began and Sati became one of its early recipients. With his new status came financial aid opportunities that allowed Sati to transfer to City College, where he became one of the campus’s academic stars and an activist on immigration issues.

“Coming from a working-class immigrant background, being honored in this way is one of the best achievements I could have ever hoped for,” Sati said of his Soros Fellowship, adding, “It’s always great to make my mum proud. It’s because of her that I am where I am.” And he’s thankful to City College and his mentors there. “For years City College has helped amplify the stories of immigrants like myself,” Sati said. “I would not be where I am without CCNY.”

CUNY’s 16 Fulbright Scholars, meanwhile, join a select group of U.S. students who have earned either grants to travel abroad for research or graduate study or an English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) to teach in another country. In each case of this highly competitive process, the students have been endorsed by a U.S. screening panel and accepted by their host country.

  • Ambar Castillo, LaGuardia Community College: research in India
  • Vaiva Aglinskas, The Graduate Center: research in Lithuania
  • Jaclyn Callery, Baruch College: ETA in Argentina
  • Grace Cesario, The Graduate Center: research in Iceland
  • Kelsey Chatlosh, The Graduate Center: research Chile
  • Istou Diallo, John Jay College of Criminal Justice: research in India
  • Victoria DiTomasso, Hunter College/Macaulay Honors College: research in Germany
  • Emmanuel Dwomoh, Hunter College: research in Uganda
  • Etienne Forbes, City College: master’s study in Amsterdam
  • Eleni Katechis, Hunter College: ETA in Taiwan
  • Claire Lynch, City College/Macaulay Honors College: ETA in Spain
  • Ardit Marku, Hunter College: ETA in South Korea
  • Michael Mazzeo, Hunter College/Macaulay Honors College: ETA in Spain
  • Jawad Rashid, CUNY Baccalaureate for Unique and Interdisciplinary Studies/City Tech, research in Republic of Moldova​.
  • Marielle Ray, Hunter College/Macaulay Honors College: ETA in Argentina
  • Jonathan Zisook, The Graduate Center: research Poland

In addition, Lindsay Griffiths, Macaulay Honors College at Hunter College, won an ETA to Colombia, but had to turn it down to start a Ph.D. program at Princeton University.

The following CUNY graduates are this year’s winners of grants from the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship program. They are listed with their undergraduate colleges, current institutions and fields of study:

  • Monica Vanessa Avilez, Lehman College: Biological Anthropology
  • Ioannis Eugenis, Brooklyn College and Stanford University: Bioengineering
  • Stanley Ko, City College and Rutgers University: Marine Geology and Geophysics
  • Emily Lau, Hunter College: Organismal Biology
  • Tamar Lichter, Queens College: Mathematical Sciences
  • Lizhi Liu, City College and Columbia University: Systems and Molecular Biology
  • Roland Maio, City College: Machine Learning
  • Tannuja Devi Rozario, John Jay College of Criminal Justice and University of Massachusetts, Amherst: Sociology
  • Mary Regis Shanley, Northeastern University and CUNY Graduate School University Center: Neurosciences

In addition to the winners of major national awards, CUNY has announced the eight recipients of its own prestigious award – the Jonas E. Salk Scholarships for the study of medicine and biomedical sciences. The award provides $8,000 to each student to defray the cost of their medical and graduate research studies. Below are the winners with their undergraduate CUNY colleges and the institutions where they will pursue their medical and research education.

  • Lisset A. Duran, John Jay College/Macaulay Honors College and Princeton University
  • Kevin Christian Gonzalez, City College and Columbia University
  • Elizabeth Gorodetsky, Hunter College and New York University School of Medicine
  • Jack Jnani, Hunter College and Stony Brook University School of Medicine
  • Anan Kazi, City College/Macaulay Honors College and SUNY Downstate College of Medicine
  • Marharyta Labkovich, Hunter College and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
  • Daniela Mikhaylov, Hunter College/Macaulay Honors College and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
  • Lily Lee, Brooklyn College/Macaulay Honors College and SUNY Downstate College of Medicine
  • Iqra Nadeem, Brooklyn College and SUNY Downstate College of Medicine

The City University of New York is the nation’s leading urban public university. Founded in 1847, CUNY counts 13 Nobel Prize and 23 MacArthur (“Genius”) grant winners among its alumni. CUNY students, alumni and faculty have garnered scores of other prestigious honors over the years in recognition of historic contributions to the advancement of the sciences, business, the arts and myriad other fields. The University comprises 24 institutions: 11 senior colleges, seven community colleges, William E. Macaulay Honors College at CUNY, CUNY Graduate Center, CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, CUNY School of Law, CUNY School of Professional Studies and CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy. The University serves more than 275,000 degree-seeking students. CUNY offers online baccalaureate and master’s degrees through the School of Professional Studies. For more information, visit