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Yale Law School Students Named 2008 Soros Fellows

Four Yale Law School students, along with a student entering Yale Law School in the fall, are among 30 extraordinarily accomplished young people named Paul & Daisy Soros New American Fellows for 2008.

Current students Manav Bhatnagar ’09, Ana Munoz ’10, David Noah ’09, and Elina Tetelbaum ’10, along with incoming student Heidi Boutros, each will receive a $20,000 annual stipend and half tuition for up to two years of graduate study at any institution of higher learning in the United States. All five are immigrants to the United States or the children of immigrants.

The fellowship program for New Americans was established by Hungarian immigrants Paul and Daisy Soros in 1997 as a way to “give back” to the country that had afforded them and their children great opportunities. The awards support graduate study by naturalized citizens, resident aliens or the children of naturalized citizens.

“We are so grateful to the Paul and Daisy Soros Foundation for so consistently recognizing so many of our Yale Law School students among their distinguished future leaders,” said Dean Harold Hongju Koh. “Yale Law School has always been a haven for new Americans, and we are proud to be so closely identified with such an exceptional cohort.”

This year, nearly 700 individuals from 257 undergraduate and 123 graduate institutions nationwide applied for Soros Fellowships. They represented 134 countries of national origin. They were selected for the honor by an independent panel that was itself made up of 41 distinguished New Americans. Including the 2008 Fellows, the number of Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships awarded since 1997 now totals 323.

This year’s Yale Law School-affiliated Paul & Daisy Soros Fellows are:

Currently attending Yale Law School:

Manav Bhatnagar is a second-year law student at Yale Law School. He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard with degrees in South Asian Studies and Government.  His Indian heritage and the commitment to service acquired at his Jesuit high school led him, while still in high school, to work with Tibetan refugees in Dharamsala, India, and later in Kashmir. He spent the next five summers working with a human rights lawyer in Kashmir, reporting:  “I watched [Indian] Army personnel shoot and kill our primary witness…to prevent him from testifying against a security officer…I visited a [nine year old] girl who was raped and beaten by soldiers who accused her of hiding information about militants…I was beaten and thrown into a ditch during a police attack on a peaceful rally…” Manav continues to work on Kashmir-related human rights issues, with the Jammu and Kashmir Public Commission for Human Rights, and also with Lawyers Without Borders, the K2-Siachen Peace Park Initiative, and with internally-displaced Kashmiris in the refugee camps. Beyond India, he has served as National Corporate Director for the National Sudan Divestment Taskforce, as a researcher for the Harvard Law School Human Rights Program, and as a member of the Yale Law School International Human Rights Clinic.  He has also worked on weapons proliferation issues with the Managing the Atom Project at Harvard’s Kennedy School. Manav intends to use his education in the service of the U.S. government in a legal or policymaking capacity. 

Ana Munoz is a first-year law student at Yale Law School. She completed her bachelor’s in history at Yale, graduating with honors and the Andrew White prize for her thesis on race politics in farm worker organizing. A fundamental question for Ana has been: how can the polity be expanded so that individuals have the power to see their needs addressed in a fair and organized way? As an undergraduate, she founded a group to advocate for campaign finance reform and later co-led another group that trained organizers to register new voters in eight different states. As an undergraduate, she was involved in organizing and advocating for labor unions employed by Yale University.  She also wrote articles on politics and culture for the New Haven Advocate and the New Journal. After graduation, Ana spent several months in Arizona assisting immigrants and learning more about the difficulties of migration. Following a time organizing Oregonians to vote for John Kerry, she went to work for the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University Law School, where she co-authored reports on voter registration and accessibility of voting machines to disabled voters. She became a field director for a Brennan Center project that helped to end felon disenfranchisement in Rhode Island and Maryland. Ana wants a career that supports “democracy’s ability to invest citizens in their communities and create a fair system of governance.”

David Noah is a second-year law student at Yale Law School. He graduated with honors from the University of Chicago, where he earned a B.A. in History and election to Phi Beta Kappa. He also holds an M.A. in teaching from Pace University, where he was assigned as part of the New York City Teaching Fellows program. After college, David took a job as a middle school teacher in Brooklyn. “I came to realize that for the extraordinary few, circumstances and environment didn’t matter,” he writes, “but for most of my kids, ‘freedom’ had a very limited meaning because the only route to a better life was education, and they weren’t getting enough of it.” He taught math, coached basketball, and started his middle school’s first high school math program for 8th-grade students. All the participants passed the state exam in the program’s first year. David’s career aspiration is to “change the way we (Americans) educate our children.” He is currently preparing to argue an education-related state-constitutional case before the Connecticut Supreme Court; he has also founded a non-profit, College Acceptance, which pairs New Haven high school students with Yale mentors to help them navigate the college admissions process. The program now has nearly 100 volunteers. David recently spent a summer in the New York City Department of Education, and he also interned for a year in the office of Chicago Mayor Richard Daley.

Elina Tetelbaum is a first-year law student at Yale Law School. She received her B.A. in Economics magna cum laude from Harvard. She graduated a member of Phi Beta Kappa and a John Harvard Scholar. Born in Moscow, she has worked to reduce the information asymmetry that leaves some Americans less able to seize opportunities by teaching about racism and civic rights in many cities. She has sought first-hand knowledge of the practicalities of lawmaking at the New York State Office of Court Administration, researching historical acts of collective violence at Facing History and Ourselves as a Steamboat Scholar, and interning as a summer Arthur Liman fellow with a forensic psychiatrist committed to ensuring nondiscrimination in criminal sentencing. With the psychiatrist, she aided in the development of the "Depravity Scale," an empirically based instrument made to help develop a legal standard for “evil” crimes separate from background, race, or religious beliefs. At Harvard, she won the Judge Charles Wyzanski Prize for “concern for theoretical and practical issues of justice.” Elina’s long-term goal is to become a judge. At Yale, she volunteers at the Housing Unit of New Haven Legal Assistance. She has edited both the Yale Law and Policy Review and the Yale Journal on Regulation. She is now working with prisoners, helping prepare them to transition back into society.

Entering Yale Law School in fall 2008:

Heidi Boutros will enter Yale Law School after she completes her MPhil degree in International Relations at Oxford University, where she is a Marshall Scholar. She holds a B.A. in Government from the University of Texas at Austin. She graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, was awarded a Truman Scholarship, and selected a Goldman Sachs Global Leader. While still an undergraduate, she wrote a country report for the U.N. World Conference against Racism, interned with the International Justice Mission in India, worked on the Milosevic trial at the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague, and investigated prison conditions in Russia. Her senior thesis evaluated the motives behind attacks against white farmers in post-apartheid South Africa. She interned with the Public Defender Service of D.C., investigating felonies on behalf of indigents, and later worked for the FBI, where she analyzed drug trafficking and money laundering intelligence. More recently, she has worked with USAID in the Democratic Republic of Congo. She was a leader in the University of Texas’s chapter of Amnesty International and successfully spearheaded the first honor code at the University. Heidi intends a career as “a leader in the human rights field,” which requires “expertise in both law and international relations.” At Yale Law School, she will “focus on learning investigative strategies to expose abuses as well as substantive and procedural knowledge to navigate criminal justice systems on victims’ behalf.”