Leslie Ponce-Diaz Awarded a Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans

Leslie Ponce-Diaz (MArch II ’25) has been named a 2024 Paul & Daisy Soros Fellow, joining a class of 30 distinguished graduate students in the United States. The merit-based program for immigrants and children of immigrants awards up to $90,000 to each fellow to support their graduate studies. The award “shines a light on how special it is to be the first in my family to graduate from college and go to a master’s program,” Ponce-Diaz said.

A woman stands in the studio area of Gund Hall holding a newspaper to a page that features thumbnail portraits of different people.
Leslie Ponce-Diaz

The child of immigrants from Mexico, Ponce-Diaz was born in Kansas City, where her father and other family members worked in construction. This early experience sparked her interest in the built environment and design, which she has continued to pursue as a Dean’s merit scholar in the Department of Architecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

In addition to receiving funding for their studies, Paul & Daisy Soros Fellows join a community of recipients and program alumni. “I’m most looking forward to being connected to a community of professionals from across disciplines who share a similar background as me: immigrants and children of immigrants,” Ponce-Diaz said. “It means a lot to be connected to people who understand that part of my identity.”

Prior to arriving at the GSD, Ponce-Diaz pursued a bachelor’s degree in architecture with double minors in nature sustainability and Latin American cultural studies at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). She was awarded the RISD First-Generation Legacy Building Award for her commitments to supporting first-generation and Latinx students on and off campus.

At the GSD, Ponce-Diaz has studied architecture from around the world, including public housing in Paris and Zurich as well as monasteries in Mexico City. “Having the privilege to be able to see architecture and cultures of different places has been a special honor to experience at the GSD,” she said. “Being at the GSD has been important not only for my education, but also for my community back home in Kansas City.”