Carlos Adolfo Gonzalez Sierra

Carlos Adolfo Gonzalez Sierra ’14 has been awarded a Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans, to support his work toward a graduate degree from Harvard University.

The merit-based fellowship program for immigrants and children of immigrants announced this week that Gonzalez Sierra is among an exclusive group of 30 fellows selected because of their potential to make significant contributions to the United States.

Chosen from a record-breaking pool of 2,211 applicants, the 30 fellows will each receive up to $90,000 over two years to support their graduate studies. 

Originally from the Dominican Republic and raised in the United States, Gonzalez Sierra is now pursuing a joint master’s degree in public policy and a doctorate in law at Harvard. He graduated summa cum laude from Amherst with a degree in political science. He was, in 2015, the first Gates Cambridge Scholar from the Dominican Republic, and spent the following year in Beijing as one of the first Schwarzman Scholars studying transnational politics.

The 2020 Soros Fellows are all the children of immigrants, green card holders, naturalized citizens, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) recipients or visa holders. This was the first year that the fellowship was open to all immigrants, regardless of their immigration status, who have graduated from both high school and college in the United States. The fellowship has been open to DACA recipients since 2014.

His family came to the U.S. when he was 11, forced by economic need following the death of his father. Settling in Lancaster, Pa., the family became undocumented after their visas expired.

After college, Gonzalez Sierra eventually moved back to Pennsylvania, to begin a career focused on grassroots engagement, advocacy and policy. The implementation of DACA allowed him to return to school, studying across 10 countries as he pursued his master’s degree in Latin American studies at the University of Cambridge on his Gates Cambridge Scholarship, and then a master’s degree in management science and global affairs from Tsinghua University as a Schwarzman Scholar.

In the intervening years, he has continued to dedicate his energy to advocating for immigrants and seeking policy change, at the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition, Accion Comunal Latinoamericana de Montgomery County and the Pennsylvania Governor’s Advisory Commission on Latino Affairs.

“Our country and universities are enriched by the ingenuity that comes from abroad,” says Craig Harwood, who directs the Soros Fellowship program. “When we honor and invest in new Americans, our nation is stronger.”

“My journey to formally become an American, while still ongoing, has been challenging yet quite rewarding,” Gonzalez Sierra says. “The education I have received in America is allowing me to realize my full potential, despite my immigration status. For that reason, I am forever indebted to this nation. I am committed to a life in public service as a vehicle to protect American ideals and help others achieve their American dream.”

Gonzalez is the fifth Amherst graduate to receive the Fellowship for New Americans. Amherst’s most recent Soros Fellow was Bess Hanish ’13, who applied her 2014 award to the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, where she earned a law doctorate. She is currently an associate at the San Francisco law practice of O’Melveny & Myers. Other fellows from past years include Tatyana Mamut ’96, Oscar Baez ’08 and Laura Huober ’11.