Michigan Law 1L Rana Thabata receives Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans

From Michigan Law

Rana Thabata, a 1L, is among 30 recipients of the Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans. She was selected from more that 2,300 applicants to the merit-based graduate program for immigrants and children of immigrants. Fellows are chosen for their achievements and their potential to make meaningful contributions to the United States across fields of study.

Thabata is a first-generation Palestinian American whose parents immigrated to New Orleans in the early 2000s.

She has long been interested in education reform, stemming from her experience in the New Orleans public school system in the wake of 2005’s Hurricane Katrina.

Prior to law school, she worked at several education nonprofits in the city and interned at Orleans Parish School Board when it was in the process of becoming the first entirely chartered school district in the nation.

“This has created a lot of inequities for students and failed to solve others,” Thabata said of the chartering. “I realized I wanted to play a small role in addressing problems like this in education by working on school finance or integrated school systems.”

These experiences, she said, “opened my eyes to a multitude of other problems communities like mine face, and they have pushed me to pursue a career at the intersection of education and economic justice.”

Thabata graduated from Loyola University New Orleans with bachelor’s degrees in political science and economics, becoming the first woman from Loyola New Orleans to win the Harry S. Truman Scholarship in 2019. She then embarked on a
master’s in education policy at University College London’s Institute of Education through a Fulbright US-UK Award.

Immediately prior to entering law school, Thabata worked for two years as a legal assistant at Gupta Wessler LLP, a boutique plaintiff-side appellate law firm renowned for their work in civil rights and Supreme Court litigation.

“I knew that law school was the right path for me to pursue my passions after getting my MA in education policy and realizing that law and policy go hand in hand,” Thabata said. “I chose Michigan because I wanted a supportive community of like minded peers, faculty, and staff.”

Working for change and to honor her community

At Michigan Law, Thabata has participated in the Michigan Access Program, a social justice training program where she learned about Michigan’s Clean Slate expungement law and now works as a volunteer at local expungement clinics in Ann Arbor. She also is a part of MAdvocates, a civil justice student organization on campus, and is a student-attorney focused on immigration issues in the 1L Advocacy Clinic.

This summer, she will intern at the Orleans Parish Public Defender’s office, with an eye toward working in their juvenile section.

As she looks ahead to her year as a Soros Fellow, she is appreciative of the support and the community it represents.

“This fellowship is a testament to the amazing and important contributions of New Americans. It means a lot to me to share a community with people who came to this country to make it a better place and who don’t take the sacrifices of their parents—or sacrifices they might have taken themselves—lightly,” she said.

“At the end of the day, my future law degree is a culmination of my parents’ hard work to raise my siblings and me in a country foreign to them. I will never forget that, and this fellowship allows me to honor and celebrate that in community with other immigrants and children of immigrants.”  

Since the Soros Fellowship’s founding 26 years ago, the program has provided more than $80 million in funding to 805 fellows from 103 countries, and recipients have studied a range of fields from medicine and the arts to law and business.

The Soros Fellowship alumni network includes U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, who is the first surgeon general of Indian descent and helped lead the national response to Ebola, Zika, and the coronavirus; lawyer Julissa Reynoso, who serves as the U.S. ambassador to Spain and Andorra; Damian Williams, who is the first Black U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York and serves as chair of the attorney general’s advisory committee; and composer Paola Prestini, who was named by NPR as one of the “Top 100 Composers in the World” and plays on major stages across the world.

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