Maria Vertkin ’11 is one of five recipients of the 2017 Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans. Vertkin rose to the top of nearly 2,000 applicants for the $90,000 graduate school fellowship, which recognizes outstanding immigrants and children of immigrants in the United States under the age of 30.
“I am so proud of Maria for this tremendous honor in recognition of her important work for immigrants,” said Antoinette Hays, PhD, RN, president of Regis. “Maria lives Regis’ mission and values of service to the Dear Neighbor and is making significant contributions to our country.”
Born in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, Vertkin immigrated to the United States at age 11. Her experiences gave her a first-hand perspective to how poverty and homelessness disproportionately affected women and minorities.
After graduating from Regis in 2011 with a degree in social work, Maria created Found in Translation, a nonprofit that provides medical interpreter training and job placement for low-income and homeless bilingual women. The organization enables women to turn their most stigmatized characteristic—their linguistic and cultural backgrounds—into their biggest asset in the workforce. Maria’s Regis education and social work background gave her the foundation and skills to start the successful venture.
“At a time when the national conversation seems to be on what immigrants are taking away, we are putting the spotlight on what immigrants from diverse backgrounds contribute to the United States,” said Craig Harwood, director of the fellowship program.
Vertkin joins the prestigious community of fellowship recipients from past years, including U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, Chief Scientist of Artificial Intelligence at Google Cloud Fei-Fei Li, pharmaceutical CEO Vivek Ramaswamy, Lieutenant Governor of Washington Cyrus Habib, leading American Civil Liberties Union attorney Nusrat Choudhury, award-winning writer Kao Kalia Yang, and nearly 600 other New American leaders.
Found in Translation and Vertkin have attracted recognition and awards, including the Echoing Green Global Fellowship, the Grinnell College Innovator for Social Justice Prize, the Richard Cornuelle Award for Social Entrepreneurship, and the Forbes 30 Under 30 Social Entrepreneurs list.