Image of lit up yellow VCU sign at night.

VCU Alumni 10 Under 10 award recipients to be honored for noteworthy achievements

Distinguished graduates from throughout the university will be recognized at a private ceremony Oct. 21.

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When Axana Soltan was 15 years old, she started a nongovernmental organization that has consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council. She helped provide access to medical care, education and advocacy to low-income children in Richmond, as well as internationally. “Early on, I recognized that injustice and poverty exist even in a civilized country like the U.S.,” she says.

Her motivation stemmed from her experience as a refugee. Her family fled Afghanistan under the Taliban in 1999 to escape the harsh regime, which was especially oppressive for women. The family lived in refugee camps in Central Asia for 10 years before immigrating to Richmond in 2009. “Being a refugee has turned me into a global citizen,” Soltan says. “It has taught me the value of keen observation, the surprising strength of a single voice and the lasting importance of advocacy.”

Head shot portrait of Axana Soltan.
Axana Soltan, who earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from VCU, is among this year’s VCU Alumni 10 Under 10 honorees. (Contributed photo)

As a human-rights lawyer, Soltan continues to advocate on behalf of women, children and members of other marginalized populations. Soltan graduated with a B.S. in criminal justice from Virginia Commonwealth University’s L. Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs in 2017 and then earned her Juris Doctor with the highest distinction from the University of the District of Columbia School of Law, where she served on the U.S. Supreme Court Youth Appellate Litigation Clinic and Civil Rights Legislation Clinic. She proceeded to study her LLM at the George Washington University School of Law, where she was selected as a GW Law Merit-Based Scholar and serves as a guiding editor member of “The George Washington International Law Review.” Soltan is currently training in negotiation, litigation and arbitration at Harvard Law School.

On Oct. 21, Soltan will be one of 10 individuals honored by VCU Alumni at its 10 Under 10 awards event, which will be held in person (invitation only). The program celebrates notable alumni who have earned their first VCU degree within the past 10 years. This year’s honorees represent nine schools and colleges and six graduation years; seven of the honorees represent minority populations, and seven are advanced degree holders.

For more than a decade, Soltan has used her passion, education and skills to promote human rights around the world. She brought literacy programs to more than 6,000 Afghan women when she founded a library in the country. When COVID-19 spread widely, Soltan developed a one-piece face mask with a head covering for immunocompromised individuals, particularly those who had lost their hair during chemotherapy. Soltan and her family donated more than 2,200 masks to cancer centers and individual cancer patients.

In her 2017 Wilder School commencement address, she invited students to join her in creating “a world that places human needs and human rights above all,” and she continues to inspire with her commitment to human rights and selfless acts of service.

A glance at the 2023 10 Under 10 honorees:

Hannah Altman

2020 Master of Fine Arts, School of the Arts

Chris Arnatt, Ph.D.

2013 Doctor of Philosophy, School of Pharmacy

Ashley Bland

2013 Bachelor of Science, College of Humanities and Sciences

2013 Bachelor of Science, College of Engineering

2016 Master of Education, School of Education

2023 Post-graduate certificate, School of Education

Kristal Lyn Brown, Ph.D.

2020 Doctor of Philosophy, School of Medicine

Arshelle Carter

2016 Bachelor of Arts, College of Humanities and Sciences

2016 Bachelor of Science, School of Business

Gilbert Michaud, Ph.D.

2016 Doctor of Philosophy, L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs

Arzu Moosvi, Pharm.D.

2015 Bachelor of Science, College of Humanities and Sciences

2020 Doctor of Pharmacy, School of Pharmacy

2020 Post-baccalaureate graduate certificate, L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs

Alton Reid

2013 Bachelor of Science, College of Humanities and Science

Axana Soltan

2017 Bachelor of Science, L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs

Kim Young

2013 Master of Social Work, School of Social Work