Meet the PKG IAP 2020 Fellows!

PKG Fellows receive funding to pursue passion projects in public service all over the world. Awarded Fellows work either individually or as a part of a team, on solo projects or with service agencies in their area of interest.

Below is a list of our 2020 IAP Fellowship recipients, who come from all across the Institute and whose projects target social impact areas such as: health; environment and climate change; economic security; and urban development. 


Ivana Alardin (Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, ’21)

Ivana will be working in San Juan this January with the Foundation for Puerto Rico, a non-profit based on the island that “works to transform Puerto Rico to a destination for the world by driving economic and social development through sustainable strategies.” She will be working with the Whole Community Resilience Planning Group to help build a dashboard to inform residents of the island about how vulnerable to natural disasters their area of the island is. She will mainly be acting as a Data Analysis intern, scraping and cleaning data to help the team build this dashboard. 

Daniela Cocco Beltrame (Urban Studies and Planning, G)

Daniela will be working with the Zimbabwe Homeless People Federation and Dialogue on Shelter, who support low-income urban communities plan and implement their own solutions to the challenges of land tenure security, adequate housing and infrastructure provision. Last summer, as part of their Anti-Eviction Strategy, she analyzed spatial and socio-economic data about 37 settlements, including their eviction experiences. She will now develop and pilot a participatory communication process to present the gathered information to the communities. She will also share her experience in Latin America in forums and meetings to advocate for the end of forced evictions.

Mariam Dogar (Biology, ’20)

Mariam will be working with an NGO called Faros to support their efforts at their Horizon Center in providing workshop training, design teaching, and socio-emotional skill-building to unaccompanied refugee minors from Afghanistan, Syria, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and elsewhere. She will be creating projects and helping to form the curriculum that the center can use for years to come. Mariam began this work last summer with D-Lab and is very excited to return and build more sustainable class programs for the initiative.

Daniel Engelberg (Urban Studies and Planning, G)

Daniel will be working with the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC), the regional planning body for Philadelphia in order to support their long-range planning efforts. As communities in the Philadelphia area face increasing uncertainty from climate change, economic turbulence, and political changes, planning must better account for these uncertainties. Daniel will introduce the long-range planning team to new modeling approaches for planning under uncertainty and will examine their current scenario planning process for this purpose. The end objective is to help DVRPC transform long range planning into policies that communities can support and rely upon.

Claire Halloran (Materials Science and Engineering, ’20)

Claire will be working in the Office of Colorado State Representative Chris Hansen to support their efforts in developing energy and environmental policy. She will be outlining policies to incentivize electric utilities to join a regional transmission organization and strengthen the state-level transmission authority. She will also be interfacing directly with constituents to address their concerns and conducting short-term research on policies that the Representative will be voting on.

Mel Isidor (Urban Studies and Planning, ’21)

Mel Isidor is an interdisciplinary designer passionate about urban planning through creative mediums—including photography, ethnographic research, graphic design, mapping, and illustration. Through the PKG fellowship, she is building a website for the ongoing research initiative A Voice at the Table. The project explores the role affirmative spaces play in promoting community building, empowerment, and resilience for Black womxn in Roxbury, MA. At large, the project seeks to empower the Black womxn’s narrative in the urban planning and design industry.

Hanna Kherzai (Economics, ’20)

Hanna will be working with Greek NGO Faros’ Horizon Center to help develop future programming for their Women’s Center and Boys’ Center. Faros works with vulnerable refugee populations, including women and unaccompanied minors. She will help train teaching staff/teach students about woodworking, 3D printing, and soldering/electronics. The integrated use of this design curriculum aims to empower refugees and improve their socio-emotional health, giving them employable skills and confidence.

Kevin Lee (Urban Planning, G)

Economic inequality and environmental catastrophe are two of the most urgent challenges of our time. While the Green New Deal has attracted much attention from both political aisles, largely ignored has been its call for investments in job training, to help low-wage workers transition into an increasingly technology-driven green economy. To assess the viability of several innovative workforce development models intended to support low-wage workers (especially immigrants, who face additional barriers to skills acquisition), Kevin will be working with the UCLA Labor Center, a national leader in low-wage labor and employment policy. This project will primarily involve mixed-methods research assistance and development of public-facing educational materials, to be disseminated at an upcoming summit for workforce development policymakers and practitioners across California. 

Nina Mascarenhas (Urban Studies and Planning, G)

Nina will be working with the Resilient Mystic Collaborative (RMC) of the Mystic River Watershed Association. In the absence of regional governance bodies in Massachusetts, watershed associations facilitate cooperation between municipalities in building climate resilience. Nina will be working to collect qualitative data on the challenges that municipal planners – especially in lesser resourced communities of the Mystic River Watershed – foresee in the adoption of climate adaptation measures. The aim of this work is to inform collective decision-making in the RMC around the implementation of regionally important strategies such as resilient zoning.

Kenyatta McLean (Urban Studies and Planning, G)

Kenyatta will be working with BlackSpace, a NYC based non-profit, to build out a curriculum and framework for urbanists seeking to ensure work done within the built environment is both critical and just.  She will use the BlackSpace manifesto of 14 design/planning principles as the project’s grounding base. Kenyatta hopes to help BlackSpace continue to develop tools connecting everyday practice to ideas and values centering marginalized people. 

Artur Mendonca (Management, G)

Artur will work with Artemisia, a non-profit organization pioneer in the support and promotion of social impact businesses in Brazil. He will help them develop an acceleration program for social impact business focused on healthcare. He will create frameworks to help Artemisia choose which type of social impact business to accelerate, how to access product feasibility and how to better support the social entrepreneurs.

Catalina Monsalve Rodriguez (Undecided Math/Computation, ‘23)

Catalina will be working in Bogota, Colombia in Campaña Colombiana Contra Minas, helping them educate the communities in Colombia that have been affected by land mines in the country. She will be creating presentations to find donors for existing projects, monitoring projects that are already happening, and supporting the creation of new projects.

Michelle Mueller (Urban Studies and Planning, G)

Michelle Mueller will be working in San Juan Puerto Rico with ENLANCE Caño Martin Peña, a community organization implementing a plan to restore a tidal channel within the San Juan Bay Estuary. Homes built in the wetlands have experienced environmental and health hazards which has been exacerbated with climate change and natural disasters. ENLANCE’s efforts connects ecology, health and housing in an effort to seek environmental justice and community resilience. Michelle will be working with ENLANCE to help tell their story though data analysis and research for their next phase of work.

Prathima Muniyappa (Media Arts and Sciences, G)

Prathima will be working with the Living Bridge Foundation in Pynursula, Meghalaya. She will be field testing a pilot app to crowdsource indigenous ecological knowledge. She will work closely with the Khasi community documenting their knowledge of building living root bridges and arbor architecture. 

Arnav Patel (Mechanical Engineering, ’21)

Arnav will be working in Soroti, Uganda, on developing a fruit dryer capable of operating without sunlight and utilizing biomass combustion effectively without affecting the taste and quality of fruit. This endeavor is a continuation of a group project started in a D-Lab course with community partner, Betty Ikalany, CEO of Appropriate Energy Savings Technology (AEST) and Teso Women Development Initiative (TEWDI) in Soroti. Developing more efficient and capable fruit dryers has the potential to decrease food waste, improve local economy, and continue a pattern of innovation in agriculture in the area. Arnav’s team hope to complete a prototype that will yield favorable results and give more direction for this project moving forward over the next year.

Jasmine Qin (Integrated Design & Management, G)

Jasmine has been working on co-designing solutions with partners in Puerto Rico to create and pilot system solutions to improve community disaster resilience in the face of climate change. As part of her masters thesis, she will be working with communities, municipalities, and humanitarian organizations to test and improve concepts with goals to strengthen social linkages, incorporate local knowledge, and improve collaboration in disaster management on the island. 

Jack Reid (Media Arts & Science, G)

Jack will be working with the Instituto Pereira Passos in Rio de Janeiro to support their efforts in providing useful data to the various Rio city government offices to inform sustainable urban development. To this end, government officials will be user testing a prototype model that he is developing that will improve understanding of the dynamics at the interface of urban development and mangrove forests. In addition to receive feedback on his model, he will also be conducting interviews with government officials, local community members, and university researchers to better understand the needs of the community and to inform the development of future versions of the model.

David Robinson (Urban Studies and Planning, G)

David will be working with City Life Vida Urbana (CLVU), a longstanding tenant’s rights organization in Boston, to write a report about the disproportionate impact of evictions on Boston’s low income majority non-white neighborhoods. David has been working on this project since April 2019, conducting geospatial and statistical analysis of Boston Housing Court records from 2014-2016 to examine the relationship between eviction rates and the demographic characteristics of neighborhoods where they occur, including race, class, gentrification and building development. The final phase of this project will involve working with CLVU’s communications manager and a graphic designer to develop a compelling report that can be used to inform anti-displacement policy, support local anti-displacement organizing efforts, and inform the public narrative on displacement in Boston.

Jonars Spielberg (Urban Studies and Planning, G)

Jonars will be working in rural communities in Senegal studying how farmers and government officials interact. His project will try to understand: 1) how farmers gain access to the information, services, and products they need to sustain their agricultural activities; 2) how government officials responsible for implementing agricultural programs and policies make decisions and allocate resources; and 3) how farmers and government officials build relationships, and what the nature of those relationships are. By better elucidating how policies are actually implemented in practice, and what conditions and factors determine who gets what when, his goal is to inform the design of more effective and more equitable policies in the future. Jonars also has a Fulbright Scholarship for this work.

Vanessa Toro Barragan (Urban Studies and Planning, G)

Vanessa Toro Barragan will support CoLab and its local partners in the Colombian Pacific in co-designing a curriculum framework drawing from key concepts and learnings emerging from the Pacific. The group will conduct an analysis of inclusive regional development. Knowledge production and regional analysis will be conducted through interviews of government staff, local leaders, and CoLab staff; review of workshop materials; and attendance of key government meetings. The final documents will respond to these key questions: What are the existing local civic and innovative strategies and how are they leveraged in the Pacific in order to transform traditional government planning practices towards inclusion?

Kiara Wahnschafft (Mechanical Engineering, ’21)

Half of Nairobi’s population has minimal to no access to safe sanitation, leaving individuals prone to disease and harming the city’s productivity. Kiara will be working with Sanergy, a company that is providing non-sewered solutions for waste management, on the Future Initiatives team. She will be helping to develop technically viable and financially effective models for waste management and recycling, testing her solutions in Sanergy’s waste treatment pilot. The aim of the work will be the optimal design and financial analysis of a waste management site.

Gabriela Zayas del Rio (Urban Studies and Planning, G)

Gabriela will be working with Corporación del Proyecto ENLACE del Caño Martín Peña, a community-based organization in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The organization has been leading an ecological restoration project in eight adjacent communities that live near a highly polluted channel. Their aim is to protect natural habitat and reduce flooding while simultaneously improving public health outcomes. Gabriela will be supporting their efforts by analyzing existing data and producing maps on the socioeconomic distribution of public health benefits resulting from ongoing ecological restoration.

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