Students 2011-2013

Venkat Aekbote, India

Architecture and Planning

Venkat holds a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture and Master’s degree in Urban and Rural Planning, both from India.  He has then been working in India for about four years as an Architect-Urban Planner on prestigious public and private urban development projects. Besides having varied experiences in planning projects, he also had research experience as Project Associate for a research study commissioned by the Ministry of Urban Development, Government of India. His research interests are diverse, but revolve around urban challenges namely building resilience, sustainable planning, addressing poverty and other social issues in planning.

Ilinca Bajenaru, Romania


Ilinca holds a Diploma of Architecture from the Faculty of Architecture, UAUIM Bucharest (2008). Her academic focus has been on housing projects and urban planning. During her studies, Ilinca worked in the construction industry and completed an internship in an urban planning studio in the Netherlands. After graduation, while working as a designer and collaborating with architectural practices for various projects (mainly feasibility studies), Ilinca became increasingly preoccupied with urban social matters. She is especially interested in the phenomenon of socio-spatial segregation.

Christine Joyce Betia, Philippines

Agricultural Economics

Kit’s interest in urban development spurs from her exposures and experiences gained in working and living in metropolitan areas. Her involvement in the Philippine’s lead planning and development agency deepened her technical skills and capacity of addressing rural and urban demands and concerns. Primary to her tasks are disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation concerns, and provision of technical assistance to local development plans. She finished her Bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Economics with Honors from the University of the Philippines Los Baños.

Lia Brum, Brazil

Social Communications and International Relations

Born and raised in Rio de Janeiro, Lia has worked for three years in an organization dedicated to leverage resources for biodiversity conservation, facilitating environmental finance networks. Topics related to globalisation and its impacts on the way people live, behave and transform the planet, especially in cities, have always inspired her. She is eager to work more closely with issues that directly affect human well-being. Taking part in Mundus Urbano is a unique opportunity to connect her previous experience in international cooperation with the will to overcome the challenges of the growth of cities in the developing world.

Blanca Calvo, Catalunya


Blanca grew up in Barcelona, where she got her Bachelor’s degree in Architecture. When she finished her degree, Blanca worked as a volunteer in an NGO where she worked in cooperation. The idea of a multidisciplinary education became the reason why she wants to complement her education in architecture with a social dimension.

Slavica Cepic, Serbia

Landscape Architecture

Slavica studied Landscape Architecture at the University of Belgrade. Following her graduation in 2008, she did an internship at the Institute of Ecology in Klagenfurt, Austria, where she had the opportunity to participate in a wide range of projects covering the domains of planning and management of naturally protected areas. Afterwards, she got a full-time job in a Belgrade-based architecture/engineering office where she worked for two years. Coming from the Balkans, she is strongly inclined to draw a comparison between urban development practices of Eastern and Western Europe, but also curious to learn from experiences of countries around the globe.

Connor Cox, USA

Sustainability and Architecture

Connor grew up in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul metropolitan region in Minnesota, USA. He attended Arizona State University and studied Sustainability with an emphasis on architecture and urban development. In 2010, he began working for a green building consultancy in Phoenix, Arizona that specializes in project management of LEED certified buildings. He plans to focus his future research on transit-oriented development and hopes to begin a career in transit planning. The Mundus Urbano programme provides him with a unique opportunity to learn about urban development in an international and interdisciplinary context.

Uzair Faruqui, Pakistan


Uzair was born in 1977. He grew up in Saudi Arabia and spent his childhood and teen years there before heading back to Pakistan to complete his Bachelor’s degree in Architecture. He has design experience in both architectural and urban renewal projects. He also has substantial experience in 3D visualization and graphic/multimedia design. Uzair currently works with a top contemporary artist from the subcontinent, Rashid Rana, to design, develop and fabricate complex sculptural pieces. However, an internationalist by nature, he has always wanted to do something more. The Mundus Urbano programme is a step in that direction.

Lina Gast, Colombia

Architecture and Anthropology

Lina was born in Medellin, but considers Bogotá to be her hometown. She was raised in an environment that stimulated her thirst for knowledge, since her parents are both widely interested in pursuing academic, cultural and social interests. With this background, she enrolled at the Universidad de los Andes in 2004 and graduated as an Architect in 2009 and as an Anthropologist in 2010. Lina has experience in working within communities with very limited resources in Bogotá. Between 2009 and 2011, she worked as a Teaching Assistant within the Department of Architecture of the Universidad de los Andes.

Sung Hyun Jang, South Korea

Civil Engineering

Sung was born in Mokpo, a small town in South Korea. He studied Civil engineering at the University of Seoul. After graduating in 2006, he worked at a construction and engineering company for about three years, where he participated in road construction projects. He is interested in sustainable development. Based on his work experience, he wants to research urban transportation systems and urban environments. Once he finishes the programme, his expectation is to obtain knowledge and understanding to improve the quality of life for urban populations who are socially and economically isolated.

Polina Koryakina, Russia


Polina was born in Penza, Russia in 1985. In 2008, she graduated from Samara State University of Architecture and Civil Engineering with an honour’s diploma in Architecture. In 2010, she participated in a professional development program at the Center of Professional Development “Urban Planning” at the Moscow Architecture Institute. She has been working as an architect in a private construction company since 2007. Through her work, she has participated in the design of underground stations, hotels, trade centers and stadiums. Since September 2010, she has been working concurrently as a teaching assistant in architectural design.

David Kostenwein, Austria

Urban and Regional Planning

Born in Austria, David studied urban and regional planning in Vienna and Brisbane. David has a special interest in social aspects of planning and is currently working on projects aiming to use local potential and engagement to improve urban areas with social and economic problems. He worked for an Austrian planning firm and the Centre of Sociology at the Vienna University of Technology for several years. He is a big fan of Camillo Sitte.

Lea Kraitem, Lebanon

Civil and Environmental Engineering

Lea had her Bachelor’s degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering from the American University of Beirut. She grew up in Beirut, a city that suffered war for many years, but with a very positive, life-loving, active population, which looks forward to the future and acts fast to erase wounds. The country experienced exponential growth over the past few years, but with weakness and corruption in administrative control, it has ended up growing without any well-thought planning and proper regulation. Having to face this day-to-day experience enhanced my curiosity to learn and understand more of the concepts of urban development.

Aleksei Lugovoi, Estonia

Human Geography

Aleksei has a degree in Human Geography from the University of St. Andrews (Scotland). He considers his life experiences, rather than academic background, to be one of his strongest attributes. For five years, in between studying, he traveled around the world and worked his way through new places, while learning about people and the spaces they create.

Jamileh Montazer, Iran

Applied Mathematics and Urban and Regional Planning

Jamileh got her Bachelor’s degree in Applied Mathematics from the University of Tehran (2005) and her Master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning from Shahid Beheshti University (Tehran, 2009). After graduation, she started to work in consulting private companies and has been involved in different projects, including renewal and regeneration planning for a slum area and planning for the downtown area of the city of Mashhad. In addition, she taught statistics and quantitative methods in urban and regional planning as a university lecturer at Azad University of Mashhad. She also was a teaching assistant at the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism in Ferdowsi University of Mashhad.

Elena Mozgovaya, Russia


Elena recently received her Master’s degree in Management with specialization in general and strategic management. She was a founder and the first president of a local department of the European Students’ Forum (AEGEE) in her city in Russia. These activities, as well as studying as an exchange student in Sweden for one year, helped her significantly in defining the field of her interests, namely Urban Development and Environmental Management. It also predetermined her choice of the Mundus Urbano programme for future studies.

Liza Juliana Pineda Muñoz, Colombia

Civil Engineering

Lizy studied Civil Engineering at the EAFIT University in Medellin. During her time at university, she was a volunteer for four years atthe NGO Opción Colombia in the preparation and formulation of inter-institutional projects. She did an internship as an on-site advisor for the Office of Planning and Public Works, in a small municipality of the eastern region of Colombia. After graduating, she worked in the housing construction sector in Colombia. In 2005, she won a scholarship to study a Master’s in Construction Management in Madrid. After completing the program, she worked during six years on different public projects in Spain: social housing for the municipality of Madrid, buildings of the International Exposition 2008 in Zaragoza, and the construction, in Barcelona, of a stretch of the high-speed railway line linking Madrid to the French border.

Manuela Pinilla Rodriguez, Colombia


Manuela was born in Bucaramanga, a small city in Colombia. She got her Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Anthropology from the Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá. Throughout this time, she studied and worked for the urban resettlement programme, carried on by the government in Bogotá. This project protects the lives of thousands of citizens that inhabit the marginalised and impoverished hills of the city and live in constant threat of land slides, especially creating strategies of the reconstruction of social networks and social inclusion in the city. The Mundus Urbano programme gives her the opportunity of learning interdisciplinary skills to understand the urban landscape and continue to work for more egalitarian cities in her country.

Noel Sampson, Nicaragua


Noel is an architect with training in housing, urban development and program management in Sweden, Netherlands and the Philippines. He possesses five years of experience in interdisciplinary development projects, including the built environment, economic and sustainable development. Since 2010, he has been focused on designing and managing Sustainable Architecture projects developed with community participation in rural communities in the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua.

Daniela Sanjinés, Colombia


Daniela is from Bogotá and holds a degree in architecture from the Universidad de Los Andes. For the past four years, she has worked as a consultant for the city of Bogotá and the Colombian government in the field of urban planning and land development. During these years, she worked for Bogotá’s Habitat Agency in the policy design of Strategic Urban Projects and at the Urban Renewal Agency in the implementation of Bogotá’s City Center Renewal Plan. In 2010, Daniela began working for the Colombian Ministry of Environment, Housing and Land Development, where she participated in the design and implementation of the nation’s housing policies.

Giselle Sebag, USA


Giselle Sebag, LEED AP Neighborhood Development, is originally from Atlanta, USA. She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 2008 with a Bachelor of Arts in Government and a Bachelor of Science in Architecture. She gained expertise in green building and sustainable development through work in both private architectural practice and non-profit organizations such as the Brookings Institution and Southface Energy Institute. In 2010, Giselle was chosen by the NGO SustainUS to serve as a delegate to the 16th Conference of the Parties at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP-16) in Cancun, Mexico. She is currently working as a co-founder of the social startup ConstruCycle.

Matthew Sharp, South Africa

Social Sciences

Matthew grew up in South Africa and completed a Bachelor’s degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics in 2009 and an Honours degree in Social Anthropology in 2010, both from the University of Cape Town (UCT). His own research focused on urban migration and the informal economy. He has published on urban exclusion/inclusion. He has also done RA work on urban development and was very involved in an education-based NGO for four years in Cape Town. In the future, he would like to be involved in urban planning and policy development in South Africa and in other countries of the Global South. He is very excited about developing his skills for this type of work through the Mundus Urbano programme.

Richard Shepherd, Australia

Planning and Architecture

Richard hails from Sydney and had a ‘normal’ suburban upbringing in a peri-urban town called Camden. He studied architecture and planning at the University of New South Wales. Richard began working for the Rail Corporation New South Wales – the largest rail transport agency in Australia in 2007, and has rapidly expanded his understanding of public transport systems and station development, with a focus on encouraging sustainable and liveable centres based on public transport use.

Sharmin Suma, Bangladesh

Urban and Rural Planning

Sharmin has a Bachelor’s degree in Urban and Rural Planning (URP) from Khulna University of Bangladesh (2010).  At Natural Resources Planners (NRP), she was an intern and later appointed as a Town Planner. Her major task was the preparation of reports and maps using Geographical Information System (GIS) technology. Working for the Master Plan preparation for the town of Bangladesh, she has the opportunity to learn about different planning tools as well as the challenges involved in planning.

Ewa Szymczyk, Poland


Ewa was born in Poland. She graduated in 2010 from CUT (Cracow University of Technology) with a degree of Architecture and Urban planning (M.Sc.). From 2007 to 2008, she studied at Manchester University (B.A. Hons.). During her studies, she took part in international urban planning workshops – IP Exploring the Public City (Delft 2009, Kopenhagen 2010) and Medina Fez Revitalisation (2009). She also participated in architectural workshops – EASA (European Architecture Students Assembly) in 2010 as a participant, and in 2011 as a tutor. She received a 1st prize at a competition held by Silesia Univesity for designing campus public space, and 1st prize at a competition held by the President of the European Parliament Jerzy Buzek for an article about sustainable development. During and after her studies, she gained practical experience in the field of architecture and urban planning and wrote articles for the Polish architectural magazine “A&B.”

Pulendran Tharmendra, Sri Lanka

Business Administration

Pulendran is a native of Jaffna, Sri Lanka. Except for the few years that he lived in Germany and Netherlands, as a refugee from 1984-1988, he spent most of his early years in Jaffna studying and later graduating from the University of Jaffna. He studied Business Administration, specializing in human resource management and graduated with first class honours. After completing his studies, he worked with a national NGO at the capacity of programme officer, for emergency response and early recovery of tsunami-affected communities. After two years, he joined the United Nations Development Programme, initially as a programme assistant for monitoring and evaluation and later as a programme officer for planning and development, focusing on rebuilding the lives of conflict-affected communities in the North and East regions.

Marcelo Vitali, Brazil

International Relations

Marcelo was born in São Paulo, the largest city in Brazil, where he lived most of my life. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations from Pontifícia Universidade Católica (PUC-SP). He worked for almost four years at the Secretariat for International Relations of São Paulo City Hall, supporting municipal authorities in the development of international partnerships, agreements and projects with multilateral organizations, NGOs, diplomatic representatives, international businesses, sister-cities and other such institutions. Before joining City Hall, he worked in the Department of International Affairs and Foreign Trade of the Federation of Industries of the State of São Paulo. He also has some practice as an independent video editor, an activity that he learned in a short course at the London Academy of Media, Film and TV.