Students 2008-2010

Débora Alejandra Swistun, Argentina


Débora was born and raies in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She studied Economics at the Universidad of Buenos Aires and graduated as an Anthropologist from the Universidad Nacional de La Plata (Argentina). She worked for environmental government agencies in Argentina for the last three years and conducted research about environmental risk issues and territorial conflicts in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area for Instituto de Investigaciones Gino Germani (Universidad de Buenos Aires). She also worked with NGO’s and grassroots organizations around environmental issues. Together with Prof. Javier Auyero, she published Inflamable, Estudio del Sufrimiento Ambiental (Paidós 2008, with the English translation published in March 2009 by Oxford University Press). She saw the MU programme of Urban Development in International Cooperation as a great opportunity for herself to share and expand her knowledge, experience and perspectives in the ever-changing, challenging fields of research and work.

Safa Ashoub, Egypt

Political Science and Public Administration

Safa was born in Saudi Arabia and raised between Cairo and Riyadh. She acquired her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Public Administration at the Faculty of Economics and Political Science (FEPS) in Cairo University (2005). She worked for the German Development Cooperation (GIZ) in Egypt in the Participatory Development Programme in Urban Areas (GIZ-PDP) for three years between 2005-2008. Working in the field of urban upgrading and encountering the world of slums in Cairo, she became ever more interested in the field of development especially from a political perspective, so she applied for the Mundus-Urbano programme. After completing her master, she returned to Cairo and worked for the think tank of the Egyptian Cabinet (IDSC) for about a year. Currently, she is doing further interdisciplinary research in the area of Urban Politics at the University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom.

Natasha Aruri, Palestine


Natasha was born in Jerusalem in 1984 and is Palestinian. She is a holder of B.Sc. in Architectural Engineering (2006, Birzeit University). She joined the ERASMUS Mundus Urbano in 2008 due to its interdisciplinary, intercultural and development-practice-oriented structure. The program was highly constructive in terms of gaining a critical perspective of the “development industry”. In her master’s thesis, she shed light on the foreign-aid-led development processes that took place in her hometown “Ramallah” after the signature of the Oslo Accords, focusing on the socio-spatial impacts. She is currently based in Berlin and enrolled at the University of Duisburg-Essen (Germany) in the doctoral program “Advanced Research in Urban Systems.” She remains a peace activist for the Palestinian cause.

Nebojša Čamprag, Serbia

Urban Planning

Nebojša graduated as an urban planner and obtained his M.Sc. degree in Contemporary Architecture and Urbanism. After some working experience, mainly in heritage restoration and as a teaching assistant at the university in his home country, his professional development continued as an Erasmus Mundus scholar at TU Darmstadt and IUG Grenoble. In his M.Sc. thesis, he dealt with the role of NGOs in the determination of conservation politics, as a comparative study between Germany and the United Kingdom. Nebojša is employed as an architect and urban planner in an architectural office in Frankfurt, and is working at the same time on his PhD research, dealing with the challenges of urban identity building.

Guillermo Takano, Peru


Guillermo Takano is 28 years old and an architect by profession.  He worked in the last few years for the Urban Program in the Center for the Studies and Development Promotion, an NGO that has been working for more than 40 years. He worked specifically in the Urban Observatory, which has three main lines: political and academic lobbying, applied research, and GIS system providing information for decision makers and community based organizations.

Tanya Jimenez, Mexico


Tanya was born in Mexico City, Mexico. In 2004, she graduates from ITESM-CCM with a Bachelor of Arts in Architecture and a Diploma in Construction Management. After three years of working in a design studio in residential projects, she decided to take part in the solution of the conflicts in her city, so she started working for local government. There she realized that she needed more than a BA degree and applied for a Master in Urban Development, looking for proper skills that can help her to reach her personal and professional goals.

Nicolas Serrano Cardona, Colombia


Nicholas was born in 1978. He is graduated as an Anthropologist from the Universidad Nacional de Colombia (2004) and has a Master in Habitat from the same University (2007). In 2006 he became a member of the Corporación Puerta Abierta (Colombian NGO) where he have worked with a forcefully displaced population in small and medium cities of Colombia. He also worked as an independent consultant on gender, environmental conflicts and community participation. He is interested in migration, urban-rural development, and civil society-state relationships.

Muhammad Shamsuzzaman, Bangladesh


Muhammad holds a degree in Architecture from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (B.U.E.T.) and in Urban Planning from the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT). He worked for seven years, from 1998 to 2006 with several international donor-funded urban development projects in his home country of Bangladesh. Just before joining Mundus Urbano, he worked with an international organization (UN-HABITAT) in Kosovo, which was in a post-conflict transitional economy. The main challenge in practicing urban planning there was to cope with its changing economic and governance system.  Over time, new forms of problems arose and new theories and paradigms developed that needed updating. This led him to be his interest in Mundus Urbano course from where he expected to learn about the strategies to work with the above-mentioned problems in the practical field.

Benjamin Katende Mukiibi, Uganda

Urban Planning

Benjamin Mukiibi has over 4 years of experience in a developing country with work at policy, programme and project levels. His interest lay in understanding how urban changes are witnessed and approaches that needed to ensure sound and effective urban environmental management.

Jack Abuya, Kenya

Sociology and Urban Planning

Jack has a B.A. in Sociology and  M.Phil. in Development Studies from Moi University, Kenya. He also has a Post Graduate Diploma in Integrated Urban Planning from The Technical University of Blekinge, Karlskrona, Sweden. He worked for ten years in Kisumu City, Kenya  as the Deputy Director of Social Services and Housing and  as the Director of City Planning as well as lecturer in the Urban Management Master Programme at the Ethiopian Civil Service University College in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. His research interests are in the fields of: urban poverty reduction strategies, urban infrastructure and transport provision , slum upgrading, local government management, cities and climate change. He is currently a lecturer and Ph.D. student at Maseno University, Kenya as well as the Director of an NGO, Urban Solutions Kenya.

Luciana Hosannah, Brazil


Luciana is 24 years old and comes from Brasil. She has lived in five different countries throughout her life and has always had a very international experience. She holds a degree in architecture and urban planning from the Universidade de Brasília in Brasil, where she had the  opportunity to work on college projects in shanty towns and irregular settlements. By working closely with the local communities and government agencies, she gained a whole new perspective on the world. Joining both of these different experiences, international and local, she acquired a new and unique way of perceiving the urban issues in developing countries. By taking te Mundus Urbano, she learned to fine tune and develop this perception and intends to use it in her future professional career.

Lizzette Soria Sotelo, Colombia

International Development Studies and Sociology

Lizzette participated as a member of the second cohort of Mundus Urbano. Before joining the program, she accumulated five years of research experience on social policy and urban governance. Upon graduation in 2010, inspired by professors and colleagues from different disciplines and cultures, she decided to focus her experience in putting smart urban ideas into action. Accordingly she worked for two years as a technical advisor for Oxfam in Honduras, where she collaborated with local NGO’s and government officials to design, monitor and evaluate social development projects.  Presently, intertwining her studies, research and field experience, she works as the Latin America Program Coordinator at the WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities, based in Washington, DC. As the only urban sociologist, she incentivizes her team to value and integrate expertise from social sciences in urban development projects and research. In this way, she succeeded in launching the Gender & Cities blog initiative as one of the top 20 websites for urban planners and lead gender integration strategies for urban and transport projects in Latin America.

Zhang Shengbo, China

Public Administration

Zhang Shengbo is 22 and comes from China. She has a bachelor’s degree in Public Administration and is interested in urban management and urban planning.

George Kassab, Lebanon


Having a high interest in cosmopolitan development, George pursued his undergraduate studies in the built environment and graduated in 2005 with a Bachelor of Architecture (cum laude) from Notre Dame University. Since then, he worked in project management, architectural consultancy, and research on urban issues. However, the bulk of his professional background lies in his experience working on climate-responsive architecture and sustainable master planning. He also volunteered in rights-based NGOs, working on human rights advocacy, conflict resolution, and awareness campaigns.

Brenda Pérez-Castro, Colombia


Brenda is from Colombia and holds a degree in Sociology from Universidad del Rosario, Bogotá. She has a strong professional interest in urban policy and its effects on social reality. Her work experience with the NGO “Fundación Ciudad Humana” focused her interests on the participatory construction of sustainable cities, particularly in the field of urban mobility.

Zhang Feifei, China


Feifei holds degrees from the China University of Geosciences and the Chinese Academy of Sciences. She is a Geographer with a strong research history in peri-urbanization, migration, and urban agriculture. Her work has involved consultancy for various development organizations.

Gadzeni Mulenga, Zambia

Urban and Regional Planning

Gadzeni is an urban and regional planner from Zambia with three years of work experience as deputy director of planning at the Choma Municipal Councial, Zambia. Her experience includes physical as well as socio-economic planning for the Choma community. As employee of the Municipal Council, she dealt with issues surrounding land ownership and  settlement upgrading and coordinated development efforts among the public sector, private firms, and civil society organizations.

Isabel Parés-Ramos, Puerto Rico


Isabel is an urbanist, environmental scientist and geographer from Puerto Rico. As a researcher, she studied human dimensions of global environmental change, focusing on population and land use changes in urban and rural ecosystems of Latin America. Her growing interest in understanding and promoting sustainable human-nature interactions lead her to Mundus Urbano, which inspired and empowered her ongoing projects. She continues as a researcher in urban topics at the university, and recently founded Urbánica, an environmental consultancy group for the design and implementation of ecological urban development strategies in Puerto Rico, working mainly on climate change, food and transportation issues.

Kara Siahaan, Indonesia


Kara holds a Bachelor of Science in Marketing from Pennsylvania State University. She has substantial work experience in the field of disaster management for the French Red Cross in Indonesia. Her work mainly focused on capacity building for disaster risk reduction.

Maria Ustinova, Russia

Public Administration

Maria holds a Master degree in Public Administration from the Higher School of Economics (Moscow, 2006). She worked as a lead expert at the Ministry for Territorial Affairs of Moscow Region and as a teaching assistant at the Faculty of Public Administration of the Higher School of Economics. She completed Mundus Urbano at the University of Rome Tor Vergata, with an internship at the Transport Division of United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) in Geneva, Switzerland. She also worked as an expert for ECORYS-UK, evaluating the quality of the Eramus Mundus programmes in different European universities. Since 2009 she became an active member of the Erasmus Mundus Students and Alumni Association (EMA), which aims to create international professional and personal network for Erasmus Mundus graduates. In 2011 she was elected as President of the EMA regional chapter and has coordinated alumni integration activities in 13 countries within the Eurasian region. Currently she is based in Moscow and works as an international development consultant providing research and related services to UNECE and ICUnet.AG.

Mbongeni Ngulube, South Africa


Mbongeni is an architect with degrees from the University of Johannesburg and the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa. He worked in several architecture and urban design offices on projects dealing with the redevelopment of South African city centers. He also recently founded his own firm to work on social housing design.

Visar Salihu, Kosovo


Visar is from Kosovo. He is an architect with a degree from the University of Pristina. He gathered most of his work experience in the field of urban heritage preservation, especially the reconstruction of religious sites damaged in the course of the Kosovo conflict.

Christopher Govers, Australia

Environmental Engineering

Since graduating as an Environmental Engineer from the University of Newcastle (Australia) in 1999, he has been based in Australia, then Europe, working in transport infrastructure policy, planning and project implementation.  This has enabled him to develop strong skills in urban project management, but also to understand the socio-political dimensions of development in general. He has always wanted to direct his career towards addressing global sustainability issues, in particular those that pertain to water and energy resource management.  The Mundus Urbano programme constitutes for him, an ideal opportunity to learn skills that will help to tackle global sustainable development challenges.

Susanne Carl, Germany


Susanne received her Bachelor of Science in Geography from the University of Freiburg in 2008. In her thesis, she worked on solid waste management in urban areas of West Africa, especially in Ghana. Before starting Mundus Urbano, she did an internship at the DED (German Development Service) in Bonn.

April Jaucian, Philippines

Legal Management

April has a Bachelor of Science in Legal Management from the Ateneo de Manila University and a Master in Business Administration from the University of the Philippines.  Her work experience, both in the corporate and in the non-profit sector, covered areas in business management, economic and community development, fundraising, research, and international affairs.  She is interested in pursuing an international professional career working, with donor organizations and funding agencies focused on sustainable housing development.

Md. Mostafizur Rahman, Bangladesh

Urban and Rural Planning

Md. Mostafizur Rahman is a sociologist and urban planner. He is currently doing his doctoral research at the Department of Sociology at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia with iMQRES grants. Moreover he is one of the potential faculty members of Urban and Rural Planning at Khulna University, Bangladesh. For his M.Sc. thesis, he kept his focus on exploring the coherent relation between food security and sustainable disaster risk management strategies. Also, he worked on a number of projects that brought together his interest in social protection, food security, social policy and disaster risk management.