IDG Student Profile: Sarah Dimson

In the second of a series of IDG student profiles, we meet Sarah Dimson, a first-year Master in City Planning student. 

1. What were you doing before you came to DUSP?

In the months prior to DUSP I conducted research in Tanzania and worked in Ghana. In Tanzania, I researched progressive urban development land strategies. One product of this research is an article I wrote for the Financial Times-This Is Africa, which featured Anna Tibaijuka, Minster of Lands, Housing, Human Settlements and Development.

In Ghana, I worked as a Visiting International Professional for CHF International-Ghana.  I provided strategic support for urban planning initiatives in Sekondi-Takoradi through CHF’s IncluCity program. IncluCity works to increase municipal capacity through specific urban planning interventions.

2. Why did you choose to come to DUSP?

  I chose DUSP for a few reasons: depth of faculty expertise across different specialization areas; emphasis on practical learning experiences; opportunities to take courses at other MIT schools and Harvard; and more broadly, because of MIT’s extraordinary spirit of entrepreneurship, risk-taking and support for big ideas.

3. What is your current work and/or research?

 My current work and research is geographically focused on East Africa. I’m examining land policy with respect to sustainable energy infrastructure on a regional scale, housing at the city level, and the planning link between the two.

 4. How do you draw on resources at DUSP to support your work and/or research?

DUSP is rich with a variety of resources. In order to understand the array of resources and how best to tap into them, I engage the DUSP faculty and staff.  Faculty members have deep knowledge of who, within DUSP and beyond, is working on specific issues, questions, etc. The DUSP staff builds on faculty member’s resource knowledge by providing operational support.

5. What resources, working groups or other affiliations outside of DUSP do you draw on to support your work and/or research?

 To date, I’ve drawn upon resources through the Sloan School of Management, MIT Energy Initiative and the Harvard Committee on African Studies. 

6. What is unique about learning international development in an urban planning department?

 In an international developing country context, people are currently moving to cities at unprecedented rates. The degree of urbanization and consequential need to physically, economically and socially support growth is creating incredible challenges and opportunities for planners. Understanding the unique theoretical and practical aspects of international development in an urban planning setting is essential to implementing sustainable development interventions. I couldn’t think of a better time, for me, to be at DUSP. 

7. Where you like to be after DUSP?

In East Africa – implementing regional and city planning solutions through my private development firm.


The photo above was taken in Mgoa, a coastal fishing village in the Mtwara, Tanzania region. The area will soon be designated as an official Planning Area for development.