Sharing Knowledge, Building Networks

The Special Program for Urban and Regional Studies (SPURS) is a one-year, non-degree program designed for mid-career professionals from developing and newly industrializing countries. SPURS was founded in 1967 as part of MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP), which has a long-standing commitment to bringing outstanding individuals to MIT to reflect on their professional practice in the fields of planning and international development.

SPURS’s leadership team includes: Bish Sanyal, Ford International Professor of Urban Development and Planning, who has directed the SPURS program since 2004; Selmah Goldberg, who joined SPURS in 2021 as the Assistant Director,; Louise Elving, Senior SPURS Lecturer, who co-conducts the program’s weekly seminar and advises Fellows on academic and professional opportunities including professional affiliations; and Babak Manouchehrifar, the SPURS Doctoral Student Associate, as part of the seminar teaching team, Manouchehrifar provides academic and administrative guidance, social coordination, and liaising between Fellows and the administrative team.

Over the past 52 years, more than 739 Fellows from over 123 countries have come to MIT to share their knowledge and develop their planning capabilities. Fellows come from varied fields such as: architecture, sociology, economics, government, and business, but all Fellows center their work on development within their home country. At MIT, Fellows gain exposure to new theories and approaches from other Fellows, faculty, and other practitioners-ideas.

The members of the 2021-2022 cohort include:
Maira Isabel Acosta Fuentes
Fuentes is an independent consultant architect from Honduras, promoting the co-creation of sustainable communities by rethinking spaces, using eco-friendly construction techniques, and applying risk-based design. At MIT, she plans to analyze the synergy among social housing, health, and architectural design in a world impacted by Covid-19.

Oyun-Erdene Altan-Ochir
Altan-Ochir is an electrical engineer at a private energy company in Mongolia, Monhorus International with a focus on better public health outcomes through utility-scale renewable energy solar projects. While at MIT, she plans to explore affordable heating solutions and the use of renewable energy technologies for traditional ger housing neighborhoods in Mongolia.

Magdalena Ayerra
Ayerra is a public policy consultant specializing in the management of place-based cultural and urban redevelopment projects in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Ayerra focuses on using creative industries as tools for social transformation during community level development projects. At MIT, Ayerra is interested in expanding her knowledge of collaborative projects related to urban planning and culture.

Sandra Patricia Camacho Otero
For over 12 years Otero advised on prospective disaster risk management (DRM), including implementing projects in international cooperation for development agencies and in the Mexican national government that address disaster risk management, climate change adaptation, risk transfer, disaster-prevention approach to investment and infrastructure planning. At MIT, Otero seeks to integrate DRM and parametric insurance with disaster resilient infrastructure design in order to reduce the economic losses of companies, cities and governments.

Sharon Shlossberg Dinur
Dinur is the Deputy Director of the City Planning Department of the Jerusalem Municipality. She is responsible for determining the city’s planning policies on matters such as density, employment, transportation, and public space. Dinur develops planning policy that achieves a balance between objectives in conflict: density and open space, preservation of buildings and preservation of the urban ecology, privacy and public space, diversity and attracting young professionals to the city. At MIT, Dinur will investigate how to link density and diversity to make a city a better place.

Oleksandr Dovbnia
Dovbnia is an urban planner from Kharkiv, Ukraine. His work in the urban planning field focused on the creation of urban planning documentation. During his time at MIT, Dovbnia will explore more efficient ways of managing strategic projects to create sustainable urban development.

Samir Ali Khther
Khther is a civil engineer from Iraq, where he manages the construction of a wide variety of industrial facilities and infrastructure projects, such as refineries, power plants, and tank terminals. At MIT, Khther will conduct research on urban environments and focus on learning about new, contemporary approaches to managing infrastructure projects.

Ana Carolina Martínez Quintero
Martínez Quintero is a facilitator in Panama for the Paris Agreement on climate change, serving as the national interface between the government and the NDC Partnership for the fulfillment of national commitments. At MIT, she will explore inclusive and sustainable approaches for climate policy.

Mai Thi Nguyen
As a sustainability design consultant, Nguyen uses her civil engineer experience to introduce and accelerate sustainability in the construction industry in Vietnam. At MIT, Nguyen will focus on comprehensive and integrated approaches to sustainable urban development.

Marie Jeanne Saleh
Saleh is an architect overseeing urban and rural planning at the Ministry of Territorial Planning, Housing and Urbanism of Chad. While at MIT, Saleh will research new techniques in urban and regional planning with a particular focus on improving public transportation.

Maressa de Lacerda Vieira
Vieira is a public servant in Camaçari, Brazil, representing the city on the Watershed Committee and is the secretary of the Municipal Environment Council. She started a program to depollute the city water sources through a series of integrated actions such as building inspections, maintenance of sewage and drainage pipes, providing environmental education, and restoring springs. At MIT, Vieira plans to improve her leadership skills, especially in environmental management, and to deepen her knowledge of both wastewater and watershed management and related public policies.

Muhammet Yuvshanov
Yuvshanov is the Deputy CEO of Closed Joint Stock Company (CJSC) Turkmen Awtoban, responsible for operational management of the construction of a 600-kilometer long highway. During his time at MIT, he plans to research new developments in civil and environmental engineering as it relates to large scale infrastructure projects.