A mother sitting outside her home in Honduras, holding her child and smiling.

Habitat-USAID/BHA's Humanitarian Shelter and Settlements fellowship

Helping students and young professionals launch their career in the humanitarian shelter and settlement sector

Since 2013, the U.S. Agency for International Development Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance, or USAID/BHA, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity International and supported by InterAction, have sponsored graduate students through fellowship opportunities, helping boost their research and launch their futures in the humanitarian shelter and settlement sector.

The programs pair Habitat’s expertise in housing with a breadth of sector experience from our partners and funders to offer students a comprehensive learning opportunity.

The fellowship opportunities are open to U.S. citizens or permanent residents enrolled full-time in accredited graduate school programs in the U.S. or U.S. citizens studying abroad in a discipline such as city, urban, environmental or regional planning; architecture or architectural engineering; civil or environmental engineering; international or development studies; humanities or social studies; or similar disciplines.

The fellowship will support a minimum of four fellows during 2023 as they pursue their thesis or professional report writing, and we expect to increase that number during the coming years.

We’re also launching a practicum support program, also know as practical internships, in addition to the current research fellowship to create more opportunities for students to gain invaluable international experience in the day-to-day activities of professionals in the humanitarian shelter and settlement sector. Participants will travel internationally to the host organization’s countries.

Applications for the practicum support program open in mid-2023, so please check back.

Research fellowship

The research fellowship offers graduate students the opportunity to receive professional mentorship, networking opportunities and financial support for research on a humanitarian shelter and settlements topic.

Professional mentorship
  • The candidates will have the chance to gain firsthand experience and visibility into the work as they complete their graduate studies, helping lay pivotal groundwork for their professional careers.
Networking opportunities
  • We provide our fellows with contacts and networking opportunities to develop direct relationships with leading experts from international and national humanitarian organizations.
Financial support
  • Each fellow will receive a financial support of up to $19,000 each – made up of a $10,000 stipend and up to $9,000 for travel-related expenses when necessary – to support international graduate research for about 10 months. 

Check out the research guidelines and award process below. You can download a PDF version as well.

Apply now

Ready to apply to the research fellowship? Email the required documents to [email protected] with the subject line “SHELTER FELLOWSHIPS-LastName” by 5 p.m. EST on March 3, 2023. 

Hear from former fellows

 

“The fellowship enabled me direct access to shelter and settlement professionals and communities at the field level, which gave me a stronger awareness of how the humanitarian sector operates and where I myself would fit into this system as a young professional.”
“Receiving the fellowship meant that I was able to find housing in the city of my research, which significantly increased my ability to complete full days of fieldwork and to prioritize the research itself, without constantly assessing my research choices against the potential financial implications.”
“The fellowship allowed me to conduct real primary data collection, whereas I would have depended upon my prior work experience and personal impressions otherwise. I could not have afforded to take time to travel to Haiti for my research without this fellowship.”

Our team of experts

Meet our team of experts – their experience spans decades of shelter and settlement work, including leading disaster risk reduction and response projects as well as advising on humanitarian crises and conflicts across the globe.

 

Irantzu Serra-lasa headshot.
Irantzu Serra-Lasa
Senior director of Disaster Risk Reduction and Response, Habitat for Humanity

In her role, Irantzu leads Habitat’s global disaster risk reduction and response team for U.S. and international operations, including disaster preparedness and readiness.

Prior to this role, she was director of the housing and human settlements team at Habitat’s Asia-Pacific area office, providing technical support for the region’s national offices in disaster risk reduction and response, urban development, housing policy and advocacy, construction appropriate technologies, emergency response and surge capacity. 

Before joining Habitat, Irantzu was an advisor in shelter and settlements for the Red Cross. She also has experience in project design and site construction management in the private sector. She has worked in response, recovery and disaster risk reduction and construction programming in Senegal, Panama, Namibia, Peru, Colombia, Haiti, Spain, the U.S. and the Philippines.

She’s an architect and urban planner by training and holds an advanced studies doctorate in low-cost construction technologies from Universidad Politécnica de Madrid. She also has a postgraduate degree in international development of human settlements in developing countries.

Lizzie Babister headshot.
Lizzie Babister
Associate director of Disaster risk reduction and response, Habitat for Humanity

Lizzie brings to the team two decades of experience in helping those affected by humanitarian crises, disasters and conflict as they recover their shelter and settlements.

She has conducted fieldwork as a humanitarian practitioner, government donor, senior manager and researcher in Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe.

Lizzie is an associate director for Habitat for Humanity International, a researcher with the Open University, an associate lecturer with Oxford Brookes University and an associate trainer for RedR. She is co-founder of the U.K. Shelter Forum, and prior to her humanitarian career, she qualified and practiced as an architect in the U.K.

Mario Flores headshot.
Mario Flores
Director of Field Operations for Disaster Risk Reduction and Response, Habitat for Humanity

In his role, Mario provides global leadership and subject matter support to Habitat’s affiliates that implement disaster risk reduction and humanitarian response programs.

He has over 30 years of professional experience in humanitarian shelter; housing and human settlements including water, sanitation and hygiene work; and community development. 

He belongs to several global and regional collaborative networks and is a former co-chair of the Shelter and Settlements working group at InterAction, the largest coalition of U.S.-based humanitarian and development organizations. He is also a member of the international board of directors of the Global Network of Civil Society Organizations for Disaster Reduction. 

He’s a civil engineer with a postgraduate diploma in housing and human settlements from the Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies at Erasmus University Rotterdam in the Netherlands.

Mohamad Hilmi headshot.
Mohamed Hilmi
Senior Coordinator and Technical Specialist, Shelter, Settlements and Disaster Risk Reduction, InterAction

Mohamed joined InterAction as the senior coordinator and technical specialist for shelter, settlements and disaster risk reduction in 2011. He’s a humanitarian shelter and reconstruction specialist who works to improve the collaboration, capacity, practice and policies of stakeholders responding to humanitarian disasters and crises.

Before joining InterAction, Mohamed worked for U.N. agencies and international nongovernmental organizations in complex humanitarian emergencies and development programs. 

He has responded to and managed emergencies such as the conflict and famine in Somalia, the post-genocide refugee crisis in Tanzania/Rwanda, the tsunami and armed conflict in Sri Lanka, and Tropical Cyclone Sidr in Bangladesh, as well as emergencies in Haiti, Eretria, Pakistan, Yemen, Lebanon and Sudan. 

He has also managed several large infrastructure, reconstruction and refugee resettlement programs in the Middle East and North Africa region. 

In the private sector, he has worked for Shell Petroleum in Singapore and with the Science Applications International Corporation on a U.S. government chemical weapons demilitarization project in Maryland. 

Mohamed holds a Master of Engineering in project management systems from the University of Canterbury and a Bachelor of Engineering in project management systems from the University of Peradeniya in Sri Lanka.

Headshot of Charles A. Setchell.
Charles A. Setchell
Senior Shelter, Settlements and Hazard Mitigation Advisor, USAID/BHA

Charles has more than 40 years of experience in managing the process of physical, social and economic change, both in the U.S. and abroad.

His professional experience is rooted in his schooling in urban and environmental planning  he has an undergraduate degree from University of California, Davis, and graduate degree from University of California, Berkeley.

Charles also completed doctoral studies in urban planning at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and conducted doctoral research supported by a Fulbright Fellowship and MacArthur Foundation award. 

Charles has participated in nearly every major international disaster and crisis involving a shelter response since his arrival at USAID/BHA in 1998, designing and implementing shelter and settlements sector projects and disaster risk reduction activities in numerous countries. He gives presentations at training courses, meetings and conferences on a regular basis and has been published on a wide variety of topics.

Habitat-USAID/BHA fellowship cohorts

Habitat-USAID/BHA’s Humanitarian Shelter and Settlements fellowship offers students a chance to deepen their research and boost their professional careers. Learn about the fellows that are part of this innovative program and their inspiring work.

Learn more