Habitat-USAID/BHA's Humanitarian Shelter and Settlements fellowship cohort
Habitat-USAID/BHA’s Humanitarian Shelter and Settlements fellowship offers graduate students a chance to deepen their research and boost their careers, supporting their efforts with professional mentorship, networking opportunities and financial support.
Students gain firsthand experience in the shelter and settlements sector and lay critical groundwork for their professional futures.
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Interested in applying? Learn more about requirements and the application process.
“The program fellows exemplify the kind of innovative and empathetic thought leadership that is needed in today’s world,” says Charles A. Setchell, senior shelter and settlements advisor of USAID/BHA.
“They are addressing some of the most vexing issues facing the humanitarian community with creative thinking and approaches, doing their part to improve the lives of populations affected by disasters and crises, while also raising the visibility of shelter and settlement concerns in North America.”
Learn about the inspiring work of the current and former fellows below.
Fellows not pictured: Casie Venable (2019); Miriam Hacker (2018); Shaye Lyn Palagi and Jessica Wolff (2017); Kirsten Larson and Jen Pepson (2014).
As a Habitat-USAID/BHA fellow, Madeline is researching the shelter experiences of displaced Syrians in Lebanon and their interaction with humanitarian shelter programs over time. Her objective is to analyze the role of humanitarian programs in long-term shelter recovery through conducting interviews with local shelter actors and program beneficiaries both in Beirut and the Beqaa Valley. See Madeline’s full thesis.
Madeline Burnham is currently pursuing her master’s in disaster management from the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, where she is focused on examining the relationships between shelter, disaster management and migration. She earned her bachelor’s in international studies from Virginia Tech, concentrating in global development, and spent a semester of study at the University of Havana in Cuba. After graduating from Virginia Tech, she worked for three years in Washington, D.C., coordinating and supporting the provision of free legal services to unaccompanied children detained after their arrival in the United States, and also volunteered with the Disaster Action team of the American Red Cross.
Reach out to Madeline by email at [email protected] or on LinkedIn.
As a recipient of the Habitat-USAID/BHA fellowship, Melina aims to assess the HLP and tenure security needs of displaced communities and how, with the spectrum of skills and capacities in the Shelter and Camp Coordination and Camp Management, or CCCM, sectors, humanitarian assistance can best respond to these needs. She also aims to identify what training and tools are needed by humanitarian actors to improve HLP and tenure security assistance, and how the settlements approach can integrate HLP and tenure security. To obtain this information, Melina is assessing the Venezuelan refugee crisis in Latin America in partnership with the International Organization for Migration, or IOM, in Geneva, Switzerland, and Lima, Perú. In Geneva, Melina worked with IOM’s Shelter and CCCM teams and HLP specialists to understand the context of humanitarian HLP assistance, skills and capacities for addressing HLP and tenure security issues, and practitioner needs to improve HLP and tenure security responses. To assess the HLP and tenure security needs of migrants and refugees in different contexts, Melina traveled to two different regions of Perú: Lima to understand the context in Perú’s most densely populated urban area, and the amazon region of Madre De Dios on the borders of Bolivia and Brazil to understand the border context. Melina conducted qualitative interviews with Venezuelan migrants and refugees in these different regions, staff of shelters working with Venezuelan migrants and refugees, and staff and lawyers with Caritas, IOM’s partner providing rental assistance for Venezuelan migrants and refugees. She is currently analyzing, organizing and summarizing the interview data collected. See Melina’s full thesis.
Melina Holder is a current graduate student in UC Berkeley’s Master of Development practice program and a Foreign Language Area Studies fellow focused on Latin America. She holds a bachelor’s degree in city and regional planning and sustainable environments from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, where she focused on the effects of urbanization on rural communities in Mexico. Prior to graduate school, she worked as an environmental justice public outreach consultant and as an environmental land-use planner in local government.
Reach Melina at [email protected] or on LinkedIn.
A survivor of that 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, Ilham is passionate about disaster risk reduction and post-disaster reconstruction. As a Habitat-USAID/BHA fellow, he is studying the long-term outcomes of post-tsunami housing and livelihood programs in his hometown of Aceh, Indonesia. About 15 years ago, at least $1.6 billion of aid fund and a massive amount of natural resource were used to build over 140,000 houses for tsunami survivors in the province. Today, half of these post-tsunami aid houses have been abandoned and left to decay amid communities in a state of disrepair. The research investigates the causal pathways leading to this unfavorable outcome. See Ilham’s full thesis.
Ilham Siddiq (he/him/his) is a second-year PhD student in civil systems at the University of Colorado Boulder. He holds bachelor’s degrees in civil engineering and English education, as well as a master’s degree in civil engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia, where he was a Fulbright scholar. His previous work includes research and community outreach and education at the Tsunami and Disaster Mitigation Research Center in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, as well as the dissemination of research findings through infographics, policy briefs and the co-development of a climate change mitigation plan which was signed and enacted by the Mayor of Banda Aceh in 2020.
Ilham can be reached at [email protected] or on LinkedIn.
Casie’s work investigated household perceptions of shelter safety in a future hazard event and then compared these perceptions to the results of a probabilistic wind assessment of 12 shelter designs. The findings of her work illustrated the importance of providing training on how a shelter operates as a system. See Casie’s full thesis.
Casie is currently a risk and resilience consultant with Arup in San Francisco. In her work, she performs both qualitative and quantitative multi-hazard assessments of exiting infrastructure/buildings and sites under consideration for future development. She works with clients to develop mitigation plans to reduce risk to natural and manmade hazards and improve resilience to the impacts of hazard events and climate change. Casie holds a master’s degree and PhD in civil engineering from the University of Colorado Boulder and bachelor’s degrees in civil engineering and in construction engineering and management from Virginia Tech. Her other previous research includes understanding how to improve communication of safe construction practices and how to reduce the barriers to implementing a hurricane-evacuation decision-making tool.
Thesis results include a categorical framework of the most salient institutional barriers to housing reconstruction, from the perspective of reconstruction stakeholders based in Puerto Rico. These barriers inform a list of recommendations to institutions for a more effective and accessible housing reconstruction process. The recommendations include adaptation of regulation and policy, capacity building, and suggestions for improved efficiency.
Jessica received her bachelor’s in civil engineering in 2017 from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. In 2021, she attended Iowa State University, where she earned her integrated master’s and doctorate in civil engineering with a construction emphasis. Jessica’s dissertation work was an analysis of informal housing reconstruction in Puerto Rico after the 2017 hurricanes Irma and Maria, using multiple lenses including social capital, socioeconomic vulnerability and issues of place and power. This work included mixed methods and allowed her the opportunity for data collection in the field conducting interviews and surveys about homeowner and stakeholder experiences. During this time, she also volunteered with the All Hands and Hearts organization to rebuild roofs in Barranquitas, Puerto Rico, where she learned about the practical implications of housing recovery programs. Through the Habitat-USAID/BHA fellowship, Jessica had the opportunity to work in the field in multiple regions of Puerto Rico with a team of local students. This team conducted in-depth field research to understand complex and unique perspectives on intended and unintended implications of post-disaster recovery efforts. She currently works as a civil engineer for the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the Public Assistance Division. In this role, Jessica assists state, local, and tribal governments in their infrastructure recovery after disaster throughout the U.S. and its territories. Jessica hopes to remain in the humanitarian and emergency management fields throughout her career, working to improve the translation of policy to effective action.
Reach Jessica at [email protected] or on LinkedIn.
Her work included semi-structured interviews with organizations and local government officials, with assistance from local translators. Data from this fellowship supported the development of a report, as well as doctoral research on the humanitarian-development nexus.
Miriam is currently a research program manager at the Water Research Foundation in Alexandria, Virginia. Her areas of focus within the foundation include: utility management, utility workforce, water reuse, decentralized systems and more. Independently, she conducts research on the intersection between housing and access to water and sanitation, more recently including access to public restrooms and services for people experiencing homelessness. Miriam holds a P.h.D., M.S., and B.S. degree in civil engineering from the University of Washington. Other prior experience includes local stormwater permitting and academic research with displaced populations and social implications for onsite water reuse.
Email: [email protected]
Many of the conclusions and recommendations contained in Anna’s thesis, entitled “Self-recovery in Haiti: a case of reconstructing risk?”, highlight the importance of the first transformative goal of the UN post 2015 development agenda: “Leave no one behind.” Anna concludes that shelter humanitarian assistance and self-recovery direct urban and longer-term development after a disaster, and international humanitarian policies should incorporate such a goal of equitable assistance.
Anna works in Habitat for Humanity’s global program effectiveness team supporting program strategy work as well as providing interim leadership to the global monitoring, evaluation, accountability and learning, or MEAL, team. Previously, she was the director of Program Operations in the Asia Pacific region and recently served as interim Poland response director to support housing for refugees fleeing Ukraine. Anna also worked in Haiti for eight years on post-earthquake response, recovery and reconstruction. She completed her two master’s degrees from the University of California Berkeley in architecture and city and regional planning.
Reach Anna at [email protected] or on LinkedIn.
Alex’s thesis is entitled, “Addressing the Socio-economic Gaps in Rental Support Programs for Post-Disaster Environments in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and Beirut, Lebanon.” Over the course of nine months in these two locations, Alex conducted interviews with current humanitarians working in the field, academic institutions outside of the U.S. and private sector specialists regarding rental housing markets and the economic conditions needed for more equality in outcomes for renters. His conclusion argued that without a strong link towards social cohesion between renters and non-renters in the host neighborhood as well as a strong livelihood to pay the rent, a rental program has a higher probability of failing.
Alex started his career in humanitarian shelter and settlements after receiving a bachelor’s degree in architecture from the University of Oregon and a master’s degree from Oxford Brookes University. Alex worked in post-earthquake Haiti, post-Typhoon Philippines, South Sudan refugee migration, East-European refugee migration and many other humanitarian responses where shelter and settlement programming was supported. After receiving the Habitat-USAID/BHA fellowship, Alex landed in his current role as a shelter and settlements advisor for USAID/BHA where he oversees U.S. funds for international organizations assisting the most vulnerable.
- Email: [email protected]
- Phone: +1 (360) 824-0749
Aaron’s fellowship work investigated household participation across 19 shelter programs to compare different organizational approaches to involve local actors in decision making, facilitate project implementation and evaluate shelter outcomes. This work compiled a set of case studies to document lessons learned from different humanitarian shelter modalities. See Aaron’s full thesis.
Aaron is currently a lecturer in humanitarian engineering in the School of Civil Engineering at the University of Sydney in Australia where his current research focuses on the interface of infrastructure and social systems regarding disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation. Aaron holds a PhD and master’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Colorado Boulder where he completed his Habitat-USAID/BHA fellowship in the Mortenson Center in global engineering. He also holds a bachelor’s in civil engineering. Previously, Aaron served as a disaster risk reduction and management program officer through Peace Corps Response and has consulted on humanitarian programs.
- LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/aaronopdyke/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/aaronopdyke
- Email: [email protected]