December 7, 2022
Mena is a Masters candidate in the Sustainability Management program at IMI, as well as a Researcher in the Reach Alliance at U of T’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy. He has a background in architecture and sustainable design, with extensive experience delivering green buildings and resiliency infrastructure on varied scales across the built environment. In 2021, Mena was awarded the Architecture MasterPrize honorary certification in Green Architecture for accelerating building decarbonization efforts that met Sustainable Development Goal 11. His research focuses on the development of inclusive solutions that aim to break the cycles of disadvantage in marginalized communities. Outside of work and school, Mena enjoys the performing arts and smooth jazz.
What led you to choose the MScSM Program at IMI?
I was fascinated by the interdisciplinary nature of the program, and how the combination of arts, science, and business disciplines translate to sustainability. I was also interested in the unconventional delivery method of its course content, as well as acquiring an institutional understanding of sustainability through academic research, exchange programs, and professional experience. Above all, I felt I needed an advanced degree from a world-renowned university in order to be well-equipped to contribute to the global knowledge economy, whilst serving as a conduit for sustainable development within my community.
Tell us about your work with the Reach Alliance.
Through Reach Alliance, I am amongst a group of researchers from across U of T’s three campuses who are dedicated to investigating the pathways to success for innovative programs that are reaching the world’s most marginalized populations. Essentially, we examine how critical interventions and innovations access those who are the hardest to reach - those living in extreme poverty, the geographically remote, administratively invisible and marginalized. As a researcher in the 2022-2023 cohort, I am examining the Manggahan Low Rise Building Project, a climate-resilient housing solution in Pasig City, Philippines. The findings from my research will be used to understand how informally settled residents managed a housing crisis amidst an extreme flooding event, and exemplified community-based resiliency in a disaster-prone region.
What’s your advice for undergraduate students who might want to follow a similar path to yours?
First, understand that sustainability really is a way of life. To have the opportunity to study the issues you are so passionate about is incredibly fulfilling. In the MScSM program, you will use your imagination and critical thinking capabilities to create thoughtful solutions for ‘everyday’ problems. You have to be willing to read widely with an open mind and be receptive to ideas that expand your worldview. Perfection is a moving target so don’t aim for it but rather refine your value system at every opportunity. And for whatever decision you make, follow your heart and be at peace with your reality. You’re going to be fine!
What’s your favourite book?
It’s hard to choose just one! A few of my personal favourites are: The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates and, and The Way Is Within by Ron Rathbun.