MScSM Student Goes Global with Reach Alliance
Mena Wogu has always been inspired by the arts, and approaches problem-solving from a design perspective. He put his visual and storytelling skills to work at the University of Nigeria, where he studied as an Architecture major and graduated from the School of Design. Mena joined the MScSM Program in 2022, intent on acquiring an interdisciplinary understanding of how a combination of the arts, science, and business can achieve sustainable advantages and widespread resiliency across the global economic environment.
At the centre of Mena’s core values lies a passion for humanity, and a drive to expand his worldview and leadership experience through sustainable development research focused on varied scales of societal impact and inclusive growth. With this in mind, he applied, and was accepted to The Reach Alliance, a student-driven, faculty-mentored research initiative housed at U of T’s Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy, in partnership with the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth. "I have witnessed the impact of serving my community before and I know that intentional growth can only happen when we focus on people and not just on outcomes”, says Mena. “When I saw how the Reach Alliance was leading impact beyond the shores of formal education, I immediately knew my passion was in alignment with their mission to reach the hardest-to-reach”.
He was interested in the successful work of community-led organizations that were achieved through localized means; “it is a privilege to learn about successful development initiatives and quite humbling to acknowledge the nomenclature of those behind these programs as adaptation leaders rather than victims”, he says.
As part of Reach, accepted students pair off to propose a series of cases for exploration, which are voted down to eight that will be tackled by interdisciplinary teams. Mena landed on a team of four researchers who, together, would examine the Manggahan Low Rise Building Project, a climate-resilient housing intervention in Pasig City, Philippines. The Manggahan project was initiated by the Alliance of People’s Organizations along the Manggahan Floodway (APOAMF), a community-driven alliance in the Philippines that managed a humanitarian crisis through flood-resilient housing intervention and achieved community-based resiliency in a disaster-prone region.
Mena was interested in both the technical and social development aspect of the project; “the social housing construction project has demonstrated structural and geo-technical performance to withstand typhoons and flooding”, he explains. “The APOAMF mobilized amidst institutional neglect, established key partnerships with non-governmental organizations, and managed to settle the internally displaced persons affected by climate change”. Mena’s work, alongside his teammates, is currently underway as they prepare to travel to the Philippines to conduct primary research on the APOAMF, and to perform an in-depth study of the Manggahan Low Rise Building Project.
Mena has a background in architecture and sustainable design, with extensive experience delivering green buildings and resiliency infrastructure on varied scales across the built environment. He has been recognized internationally for designing solutions that targeted the Sustainable Development Goals 7, 11, and 13. In 2021, Mena was awarded the Architecture MasterPrize honorary certification in Green Architecture for accelerating building decarbonization efforts that met Sustainable Development Goal 11.