Meet CoLab's Summer Interns!

We’re excited to welcome a cohort of interns to CoLab for the summer from all across different geographies and backgrounds, all of whom are eager to entrench in some worthy projects that further our mission to innovate at the margins.

Meet our interns per the below descriptions of who they are and what they’ll be working on.

Project: Wellness Empowerment Brooklyn

Supervisor: Gretchen Susi

Description: Student researchers will join the team conducting a Comprehensive Planning Process for Wellness Empowerment for Brooklyn, a multi-year effort to improve community health and grow community wealth in Brooklyn neighborhoods. Responsibilities of the position include working with the CoLab team and its partners to conduct background research to inform the asset mapping and planning process, provide technical assistance to community stakeholder partners, analyze quantitative and qualitative data collected over the course of the study, and help to prepare a development study based on the results of the participatory asset map findings to identify synergies among assets, needs and aspirations in Brooklyn communities in order to create the conditions for health, wellness and the development of shared wealth.


Alia Rizvi is an MIT undergrad majoring in DUSP and Computer Science. They are interested in the space between art and social justice, particularly digital games for social change, and are passionate about using art as self-expression and education to empower trans queer people of color youth. In the summer of 2017, they interned at The City School’s Summer Leadership Program (SLP), and it sharpened their view on the importance of youth development and the necessary cooperation between marginalized people and across exclusionary social boundaries.

Seth M. Wight comes to MIT with a BA in Anthropology and History from Washington University in Saint Louis. Originally from West Virginia, he spent the last four years in Detroit teaching high school science and engineering through Teach For America. He is interested in issues of spatial justice as well as equitable housing and transportation developments.

Lawrence Haseley, from Pratt Institute, is an urban planner working to help marginalized communities build social resilience through economic development, climate adaptation, and social innovation. Lawrence worked at Pratt Center for Community Development, where he worked on energy burden issues that low income communities face, as well as  providing technical support for community-based planning initiatives. Lawrence holds a BA in International Studies from the City College of New York and an MS in City & Regional Planning from Pratt Institute.

Project: Bronx Innovation Factory (BCDI)

Supervisor: Maggie Tishman

Description: Graduate interns will help plan for the Bronx Innovation Factory — a center for advanced manufacturing designed to build shared wealth for low-income Bronxites of color, with a focus on innovations that matter for Bronxites. Interns will lay the foundation for this groundbreaking economic development project. The intern will gain valuable hands-on experience designing and implementing community-driven models for inclusive economic development.


Aishwarya Kulkarni: “I am currently enrolled in the City and Regional Planning program at Pratt Institute. As an architect from India, I have worked on projects that focus on real estate development, transportation planning and large-scale residential and commercial design projects. My aim is to combine planning with my design skills to create a physical, social and economic environment which brings equity, access and enhancement to the quality of life of communities.”

Madison N. Hill: “I am a rising senior pursuing a degree in Urban Planning at MIT with a minor in Design. After a brief relationship with Physics, I chose Urban Planning because I wanted to study something that had people as a core focus. On campus, I am this year’s Editor in Chief of Technique, MIT’s photography, design, and yearbook club. Previously, I’ve been a student assistant at SPXCE and the Rainbow Lounge, where I still spend a good deal of my time.

Project: Planning and Policy Lab (BCDI)

Supervisor: Katherine Mella

Description: Through BCDI’s Planning and Policy Lab Graduate interns will support two projects: the development of the Bronx Community Land Trust spearheaded by our core partner, the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition (NWBCCC) and the co-design of  a framework for a Bronx-wide plan with a diverse set of key Bronx leaders. Interns will gain invaluable hands-on experience supporting community stakeholders to develop models for collective ownership and control of land in the face of gentrification and displacement pressures as well as community-led, comprehensive planning rooted in building shared wealth.


Emily Duma is an activist and organizer whose work has focused on resource redistribution and building a just transition to a different economy with roots in the food justice movement. As a second-year Masters in Urban Planning student at Harvard GSD, her academic pursuits focus on designing and building a world where justice and community voice are paramount. She currently sits on the board of Resource Generation, a national organization of young people with class privilege who are working for the radical redistribution of land, wealth and power.

Cecille de Laurentis, from Rutgers University, has a background in literature and the arts. A desire to actively support the fight against economic, racial, gender, and other types of injustice led her to enter the field of policy and planning. She has experience in community organizing on both a professional and volunteer basis. She has also lived in Kyoto, Japan, and strives to apply an international lens to her work.

Josefina Peralta is a masters candidate in urban planning at Hunter College. Originally from Philadelphia, she is interested in housing, collective models of ownership, and envisioning a future without capitalism. In her free time, she enjoys biking, plants, and spending time in the sun.

Project: Hacking the Archive

Supervisor: Karilyn Crockett

Description: A vanguard generation of progressive activists is approaching advanced age just as many of their 1960s era defining battles are taking on renewed political urgency. These actors link a vital web of fight genealogies filled with strategies, values, lessons and cautions largely unknown to current and emerging activist communities.

Preserving and growing activist networks demand an intentional effort to prioritize the social relationships and knowledge-building work that anchor their missions across generations and geographies now and far into the future. Existing institutional archives offer interesting but limited opportunities to investigate the stories and actors of the near political past. This project will engage a cross-coalition of students, activists, residents and their allies to create a new type of archive of activist histories and stories that trace their beginnings to multiple land fights rooted in the civil rights, anti-war, student, women’s and counterculture movements of the 1960s. Students will work with a set of activists seeking to answer specific questions about how to develop an archive that will continue to stimulate and inform activism that is linked to the historic struggles of economic and social inclusion in Boston.


Alula Hunsen is a rising junior from Cleveland, Ohio, majoring in mathematics at MIT. This city’s storied past has motivated his passion for covering a history of blackness and its relationship to America through journalism and research. He has written for The Tech regarding issues of social justice and structured racism, and is invested in investigating activism and public engagement at MIT CoLab.

Val Shum is a recently declared Urban Studies and Planning major at MIT with a passion for the arts. Born in New York City, they seek to learn about the intersection between arts, culture, and community building. In their free time, Val has a show on WMBR, the on-campus radio station, and practices fire spinning. Ultimately, they feel strongly about the 1st and 2nd generation immigrant and LGBTQ+ communities.

Project: Laboratorios de Innovación Territorial

Supervisor: Juan Constaín and Shey Rivera

Description: The Labs are the third iteration of CoLab’s work in the Pacific Region with the purpose of prototyping alternatives to extractive development models in the region and strengthening peace-building capacities.

 The intern will help document the last workshops in Quibdó and Buenaventura, as well as participate in the co-definition of next steps.


Vanessa Toro Barragan: “My life experience and positionality as an immigrant from Colombia drives me to be a force for positive change. To date I have tackled climate change at the intersections of science and social justice in various sectors. I came to MIT DUSP to focus on climate and economic justice, tackling the need for climate change adaptation for communities most at risk to bear the burden of the impacts. To do this, I hone in on the intersection of environmental planning, racial equity, and economic development to co-create resilient communities.”

Project: Empathetic Aesthetics

Supervisor: Taina McField

Description: The role of the intern will be to provide support to our empathetic aesthetics program, which bridges the arts and social justice policy. Through transcription, documentation, correspondence, follow up, and analysis, Aliai will get first-hand experience with the Fundred (community activism for healthy communities/anti-lead) and Surdna (anti-displacement) programs.


Aliai Dhol Acuil: “My parents are from South Sudan, a small land-locked country in East Africa and the youngest nation in the world. I was born and raised in the neighbouring country of Kenya, as my parents fled the nation of Sudan when a civil war broke out in the early 1980s. Coming to MIT from a nation with such a tumultuous past and present, I have witnessed the harm and destruction that war and instability brings to people, communities, tribes and cultures. I believe that meaningful social work has the ability to heal and rebuild communities and provide a better future for all people.”

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