skip to content

People > student Profies > james habia

Q. Why did you come to DUSP?

Habia: My goal is to contribute knowledge to the ongoing work in the field of planning, especially in the developing world and I needed the expertise that will help me accomplish my dream. I believe that DUSP, being one of the oldest, largest and best planning faculties in the country, will give me leverage in the planning field, by giving me the appropriate and practical tools needed for my work.

Q. Did you have any experience in the field of development that prepared you for what you are doing here?

Habia: I worked with Ghana Lands Valuation Board for a while, working on a resettlement project in the Volta Region of Ghana, and later switched gears into the geotechnical engineering field, where I was heavily involved soil stabilization for construction purposes.

Q. What has surprised you most about the program?

Habia: Actually, I was struck by the flexibility of the program, which gives students the option to take classes from different areas of specialization within MIT and cross register with other Universities. The above strategy equips students with the necessary techniques, expertise and ability to identify alternative causes of action needed to approach a situation, in order to be successful and effective in the practical world.

Q. Have your ideas changed at all since arriving?

Habia: Prior to MIT, and as a Ghanaian, I believed in the top-down technical approach to solving planning problems and was more skewed toward the physical aspect of development planning. Now, my approach to developmental planning is more about the people, building consensus with people to develop their ideas into plans, negotiating with the masses to achieve win-win situations, empowering from below, bottom-up approach and concentrating more on the social impacts that planning decisions will have on the people.

Q. What are your plans for the summer?

Habia: I am part of the City Scope-Peru Practicum, and we will be returning to Tambo de Mora-Peru in the summer to work with the indigenous people and help empower them on a range of issues after experiencing a devastating earthquake last summer. We are helping them establish micro-enterprises, design and build earthquake-resistant quincha houses, solve water and sanitation problems and help them with community capacity building strategies. My next stop from Peru is Ghana, where I will be conducting an in-depth research for my thesis.