Alumni Profile: Sameh Naguib Wahba (MUP ’97/PhD ’02)

wahba_samehName/year: Sameh Naguib Wahba (MUP ’97/PhD ‘02)

Hometown: Cairo, Egypt

Currently residing in Washington D.C.

What was your work experience/background before coming to the GSD?

I received my B.Sc. and M.Sc. in Architectural Engineering from Cairo University in 1992 and 1995 respectively. I also worked as a teaching assistant in the Department of Architecture and Urban Planning at Cairo University, as well as a project manager with H&F Architects and Planners.

What made you decide to pursue planning as a career?

I was trained as an architect and I wanted to work on housing and community development issues. I wanted to study planning in a way that combined training in economics, finance, legal, spatial, and policy issues to develop a comprehensive tour d’horizon on housing and urban development issues.

What made you come to GSD?

The GSD had an integrated program that housed architecture, urban design and urban planning all under one roof (and what a roof is that of Gund Hall!). The urban planning program had significant international exposure with excellent faculty including Bill Doebele, Tony Gomez-Ibanez, Mona Serageldin, Francois Vigier, and Jerold Kayden. And then there’s all that Harvard has to offer including FAS, HKS, and HBS.

What is your current position?

Practice Manager, Urban and Disaster Risk Management, Africa Region, The World Bank Group.

What areas in planning interest you the most?

  • Housing and land policy
  • Slum upgrading
  • Local economic development/competitive cities
  • Disaster risk management

Can you summarize the path you have taken since graduation that has led to your current position and how the GSD prepared you for it?

After graduating from the PhD program in 2002, I worked as a housing and urban specialist at the Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies in Rotterdam. I then joined the World Bank in Washington DC in 2004 where I worked as an Urban Specialist in the Middle East and North Africa and Latin America regions, leading lending projects, providing policy advisory services, and undertaking analytical work in multiple countries. In 2010, I became a Sector Leader for the Sustainable Development Network at the World Bank in Brazil, responsible for coordinating the infrastructure, urban, and social development programs, based in Brasilia. In 2012, I became Sector Manager of the Global Urban Development and Resilience Unit, where I was responsible for the Bank’s urban policy, strategy, analytics and partnerships globally. Then in late 2014 I started managing the urban and disaster risk management unit in Sub-Saharan Africa.

What experiences at Harvard do you look back on as having been most helpful in your career?

The ability to develop a customized education over the course of both the MUP and PhD programs that tailored to my needs. My classes spanned the fields of urban planning, economics, finance, real estate and policy issues all across Harvard (GSD, HKS, GSAS, etc.) and MIT. That coupled with the opportunity to work with faculty as interesting and diverse as Ed Glaeser, Rem Koolhaas, Nic Retsinas and Alan Altshuler.

What advice would you give to current and future Planning students?

Work hard, explore all the learning opportunities across the university (if you can work alongside your studies to apply your learning don’t miss the chance), and above all make sure you have fun and enjoy your time in Cambridge.