Student Q&A: Andres Mendoza Gutfreund (MUP ’16)


Miami, FL

Undergraduate school/major

Cornell University, Architecture

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

I worked as an architect and urban designer at OMA in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, on a wide range of projects, from an art museum in Milan to a master plan in Bordeaux. In search of a more fulfilling experience, I then volunteered as a mentor and teacher at an underprivileged school in Miami, Florida, kick-starting many initiatives, such as an art program for at-risk teenagers and a performance event for LGBTQ youth.

Why did you decide to pursue planning as a career?

I decided to pursue urban planning as an education because it is comprehensive in scope. It addresses important issues I am passionate about, ranging from urban design to community development.

What made you decide to come to the GSD?

I decided to study urban planning at the Harvard Graduate School of Design because of its emphasis on design and flexibility in curriculum. Students are able to curate their course of study by taking elective courses within the GSD, throughout Harvard, and at nearby universities.

What are your main interests in planning and concentration area?

I am very interested in urban planning because it addresses the built environment from multiple perspectives. I am particularly passionate, however, about community development as an agency for minority empowerment and social progress.

Are you involved in any student groups?

I am a leading member of xDesign, a collaborative group made of students from Harvard Graduate School of Design, The Harvard Business School, and Harvard College. It explores design and technology in pursuit of innovation through means of conferences, workshops, and other creative events. I hope to create a greater emphasis on social innovation and incorporate the Harvard Kennedy School.

Are you writing a thesis? What is your topic and why did you choose it?

My thesis will propose a design strategy either to improve an existing service or implement a new initiative at the Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ), where I will intern this summer. HCZ is an extraordinary non-profit organization that promotes community development in Central Harlem by providing comprehensive services, from K-12 education to children to financial literacy to grandparents. In preparation for my summer internship, my first-year research projects address the Harlem community and my summer internship, in turn, will become a strong foundation for my thesis.

What has been your favorite class or project? Why?

My favorite class has been Economic Development in Urban Planning for many reasons: the small class size is conducive to high student engagement; my classmates’ knowledge and passion toward social issues sparks wonderful discussions; and, above all, the professor’s earnestness inspires us to challenge urban planning’s status quo.

What are your career ambitions?

My career aspirations at the beginning of the urban planning program gravitated toward historic preservation and economic development with an international organization at a global scale. After two semesters of deliberation, however, I have begun to consider community development and education reform with a non-profit at a local level!

Anything else?

The greatest strength of the urban planning program at the GSD is its curriculum flexibility, which allows students to not only change paths but, more importantly, to create new ones by exploring other departments within the school and other schools throughout the university.