Intern Spotlight: Mona VijayKumar

As our Summer internships draw to a close, we wanted to take some time to feature our incredible students and their work over the Summer. Next up is Graduate Student Mona VijayKumar (Architecture Studies and Urbanism, ‘22).

Mona was born and raised in Chennai, India, but her ancestral roots are in Jodhpur, India. “Growing up in India, I have firsthand witnessed the persistent inequalities, especially towards care, shelter, and education, that shape the lives of people in developing countries,” said Mona, “Such deteriorating conditions and persistent injustice served to the under-represented communities led my focus towards human-inclusive urban development. My vision for social egalitarianism and just society propelled me to pursue research about the Agariyan community and Little Rann of Kutch as part of the MISTI India Fellowship.”

Mona’s research aims to empower the under-represented salt worker community in the Little Rann of Kuchh, India. “The community, locally called Agariyas, live in extreme climatic conditions for 8 months every year with a lack of access to basic human necessities-- shelter, school, medical care, and sanitation. While conducting interviews with local NGOs in the region, the necessity to provide a shelter that could withstand the extreme weather conditions while also being temporary and affordable became the priority,” Mona told us. “Through Project ‘Chaaya’ (translates to shade), I seek to co-design a temporary shelter prototype that is easy to deploy, assemble, and affordable. A shelter that is climate-responsive and environmentally sustainable. The implementation strategy is to first engage with the community members in a workshop session to co-design iterations of the prototype. The second would be to deploy the shelter kits and design catalog, followed by building a pilot shelter with the community.”

Mona’s advice to those considering studying with MIT-India? “MIT-India is a great opportunity for one to dive deeper into their area of interest and connect with local partner organizations. It also provides training modules that allow one to learn more about India from its various lenses of people, culture, politics, and geography.”