Fellows

Cohort 2020-2021

Abas Kasa


Abas Kasa is a GIS expert specialized in urban planning and sustainable development. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Geoinformatics Engineering from the Polytechnic University of Tirana and a Master's degree in GIS and Spatial Planning from Polis University.

Abas has more than five years of professional experience working on GIS and Urban Planning.

Mr.Kasa started his career at Belsh Municipality. He worked there as a GIS Specialist for two years, from 2016-2018.In May 2018, he was accepted to be part of National Territorial Planning Agency, an agency which is mostly focused on urban planning, subordinated to the Ministry of Infrastructure and Energy. During his three years journey at NTPA he went through great experiences and challenges starting from the role of specialist, then promoted as Head of the Unit and currently as Director of GIS for Territorial Planning. In this role, he worked on several projects, covering all aspects of GIS.Also, during his tenure at NTPA he has assisted Municipalities and other central or local institutions to manage and work with geo-spatial data for the purpose of urban planning.

He is extremely passionate about Geographic Information Systems and the Urban Planning discipline, and is currently exploring innovative approaches to be applied to ecotourism and sustainable development.

Host institution: USGBC (United States Green Building Council), Washington,DC

Arend Rada


Arend Rada has attained a Master Degree in Business Administration at the Faculty of Economics/University of Tirana. He has worked for years in the private sector, specifically in the new car sales market during the years which this segment was still being shaped with regulatory laws and rules that required adapting marketing skills. Those uncharted territories really helped in giving Mr. Rada a more flexible approach to the ever-changing situations.

After that Mr. Rada decided to give his contribution in the public sector. He joined CFCU as a Financial Manager and for the past 4 years he has helped countless grant applicant with their questions about budgeting, legibility of the funds etc.

Currently he is the Head of Financial Controls at the National Funds Directorate, directorate which acts as fund coordinator between the EU and Albania." "It was a boring Sunday afternoon, on a cloudy late autumn day when I was suggested by a friend to apply for the MIP program... 37 minutes before the deadline. Now I'm in the city of MJ and Kanye West, working for the biggest insurance company in the World. If you're in a dilemma, just take the shot!"

Host institution: AON, Chicago, IL

Arvena Deda


Ms. Arvena Deda holds a Bachelor degree in Finance and Accounting and a Master of Science degree in Finance from the Faculty of Economy, University of Tirana, having graduated with the highest honors.

In 2014, Arvena joined the Albanian civil service, starting off her career as a specialist and gradually developing in her roles. Currently, she leads the Good Governance Programmes and Delivery Unit, within the Department of Public Administration. Within this role, Arvena holds a key position in terms of program and project development, coordination and overall management in the public administration reform process. Arvena has been part of a small team responsible for monitoring and reporting on the Albanian Public Administration Reform Strategy and leading the programme discussions and project implementation with representatives from various European Union structures. During her career path she has been involved and contributed to central policies and initiatives that aim to transform and strengthen the country`s public administration, a priority for Albania`s integration in the European Union. Arvena has also managed and facilitated her institution`s relations with national and international partners, collaborators and experts.

Being part of such a significant, large-scale initiative, has instilled a high sense of professional responsibility in Arvena, pushing her to constantly learn and develop, both personally and professionally.

Arvena has been serving in the role of National Coordinator of Albania for the Regional School of Public Administration (ReSPA), a joint initiative of the Western Balkans Countries. Within this role, Arvena works on promoting policy recommendations across the region, proposing project ideas that contribute to the public administration reform process, implement and coordinate EU/ReSPA funded activities as well as coordinate the exchange of knowledge among high-level civil servants through the capacity development mechanisms provided by ReSPA.

Arvena has also worked as an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Economy for Financial Management and Personal Finances.

Host Institution: Independent Diplomat, New York, NY

Dorina Patuzi


Dorina is an experienced professional with in-depth knowledge and skills to serve as a local partner for foreign investors looking to expand their operations within the Albanian market.

She operates across different industries and verticals with the capacity to drive change within organizations, influence public policies to enhance private sector development and serves as an ambassador for the Albanian Investment Development Agency in multiple events, conferences and government meetings.

Dorina has a Master’s Degree in International Relations and European studies from the Florence University of Political Science. She also holds a Master in Digital Marketing in Tourism from the European University in Rome. During her career she worked as an external lecturer at the Faculty of Economics Social and Political Sciences at "Zoja e Keshillitte Mire" University in Tirana.

After 10 years of experience in the public sectors as an expert on business development she would like to broaden her skills in finance literacy, international business and empowerment of entrepreneurs.

Host Institution: Women Venture Fund, New York City, NY

Dhimiter Gero


Dhimiter is a financial professional and digital transformation enthusiast with a background of more than 3 years spent in consulting services. After graduation with the title Msc in Finance, he started his career in a well-known auditing company in Albania, with a diverse portfolio of clients operating in multiple industries. Afterwards, he moved to Deloitte, one of the most prestigious consulting companies worldwide, as a Financial Advisory Associate in Mergers and Acquisitions operations. This extensive experience helped him to build further his way into Consulting services and to obtain critical thinking / problem solving behavior. After Deloitte, he got a role as Financial Data Engineer for Cardo AI, an international start-up with Albanian founders, which focus is oriented in disrupting alternative financial products and building financial models with the help of machine learning and AI. This experience was a turning point in his career as his role involved more technological approaches and “thinking out the box” mindset. Apart from his professional activities, he has worked as a Local Governance Trainer for 5 years with the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung office in Tirana. During this time, he has conducted multiple training across every city in Albania regarding local governance system, political and civic inclusion in local decision-making agencies and fostering of youth participation in local governance structures.

Now, he has also founded his own entrepreneur activity, “urbana.al”. It is a platform which enables health and caring home base services to customers through a web-based application.

Host Institution: AON, Chicago, IL

Eglina Pjeternikaj


Eglina is a Chartered Certified Auditor in Albania and Member of ACCA, London, UK. She is a result-oriented and highly motivated with proven experience in auditing, financial accounting and taxation. Eglina has comprehensive background in analyzing financial data’s and providing advisory and recommendations to managers and executives. She has over 7 years of work experience in Auditing and Accounting.

Eglina holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and a Master’s of Science Degree in Accounting and Auditing from University of Tirana, Faculty of Economy where she was a member of the excellent student network, and completed her Master’s Degree with honors. She was awarded with the gold medal as an “excellent student”.

In July 2019 she became a member of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (“ACCA”) in London, UK and in October 2019 she was licensed as a Chartered Certified Auditor in Albania and became a member of the Institute of Authorized Chartered Auditors of Albania.

In March 2018 Eglina established her own company which provides auditing, accounting and financial advisory services. Her client’s base is quite large, and includes a variety of sectors such as construction, manufacturing, healthcare, technology, hydropower, financial services, pharmaceutical, retail, wholesale, etc. The main objective is to offer high quality business services with professionalism, integrity, and expand the range of services that are offered. Eglina is constantly striving for excellence and looking for opportunities to extend her knowledge base.

Host Institution: Women Venture Fund, New York City, NY

Elton Shahini


Elton Shahini earned both a Bachelor’s and a Master’s Degree in English from Aleksander Moisiu University of Durres. He is passionate about the English language and the Dibër region, where he resides. For the past six years he has taught English to high school students in Peshkopi where he encourages his students to embrace this invaluable tool for future success.

Elton also completed an internship program at the Tourist Information Center in Peshkopi as part of the D2T: Trails & Traditions grant project funded by USAID and SIDA. As an intern, he assisted the office staff with daily operations, advised foreign tourists on accommodations and sightseeing in Dibër, translated materials from Albanian into English, and worked on special projects that required a lot of research on historical and cultural attractions. Elton is also a certified tour guide.

Host Institution: Aurora Sisters Cities International, Denver, CO

Erila Haska


Erila holds a Bachelor's and Master of Science in Business Administration from the Faculty of Economy, University of Tirana. She has over six years of experience working in the civil society sector.

She has served as a Program Manager at Partners Albania, one of the biggest non-profit organizations in Albania. She was responsible for fundraising and the design of project proposals & management of projects related to the Entrepreneurship and Innovation field.

Erila has expertise in project management, fundraising, project proposal drafting, grants management, and training related to the business model, social entrepreneurship, entrepreneurship & innovation, and alternative funding for CSOs. Her extensive experience in training and mentoring locally and regionally has been focused on target groups such as youth, social enterprises, startups, and civil society organizations. During these years, she has initiated or co-designed various innovative initiatives in startups, social entrepreneurship, youth empowerment, philanthropy development such as “Dua Partner Invest”, Giving Circle, Index on Youth Participation, etc. Previously, she has had several short experiences in the public and private sectors.

Since 2015, Ms. Haska has been an invited academic staff, at the Faculty of Economy of the University of Tirana, teaching two courses Strategic Management and Decision-Making. Erila has strong advanced knowledge in research, qualitative and quantitative, using various statistical and qualitative-based programs. She has led and assisted in various national and international research projects. She is the co-author of one book, several academic papers, and reports on youth entrepreneurship, social entrepreneurship, financial mechanisms for CSOs and social enterprises, philanthropy, crowdfunding, etc.

Travelling and writing are her passions. She has supported youth causes since she was a student, and she gets inspired by mentoring and working with youngsters.

Host Institution: IXL Center, Boston, MA

Enxhi Masha


Enxhi Masha graduated in 2015 with Master's Degree on Geo-Information Engineering from Polytechnic University of Tirana, Faculty of Geology and Mining and holds a Master of Science Degree in Economic Informatics from European University of Tirana.

He has 7 years of experience. He started his career at National Territorial Planning Agency as an intern and later promoted having different responsibilities from creating and maintaining spatial database to map production, culminating on developing and deploying e-Planning web map.

For the last three years he has been working as GIS Solution Expert at GDi Tirana (ESRI Partner) where he designs and implement solutions for different industries in private and public sector. He has successfully implemented solutions for Port of Durres, Airport of Tirana, National Water Cadaster, etc., with his biggest accomplishment the solution for disaster management after earthquake that hit Albania on November 2019.

He believes that geographic information helps to better understand the world. Through spatial analysis and latest technology, he aims to find answers and resolve complex problems. His main focus in on emergency response in order to be ready when next natural disaster happens.

He enjoys movies and sports, downhill biking, volleyball and basketball. Also coaching basketball to 12 years old kids.

Host Institution: Altaeros, Boston, MA.

Hixhaz Nurja


Hixhaz Nurja is an architect and urban planning with over 5 years of experience in the private and public sector. She holds a master degree in urban planning from Polytechnic University of Tirana.

Although she has a thorough education in architecture and urban planning, her professional profile is also supplemented with elements of Strategic Planning and optimizing the use of natural and financial resources locally, through ongoing work practices and personal research in the literature.

In last 4 years she has been part of the 7 General Local Plans in Albania and 5 Detailed Local Plans of National Important Ares. During this time, she has given her contribute in these different communities helping them to be oriented in a strategic way, solving their economic and territorial problems.

Her professional career reflects her strong interest in the relationship between community and the planning process. Hixhaz strongly believes that urban design is the instrument for developing a sustainable local economy, and what is more important, working hand in hand with the community makes sure their voice to be heard in how urban design it is going to serve them.

Out of office, Hixhaz enjoys riding her bike and painting, as a way to clear the mind and find inspiration for every day work.

Host Institution: Nashville Civic Design Center, TN

Jorgo Taho


Jorgo Taho is a civil engineer that completed his Bachelor and Master studies in Hydrotechnical Engineering in the Polytechnic University of Tirana. He has a wide range of expertise and professional development that spans at least a decade. His internship projects while still a student helped revamp water supply and sanitation systems in rural areas of Albania. Upon graduation, he joined Garden Line Shpk company and contributed as a field engineer in a number of construction projects for more than four years. Being part of Garden Line he has provided technical leadership in the construction of several road projects, such as: ‘Prishtina – Han I Elezit Route 6 Motorway project in Kosovo, Vlora Bypass roadway project in Albania and Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) project on the Albanian section, where Jorgo played an integral role in the general work planning and execution strategy by providing technical input and innovative solutions to site specific stability constrains, such as known landslide crossings and addressing the risk of first time failures.

He takes great pride in his profession because he understands the positive changes and improvements that these engineering projects enable for the communities. He is dedicated to continuing to provide an inclusive, healthy and safe working environment for his peers, and delivering high quality projects for communities around Albania.

Host Institution: JMB Construction, San Francisco, CA

Loreta Hysa


Loreta Hysa is a communications and marketing operations professional with 7 years of experience in various business models, in the private and nonprofit sector as well.

Her studies expertise and her passions are aligned in Business Administration and Marketing Operations and Strategies. Her communications skills have been polished by the intensive trainings on Journalism, Television and Radio and by also holding representative speeches in media or hosting activities for the companies she has worked with.

In the Regional Environmental Center of Albania, an international organization (2015-2017), she has served as a Junior Expert and was in charge of managing/assisting several projects related to environmental journalism, waste management and electromobility. She also was the Editor of the "Environment Today" magazine that was published and distributed every quarter.She takes pride in being courageous and demanding beyond financial profit, by being professionally involved in innovative businesses that are always making a difference in the market by improving a lifestyle or changing mindsets. In 2017, she started to engage in Tirana Last Mile project that was a startup of 3 companies in electromobility field, taking roles within the 3 companies were: an e-car selling company, an e-taxi service, and a charging service offered to all users of electric cars. Apart the diverse difficulties within a start-up environment, she exceled great business skills by working closely with the small team of people who invested for the first time in Albania in electromobility to transform it from a silly idea at the time to a business.

She has worked as a marketing and/or operations manager for various Albanian businesses and organizations/agencies, such as AutoYou, Electrify Albania, Say Taxi, Sagema, The National Coastline Agency, Agriculture and Rural Development Agency, Tamam Albania, etc.

While being fully engaged in the business world, writing still gives joy to her as she still writes articles and content for some international companies and Albanian business magazines.

Host Institution: Wear Works, New York, NY

Mikel Tanini


Mikel is an Urban Planner, focused on sustainable urban development and urban design interventions. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Urban Planning from the Polytechnic University of Turin and a Professional Master’s degree in Landscape and Urban Design from Polis University.

Mikel has more than 4 years of experience in the field. In the period 2016-2021 he was part of the National Territorial Planning Agency. During this time, he has worked on different tasks, Coordinating the drafting process of the General Local Plan of the Municipality of Tirana, being involved at the “100 village Academy” part of the government initiative for “Sustainable Rural Development Program of the 100 villages”. He was also involved in the Reconstruction Process, related to the situation after the earthquake of 26 November 2019, coordinating and giving technical assistance for the Drafting process of new Projects Interventions, aimed to accommodate the families who lost their dwellings, into new homes in brand new neighborhoods.

He believes that well analyzed acupuncture urban design interventions can improve or boost the overall urban print and quality of life of neighborhoods in consolidated high density urban areas.

Out of the office, he is a dedicated runner aiming to challenge himself to be part of different marathons and he also enjoys mountaineering.

Host Institution: MSR Design in Minneapolis, MN

Nesila Hajdini


Nesila is a professional architect and has experience in different scale projects from urban design to interior design projects. She holds an architecture degree from Mimar Sinan Fine Arts in Istanbul, Turkey and a Master degree in Theory and practice of Architectural design at ETSAB Barcelona, Spain.

In 2018, equipped with extensive experience,in local and international architecture offices, Nesila started to work as an independent architect, focusing on small scale projects that are intertwined with the work of local artists/artisans, such as the project See Well ( https://pikark.com/en/listing/klinika-see-well/) a clinic adorned in glass sculptures in collaboration of Dhiamanti Glass.

Besides, being an architect, she preserves a great love for innovation and entrepreneurship which led to creation of www.pikark.com, an interactive platform for architecture and design in Albania and in the region. Through her start-up she gained a new perspective towards architecture, by promoting and educating to help so in the creation of qualitative design in her country.

In the framework of her star-up, she has been organizing different workshops, events & competitions for young professionals to provide practical information for their professional development such as:

  • Pik-takim: meeting where architects share their work to a professional audience
  • Glass workshops: where architects are introduced to different glass working techniques and create their own designs
  • Lighting Design workshop: where the architects learn more in depth the notions of how to better use artificial light in their designs.

Nesila has been part and winner of different innovation competitions and workshops such as UK Tech Hub Albania, EU innovation challenge, Idea Challenge, etc.

Throughout her work as an architect and head of Pikark she has been able to profoundly evolve not only in the creative field but also that of marketing, management, negotiation, technology and communication, a crucial skillet necessary for a successful leader.

In 2021, in collaboration with Prof. Asoc.Dr. Armand Vokshi, Nesila published her first book focused on the Albanian architecture: A2020/1 Fragments of Contemporary Albanian Architecture,(https://pikark.com/en/product/fragmente-te-arkitektures-bashkekohore-shqiptare/) an unique collection of carefully selected works from Albanian architects in the region with the aim to document our society's architectural journey in our times.

Concerned about the environment, lately her interest has shifted towards a more sustainable design approach to architecture which is one of the main reasons of her MIP application, as she aims to gain this knowledge from practices that have been applying it for some years, such as CDR studio in New York.

Host Institution: CDR Studio Architects, New York, Starting in September 2021

Ornela Balla


Ornela Balla holds a MSc. Degree in Geographic Information Systems from the Polytechnic University of Tirana and has a sound background in Front-End Web Development and research methodologies including data analytics and data visualization. With more than 4 years of professional work experience in the private and academic sector, she has been proactive in local Non- Governmental Organizations, by managing projects in the field of environment protection. Her career expanded in 2017, when she became part of United Nations Development Program in Albania, serving for different projects as a key consultant for data processing, analysis and visualization, provide maintenance for the EIMMS and the ABS Clearing House Mechanism systems, but not limited to. Her research methodologies skills were reaffirmed when one of the research studies she devoted as an author was published in the 8th International Symposium of Ecologists Conference in Montenegro. Whereas her management skills reached a peak in 2018, when she served as a project assistant for UNIDO, by supporting the ratification process of the Kigali Amendment on the Montreal Protocol that Albania adheres as a party.

Since 2019, MSc. Balla contributes as an invited lecturer at the University Aleksander Xhuvani in Elbasan, assigned to classes in the field of web development and UI/UX Design. Her goal for the MIP Professional Internship Program is to boost her skills in Web Design and SEO and play a fundamental role for her future students.

Apart from work, she enjoys exploring new cultures, travelling and the spontaneity that the journey brings.

Host Institution: Ola Moana Marketing, local innovating Web Design and SEO firm based in San Diego California

Redjola Braushi


Eng. Redjola Braushi is a professional civil engineer who holds a Bachelor Degree in Civil engineering, Master of science in Geotechnical Engineering and is actually a candidate in MSc in Structural Engineering at Polytechnic University of Tirana, Faculty of Civil Engineering. She is currently an employee at KUPA shpk Construction Company, in charge of project management, civil engineering and analysis in public works. The last 5 years she has been intensively working on infrastructural and Water and sewage projects.

Her core competencies are Project management, contract negotiations, cost control, team building relationship and leadership.

Host Institution: Universal Engineering and Sciences Las Vegas, Starting April 2021

Sjuzi Lazebeu


Sjuzi Lazebeu graduated in Economics from the University of Tirana and later successfully completed her Master Degree also in the field of Economics. Her foundation is as economist and statistician. During her studies, she has been engaged in some internship positions mainly in national institutions, such as the Albanian Institute of Statistics, the National Competition Authority, as well as different second level banks. Sjuzi Lazebeu started her career at the Albanian Institute of Statistics in 2017. She is part of the National Accounts Directory and the main focus of her work lies on the compilation of Government Finance Statistics and estimations of main macroeconomic indicators for public administration. During her professional experience, she has participated in different training courses organized by EUROSTAT in Luxembourg, where she has gained broader knowledge related to methodologies and compilation measures of these indicators. She has also given her contribution into the “Sustainable Development Goals” publication for Albania. These experiences enabled her to be a part of, and network with a diverse community of talented individuals. Outside of work, she enjoys meeting new people, exploring new cultures, traveling and reading.

Host Institution: City 78, Washington, DC. Starting in September 2021

Vasken Spiru


Vasken is a successful Data Analyst focused on Digital Communication and Startup Enthusiast. Since his first engagement in 2014, he has continuously supported the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Albania, from mentoring to co-founding Garazh, the students in the ICT and Startups community.

With an M.Sc. in Economics and an MBA from the University of Tirana, Vasken has a long experience in private initiatives, public institutions, and projects; for two years, he also covered the digital communication needs of the largest bank in Albania, BKT.

With his previous 7-years of business analysis experience, Vasken, a thorough reader and follower of world startup news, during the last 5-years has been engaged with Albanian Startups as a mentor, blogger, event organizer, and speaker by becoming a well-known member of the community. During this period, he served as Startup Ecosystem Facilitator while telling the stories of the entrepreneurs for the Swiss Entrepreneurship Program and as an assistant professor (instructor) of Innovation at the University of Tirana, contributing more and more to the education in entrepreneurship of the young generations. You can find some of his contributions as a writer about the ecosystem and social media in several international online magazines (StartUps Magazine - Vienna, Business Magazine Albania, or Digital Spoiler (former Digjitale.com).

Vasken’s point of view featured in Red Herring’s article, In Albania, Tech Attempts to De-Balkanize the Balkans; The Next Web article, Communist and cultural effects on tech communities; Monitor Magazine, Komuniteti start-up nëShqipëri, vibrant.

In the last two years, Vasken has joined the Albanian Competition Authority as a non-production/service markets analyst while still delivering lectures in digital communications and entrepreneurship and supporting the small but vibrant Albanian tech entrepreneurship community.

Host Institution: Startup Genome, San Francisco, CA