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University of Minnesota COP28 Delegation

Meet the students, staff, and faculty representing the University of Minnesota at the 28th United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP28). They will be among the 70,000 negotiators and observers expected in Dubai, United Arab Emirates from November 30 to December 12, 2023. COP is the formal meeting and decision-making forum of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to assess global progress on climate change and negotiate solutions to the defining environmental and social challenge of our time.

Colin Agur, associate professor, Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication

Colin Agur. Photo of man wearing glasses, smiling directly into the camera.Colin Agur is an associate professor at the Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. His research explores emerging media, with interests in mobile communication, digital games, and the political economy of media. In addition to his book, Education and Social Media: Toward a Digital Future (2016, MIT Press), his work has appeared in journals such as: New Media & Society; Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication; Social Media + Society; Mobile Media & Communication; Media, Culture, & Society; Games & Culture; and Journalism. At the Institute for Advanced Study at the University of Minnesota, he served as Faculty Fellow and member of the Advisory Board. At the International Communication Association, he has served as Division Chair (Mobile Communication), member of the Board of Directors, and Chair of a Presidential Task Force. He also sits on the editorial board of New Media and Society. Since arriving at the University of Minnesota in 2016, he has taught JOUR 1501 (Digital Games & Society), JOUR 3551 (The Business of Digital Media), JOUR 3553 (Mobile Communication), JOUR 8003 (Theories & Issues in Digital Media Studies), and JOUR 8503 (Advanced Qualitative Methods).

Azra Bano, Master of Urban & Regional Planning student, Humphrey School of Public Affairs

Azra Bano. Photo of woman smiling directly into the camera.Azra Bano is a Fulbright Scholar pursuing a master’s degree at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, specializing in Urban & Regional Planning with a focus on Environmental Planning and Policy. Azra’s interests lie in integrating best planning practices and policies to ensure sustainable development, equity, and environmental justice. She aspires to apply her skills and knowledge to address issues like climate change mitigation, adaptation, and disaster management. As someone who has the lived and professional experience with climate change and its effects, she aims to work on projects that incorporate sustainable practices in the wake of climate adversities, and to bring a positive change, look beyond the challenges, find solutions, and stay resilient to accomplish the best outcomes. She is passionate about voicing the perspectives of the countries that are worst hit by climate change and contributing innovative solutions for a resilient future.

Nfamara Dampha, lead scientist and director for Natural Capital Project at Institute on the Environment

Nfamara Dampha. Photo of man outside, smiling at camera.Dr. Nfamara K. Dampha is a lead scientist and director for the Natural Capital Project at the Institute on the Environment. Nfamara’s research and professional work focus on the intersection of climate/disaster risk analysis, natural capital accounting, ecosystem service modeling, forced displacement, and international sustainable development. He has a successful track record of independent and interdisciplinary research, multi-stakeholder engagement in strengthening resilience and reducing climate/disaster risks, and exemplary youth leadership as a Mandela Washington Fellow of President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative.  As a UNFCCC Party Delegate and Executive Director for the Household Disaster Resilience Project (HELP-Gambia, a registered national climate-driven nonprofit), Nfamara will be negotiating the Global Goal on Adaptation for The Gambia at COP28 and helping the government mobilize climate finance for project implementation. Nfamara will also be a speaker at various side events on the following topics: fostering youth-led entrepreneurship and innovation for climate-resilient communities, catalyzing climate action through research and student exchange programs, loss and damage – Gambia’s call for climate justice, and youth climate innovation: bridging implementation and finance.

Eduardo Garay Lagos, PhD candidate in Land and Atmospheric Sciences, College of Food, Agricultural, and Natural Resources

Eduardo Lagos. Photo of man standing outside, smiling directly into camera.Eduardo Garay Lagos is a PhD candidate in the Land and Atmospheric Sciences program in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Natural Resource Science (CFANS). He currently leads research efforts in regenerative agriculture, working with cover crops as a tool to maximize crop yields while minimizing critical environmental impacts derived from nitrogenous losses. Early in his career, he was deeply inspired by working with Honduran small holder-farmers and witnessing their commitment to exceptional natural resource stewardship despite their economic and climatic vulnerabilities. To better support groups like these, Eduardo decided to pursue graduate degrees focused on soil science, given his admiration towards such a priceless resource and key factor towards food and climate security globally. Apart from his research work, Eduardo is very passionate about serving and strengthening underserved markets through impact-driven entrepreneurship. This led him to serve as a director of the Kirchner-Fellowship Food Security program. This program focuses on training and empowering a diverse next generation of investors that support early-stage impact-driven enterprises in regions of the world undeserved by capital markets. As a Global Peace Chain Ambassador for his country Honduras, Eduardo couldn’t be more excited to learn, connect, and actively participate in the most important climate conversation globally at COP28.

Monica Guendy, Master of Development Practice student, Humphrey School of Public Affairs

Monica Guendy. Photo of woman smiling.Monica Guendy is a Master of Development Practice student at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. Previously, she worked in the development field for several years in areas of research, consulting, project management, and evaluation. Her topics of interest are education, employment, gender, and environment. She has worked extensively on environmental projects including industry green transition, green finance facilities, sustainable cities, green growth policies, and mobilization of finance for renewable national projects. Her current focus is on the role of education and local communities in climate action.

Muneeb Hafeez, Master of Business Administration student, Carlson School of Management

Muneeb Hafeez. Photo of man in business dress looking into the camera.Muneeb Hafeez is a Master of Business Administration student at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota and a Fulbright Scholar from Pakistan. With wide ranging experience in various administrative and policy assignments in the public service as well corporate experience, he brings a unique perspective to the climate debate. He believes that business must be used as a force for good for a better, more sustainable future “on the only home we’ve ever known” (Carl Sagan).

Malak Kahlil, Master of Development Practice student, Humphrey School of Public Affairs

Malak Khalil. Woman in professional dress smiling for camera.Malak Khalil is a Master of Development Practice student at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. Malak graduated from the American University in Cairo in 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in political science and a specialization in international relations. Since then, she has worked in the development field for different international organizations such as Catholic Relief Services and Save the Children. She mainly worked on projects that assist refugees and asylum seekers, especially unaccompanied and separated children, to access quality education in Egypt.

Natia Kantaria, Master of Human Rights student, Humphrey School of Public Affairs

Natia Kantaria. Woman in professional dress smiling for camera.Natia Kantaria is a Fulbright Scholar pursuing a Master of Human Rights at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs. As a human rights advocate with a decade of experience in NGOs and international organizations, she has spearheaded awareness and advocacy campaigns in human rights, rule of law, and democracy. Natia served as a Human Rights Program and Humphrey School of Public Affairs scholarship grantee at the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva. Passionate about the intersection of climate change and development, economic, social, and cultural rights, she will closely observe how human rights are advocated for at COP28. Her focus includes evaluating the integration of the human rights approach and language into daily negotiations, final decisions, and formal documents. Natia brings a wealth of experience in communicating the needs of the public and marginalized communities to governments, media, decision-makers, and stakeholders. Proficient in four languages (Georgian, English, German, and Russian), she is an Edmund Muskie Professional Fellow and a Public Voices Fellow on “Advancing Rights of Women and Girls.” Natia holds an MBA from the University of Miskolc in Hungary and a Master’s in Public Relations from the Georgian Institute of Public Affairs.

Suman Lata, Master of Science student in Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering, College of Food, Agricultural, and Natural Resources

Suman Lata. Woman standing in front of modern designed museum.Suman Lata is a master’s student specializing in Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Natural Resource Science (CFANS). Her fervent dedication to environmental remediation and sustainability led her to choose this program. Presently, she is actively engaged in research concerning solid waste remediation and the creation of valuable products from waste materials. One of her primary focuses involves the remediation of PFAS from soil and water systems, aiming to mitigate their environmental impact. Additionally, she delves into the thermochemical conversion of solid plastic waste, extracting valuable products such as fuels and chemicals. Another significant project she is involved in revolves around decontaminating soil affected by prions, addressing crucial environmental concerns.

Samuel Makikalli, Juris Doctorate, Law School

Samuel Makikalli. Man in professional dress smiling for camera.Samuel Makikalli is a second-year student pursuing a juris doctorate at the University of Minnesota Law School. His professional and research interests are in climate finance, disaster insurance, renewable energy infrastructure development, and natural resources management.



Renzo Negrini, Master of Science (Land and Atmospheric Science) student, College of Food, Agricultural, and Natural Resources

Renzo Negrini. Man in business dress with conference badge, smiling for camera.Renzo Negrini is a Master of Science student in Land and Atmospheric Science in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Natural Resource Sciences. Renzo specializes in precision/digital agriculture, complemented by a minor in geographic information science. His academic and professional pursuits are deeply rooted in enhancing agricultural efficiency and sustainability.Renzo’s expertise particularly shines in managing a groundbreaking multistate On-farm Precision Nitrogen Management project. This initiative, pivotal in the realm of sustainable agriculture, employs advanced remote sensing technologies to optimize nitrogen fertilizer applications. Currently, Renzo is spearheading two critical projects: Precision Sulfur Management and Variable Rate Seeding. These initiatives aim to refine on-farm practices further, ensuring that agricultural productivity and environmental stewardship go hand in hand. Renzo’s work in these areas is about advancing agrarian practices and shaping a sustainable future for farming communities and the environment.

Fatima Tufail, PhD candidate in Comparative International Development Education, College of Education and Human Development

Fatima Tufail. Woman standing outside, smiling for the camera.Fatima Tufail is a doctoral candidate in Comparative International Development Education in the College of Education and Human Development. Her research examines social class and gender inequities in everyday teaching and learning practices in secondary girls in Pakistan. Fatima is passionate about using qualitative research, program evaluation, and community partnerships to address issues of social inequities and injustices. She has been a Graduate Research Assistant at the Institute on the Environment for five years. She co-facilitates the IonE Undergraduate Leaders Program and supports the strategy and implementation of Sustainability Education programming. At COP28, Fatima is excited to meet leaders from around the world who center social justice in climate change work.

Other University of Minnesota attendees:

Yvonne Mongare, nursing student, School of Nursing (Climate Generation delegation)

Yvonne Mongare. Young woman smiling for camera.Yvonne Mongare is a nursing student on a pre-medicine track hoping to use her skills to help the people in her own community become healthy and environmentally conscious individuals. When she started volunteering with Climate Generation, she noticed the unjust environmental issues happening in her community and the correlation between health disparities and living in neighborhoods experiencing the effects of environmental injustice. Yvonne is attending COP28 as a member of Climate Generation’s delegation.

Vishnu Laalitha Surapaneni, hospitalist at MHealth Fairview University of Minnesota Medical Center and assistant professor and researcher at the Medical School (International Society of Doctors for the Environment delegation)

Vishnu Laalitha Surapenani. Woman smiling for camera.Dr. Vishnu Laalitha Surapaneni is a practicing hospitalist at the MHealth Fairview University of Minnesota Medical Center in Minneapolis and an assistant professor, educator, and researcher at the University of Minnesota Medical School with a public health degree from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Laalitha’s areas of focus are impacts of climate change on health equity, sustainable healthcare delivery, and the role of physician advocacy in developing science-based policy. She is a member of the Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change United States Brief workgroup through the University’s Center for Global Health and Social Responsibility and an associate at the Institute on the Environment. She has co-authored white papers on health harms of fossil fuel infrastructure, and has provided testimony to the Minnesota legislature on numerous occasions on the health impacts of climate change and fossil fuel infrastructure. Laalitha is attending COP28 as a member of International Society of Doctors for the Environment’s delegation.

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