Alumni Spotlight: Valeria Leyva Reyes

The IHS Alumni network wouldn't be the expansive worldwide community it is today without the dedication and involvement of our alumni. The network is represented by the Alumni Board, a team of passionate alumni volunteers, who enrol in a two-year mandate to help the network grow and respond to the needs of its nearly 10.000 members. As of this year, Valeria Leyva occupies the role of Communication Coordinator on the IHS Alumni Board. Read on to get to know her better!

About Valeria

Rocio Valeria Leyva is an accomplished architect and dedicated advocate for cities, urban mobility, and sustainable development. Valeria's journey brought her from Mexico to the Netherlands, where she pursued an MSc in Urban Management and Development at the Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies (IHS). 

Currently Valeria is a Junior Researcher at the Urban Cycling Institute, working on the transformative Active Transportation Racial and Ethnic Minority Training Leadership program. Their mission is to empower Black and Brown leaders in environmental policy, sustainable transportation, social equity, and community development. This unique program focuses on the intersection of active transportation with these crucial areas, driving real change on the ground. As part of the team, she contributes to curriculum development and evaluation, providing strategic advice to shape this training program.

In addition to her role as a Junior Researcher, she also serves as a project manager for multiple initiatives in collaboration with the City of Amsterdam, Tour de Force, and other internal projects. These projects focus on advancing inclusion and equity in active transportation.

In her previous role as the Communication and Promotion Coordinator at Bicycle User Experience (BUX), Valeria promoted BUX's courses and training programs to assist urban mobility specialists in developing practical bike infrastructure. Her primary focus is engaging with the audience and facilitating conversations about the user's experience. Valeria's passion for cities and sustainable mobility drives her to emphasize the importance of user-centred design and advocate for creating bike-friendly environments.

Finding the right work opportunities

Valeria entered her current line of work through active participation in networking sessions, workshops and conferences and volunteering for various events. Building a strong professional network and valuable connections was pivotal in securing new employment opportunities and collaborations. Additionally, she is a registered freelance professional, which opens up more opportunities aligned with her interests.

Valeria's experience has nurtured an open mind that constantly challenges the status quo. Her passion for urban mobility and sustainable development motivates her to impact the world around her positively. Being bilingual helps her effectively communicate across diverse audiences and cultures and contribute to the global dialogue on urban issues.

IHS has been instrumental in my career by providing opportunities to establish new collaborations and connections.

Valeria Leyva Reyes

Overcoming challenges

Pursuing an urban career in the Netherlands presented challenges for Valeria, particularly due to her lack of prior professional experience in urban planning/management and the language barrier of not knowing Dutch. To address these obstacles, she utilized her research thesis to demonstrate her expertise and secured a work opportunity. Valeria also dedicated herself to learning the basics of the Dutch language, which increased the rate of responses to her job applications and demonstrated her commitment and adaptability to potential employers.

Transitioning from Mexico to the Netherlands

Valeria went through a professional transition in the Netherlands, as her Architecture studies were not recognized here. Instead of pursuing a career in architecture, she established her own company, seizing various projects to accumulate international work experience. This decision led her to acquire new skills in communication, social media, and website development, which broadened her professional horizons.

Valeria appreciates the freedom of moving around the city on her bike and the sense of safety and confidence it brings. She also highlights the enriching experience of encountering a diverse mix of cultures and people worldwide. While Rotterdam differs significantly from her hometown, both places hold a special place in Valeria's heart and feel like home to her.

The impact of IHS

Valeria acknowledges the support she has received from IHS and its strong global Alumni Network. Being affiliated with IHS has brought valuable collaboration opportunities, connections, and specialized advice. It was an IHS classmate who invited her to an event which became a turning point in her professional journey, emphasizing the network's potential to generate transformative opportunities.

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