Kenfield Griffith was raised in Montserrat, West Indies, in a house wedged on a mountainside overlooking the Caribbean Sea.

The sixth of seven children, Griffith spent many evenings with his family on the veranda that wrapped around the house, talking and laughing.

“Those were really happy days,” he says. “We had a beautiful house. To have a home with all your family under one roof is so important.”

Griffith estimates there are 30 million homeless people in the world, and his goal is to create clean, safe housing for as many as possible. His plan is to develop a technology for building sustainable shelter in developing countries — as well as to build office buildings, schools, and hospitals. “I would like to help people in need. Just a place to eat, shower, and sleep is a substantial amenity in a developing country,” says Griffith, who’d like to begin building in South America and South Africa.

Pursuing an MIT Ph.D. in architecture, Griffith is in the Digital Design and Fabrication Group. He earned a master of science in architecture from MIT in 2006. Earlier, he was at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York, where he graduated cum laude in 2004 with a degree in computer science. He also earned an associate’s degree in architectural technology from the Institute of Design and Construction in Brooklyn. He has done extensive research in the field and instructed workshops in Lima, Peru; Santiago, Chile; and the United Arab Emirates. “MIT opened my eyes. I realize now that one person can make a big change in the world,” says Griffith, who speaks Creole and has studied Japanese, Spanish, and French.

The gift of the Presidential Fellowship, he says, “frees up the intellect. Now I don’t have to focus on financial dilemmas. It has made it possible for me to think of the big picture. And because I have received this fellowship, I feel, okay, how can I extend this gift? I can actually think about making a global impact.”

Griffith says that receiving the fellowship not only enhances his life but also the life of the world.

“I can’t even express how much I appreciate it,” he says. “These contributions make a big impact. You give to one person, but it disperses exponentially.”