Alumnus Rafal Hejne has been traveling the world and through an innovative project, he is taking you with him.
Hejne, a native of Poland, received a master's degree in public administration from Grand Valley in 2007. After working in city management in California and for a local government think tank in London, Hejne devised a five-month, five-city excursion in which he would blog about his activities in an effort to learn more about city management and expose friends and supporters to different cultures.
He started in May in Johannesburg, South Africa. Voters on his website, 5month5cities.com, then voted to send Hejne to Delhi, India, and Shanghai, China. Cities to be determined to round out his trip are in Mexico and Brazil.
“I hope to learn about a city's perspectives on sustainability and economic development,” he said. “I am interested in looking into the ways local governments network with local people and businesses. Also, I want to talk to local people to learn what it means to live in that city, what they like about it and what their expectations are. I hope to use this knowledge to be a better city management professional.”
Hejne is mentored by Global Urban Development from Washington D.C., and Star Alliance Group sponsored half of his airfare. For the most part, Hejne tries to solicit funds through a PayPal account on his website. His personal funds allowed him to start the journey but he hopes for support of people who follow him. Hejne said he didn't want money issues to stop him. His passion for cities was a catalyst behind this project.
“The more I was learning about cities the more I wanted to do this project. Also, when I moved back to Europe to look for a new job, the recession made this process extremely difficult for me and I didn't want to give up,” he said. “I have decided this is a great chance for me to use this time to achieve one of my dreams.”
Hejne earned a master's degree in finance and banking from the Krakow University of Economics, one of Grand Valley's partner institutions. While attending Grand Valley, Hejne served as president of the International Student Club.
After graduating, he moved to California and served as a management fellow for the City of San Jose. When his five-month journey concludes, Hejne said he hopes to settle in London.