Fulbright alum Roman Andrienko (M.P.P ‘16) was born in eastern Ukraine two months before the Soviet Union collapsed. Two years later, his family moved to Taganrog, a beautiful seaport city in southern Russia. While growing up, he witnessed a new mayor’s life-and-death struggle to improve the city through effective urban planning.
“I remember the 1990s as a very tough time for Russians, with the country’s shift to the market economy from the Soviet planned economy,” he said. “Taganrog’s very first seated mayor, Sergei Shilo, tried to open a free economic trade zone at the seaport. But that was a very tough time, when the law had little power, especially in little cities like ours.”
Mayor Shilo was assassinated in 2002, with some reports naming his fight against corruption as the cause. His efforts, however, had ignited Andrienko’s interest in urban planning. He had also noticed, while traveling abroad, how well other cities worked.
“I saw how policy made everything look great: transportation, urban life and planning,” he said. “I started thinking about implementing it in my own setting, how to make it possible.”
Andrienko was earning a degree in governmental and municipal administration at Southern Federal University when he learned about the Fulbright program. He was selected to come to Georgia State’s Andrew Young School of Policy Studies in 2014.
His focus was urban planning, but first he had to get over his surprise at Georgia State’s urban campus.
“I grew up on American movies and expected this campus to be classic ‘Animal House,’” he said. “When I found out Georiga was downtown, I was disappointed. There were no squirrels or bikes to ride between buildings.”
His Fulbright contemporaries around the U.S. quickly changed his mind.
“Not all of them had cars, so it was, for many, a struggle to go anywhere,” he said. “They were sitting in their dorms, doing academic work. Here, there’s always something happening—Dragon Con, festivals, movies, etc.—and I lived just five minutes from campus. I was able to get involved in city life, which helped in my urban planning work.”
Andrienko observed how an effective city runs. He noted the key elements needed to build a successful city and developed ideas about how he could implement what he was learning at home.
“I was amazed at how organized the urban planning and policy processes seemed to be in the States. Everything seemed systematized and linked to a larger goal,” he said. “Likewise, I want to make it easy for the average person living in Russia to live their lives, move through the city with ease and be involved in both the municipal and national political systems.”
After gaining valuable nonprofit experience with an internship at Playworks Georgia, Andrienko graduated and returned to Russia to pursue a doctoral degree in economics. He was invited to present a paper at the 25th International Vincentian Business Ethics Conference at St. John’s University in New York City last October and was recently awarded the European Commission’s Erasmus+ Ph.D. mobility grant to continue working on his thesis at the University Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona this fall.