Borys Cieślak is an IHS Alumnus who graduated last year from the Urban Economic Development: Innovation & Entreprenuership Master track. He is originally from Poland and did his Bachelor in Economics in Milan, Italy. Before joining IHS, he worked in many different fields only to discover his true passion: urban development.
Being part of the IHS classroom
When asked about his experience at IHS, Borys highlights the international environment. "Even though I have already obtained one master's degree, I see the IHS experience as formative despite the pandemic during which my cohort studied. Unfortunately, our opportunities to integrate were constrained, but we still managed to become a wonderful, supportive community."
"In terms of the organisation of our program, its contents and quality of teaching, IHS surpassed my expectations."
Borys' hitherto knowledge of urban development was mainly of a practical kind, thanks to his experience as a consultant. He says that IHS filled in the missing pieces and put them in context, especially thanks to the Urban Theory course.
"I appreciate how the modules built upon each other without unnecessary overlaps. I also found the research methods relevant and useful both in consulting and academic work. Were it not for my time in Rotterdam, I would not have been able to write a proper PhD proposal."
During the Urban Economic Development track, the students have the opportunity to gain insights into the fundamental urban and regional processes related to economic development and resilience. The programme takes them from courses on urban sustainability, governance, planning and finance, through track-specific classes to the final part - writing the thesis.
"I chose IHS because it perfectly fitted my interests – the intersection of urban planning and local government. I also liked that the program was intense and took only one year." Another factor that played a role in his choice was the possibility of living in Rotterdam and experiencing first-hand the results of Dutch urban planning.
"The takeaways were aplenty. One of the most important ones is the appreciation for the diversity of urban issues and understandings thereof, which I came to know thanks to my fellow students."
Borys adds that the urban challenges worldwide do differ, but once recounted by his colleagues, they became relatable.
Next step: a PhD
After finishing his master's at IHS, Borys decided to advance his research background by doing a PhD at Gran Sasso Science Institute (GSSI) in Italy. The institute aims to reinvigorate L'Aquila, an Italian city that suffered a terrible earthquake in 2009, with the help of doctoral candidates and researchers. "The Social Sciences department of our institute specialises in the development of peripheral areas, which was one of the reasons I decided to pursue the PhD here.", states Borys.
"I am interested in the performative character of urban development narratives and their ideological underpinnings. Using Polish and Italian cases, I will analyse how the notion of 'periphery' emerged and was incorporated into policies that exacerbated territorial inequalities."
Advice for future candidates
"Leverage the links across the courses. You can find inspiration for a great economic development thesis in any subjects taught at IHS." On a more practical note, Borys advises future candidates to pay good attention to the quantitative part of Urban Data Analytics as it will pay off during the specialisation period.
"Keep your minds open and curious as economic geography has so much to offer subject- and theory-wise."