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Professor Profile: Jan Svejnar

BY STEPHANIE STEINBERG
Daily News Editor
Published November 2, 2010

Students and Ann Arbor residents were abuzz with talk of the midterm elections yesterday, but a few years ago one professor caught a different type of election fever.

Business Prof. Jan Svenjar announced his candidacy to become president of the Czech Republic in December 2007. Though Svenjar was ultimately unsuccessful in his bid for the presidency, former Czech President Vaclav Havel endorsed Svejnar for the position while he taught at the University. Svejnar previously served as an economic advisor to Havel and helped develop plans for establishing a free market economy in the country.

According to a Jan. 3, 2008 article in The Michigan Daily, University President Mary Sue Coleman supported Svejnar’s nomination and promised he could remain a professor while campaigning.

In order to bolster his campaign against incumbent Vaclav Klaus, 10 days before the election in February 2008 Svejnar announced he would give up his U.S. citizenship.

Katherine Terrell, Svejnar’s wife, told the Daily in a Jan. 29, 2008 article that her husband was willing to drop his American citizenship because he wanted to show his loyalty to Czech citizens. Terrell, a former Business and Public Policy professor, died of respiratory complications last December.

"It was not easy because he has great attachment to the United States, the country that offered him a new home," Terrell said in 2008.

Despite Svejnar’s efforts, Klaus won with a final vote of 141-111 after a second election, which was needed to reach a majority of at least 140 votes in the Czech parliament since the president is not elected by the public.

Svejnar said one of the reasons he ran was to try to cut down the amount of bribery involving officials in the Czech government.

"There was an incredible amount of pressure tactics and corruption," Svejnar said in a Feb. 18, 2008 Daily article.

Svejnar graduated from Cornell University and Princeton University, and received degrees in economics and industrial and labor relations. His research concerns government policies on labor and capital markets as well as corporate governance and performance.

Today, Svejnar is the director of the University’s International Policy Center and a professor of economics and public policy.


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