JM Rayburn (BA, Portuguese and International Studies, 2009) spends his days building a stronger Columbus through his interests in urban planning and community development. A licensed realtor, Rayburn is also deeply involved with sustainability initiatives including the Columbus Green Team and EcoDublin. He believes you should find three areas that you want people to know you by; for him, it’s urban planning, technology and design, and LGBT issues. Rayburn spoke with us below about his involvement in Columbus and gave advice to others looking to have a meaningful impact in their city.
Tell us about your college experience.
My experience at Ohio State started in the Honors & Scholars Program. I was an International Affairs Scholar. It provided unique opportunities, like traveling and being able to see and understand the global economy. Part of that involved taking a group of students to a country that’s less traveled. So, I went to Brazil.
It was very cool because I grew up learning Spanish in South Florida. The trip was monumental because it gave me a perspective I didn’t have. I came back and changed my focus. I started a dual degree with Portuguese and International Studies, specializing in world business and economy. I focused on trade theory and foreign investments. From there, I took a year off and then decided to study city and region planning out of the Knowlton School within the College of Engineering, where I got my masters.
What are you involved in around Columbus?
The areas I fall under are transportation, urban planning and real estate. I am a licensed real estate agent and have worked in both market-rate and affordable housing. While my career as an urban planner began with statewide rail planning, I now work for the City of Dublin doing long-range planning, which is more comprehensive and policy-oriented. I’m also involved in sustainability initiatives, appointed to the Columbus Green Team and chairing EcoDublin.
I’m one of the founding members of the organization called Forge Columbus, which seeks to move the dial on civic innovation and support community businesses. We are dedicated to enhancing shared prosperity for our city, which is why we just kicked off a campaign called Forge Ahead. We used a unique approach to urban planning and were able to foster 13,000 engagements online, creating the largest crowd-sourced transportation plan in the country. We wed that with best practices around the world, and now, Forge Ahead is available to the public. It’s a way for us to find out what kind of city we want to be.
We used a unique approach to urban planning and were able to foster 13,000 engagements online, creating the largest crowd-sourced transportation plan in the country. We wed that with best practices around the world and now Forge Ahead is available to the public. It’s a way for us to find out what kind of city we want to be.
We won a competitive grant from the Create Columbus Commission to help tell this unique story. The Create Columbus Commission was created under Mayor Coleman to retain and attract young professionals. Forge Columbus wouldn’t have been possible without strategic partnerships with the City, Civic Artworks, Transit Columbus, the Knowlton School, the Columbus Museum of Art and everyday citizen experts. The success of Forge Ahead, however, will hinge on its transfer of ownership from me to the public.
Tell us about your journey. How did you get to where you are today?
I think a lot of people want to be part of something bigger and there is something meaningful and rewarding in that, but we also have life. A very close family member was diagnosed with a terminal illness when I was about to graduate from undergrad. When you come to the realization of your own mortality, it really reorganizes your priorities. That’s what got me to pivot from an international to a domestic focus.
I saw a great talk by the former lieutenant governor Lee Fisher, who runs an organization called CEOs for Cities. It’s like Forge Columbus but with an exclusive focus on smart cities and smart city policies. Something he said really galvanized with me: If you want to change the world, start with your city. It’s big enough to have an impact, but small enough that you can understand what the needs and the challenges are in your community. It set the stage for me to pursue urban planning. I wanted to understand how through my city I could make a better world.
@ASCatOSU grad @j_aimejm has his sights set on changing the world, and he’s starting here in #Columbus #ASCDaily
Do you have any advice for students?
I hope there is a desire to contribute back to society and find ways that you can have a meaningful impact. The biggest part of that is building relationships. You have to be on top of your profession but you also have to able to build strategic relationships; you can’t do it all by yourself. You need to do it as a team or part of an effort.
You also have to form your own brand. Find three areas that you want people to know you by. For me it’s urban planning, technology and design, and LGBT issues. I like to post about all these areas on social media. I think you have to dress and act for the position or foster the status that you want to have.
Why do you love Columbus?
It’s like what I said before: If you want to change the world, start with your city. Columbus is what I know best and Columbus is a fairly progressive city. When I look back and see where I was and where I’m going, I’m convinced that only in Columbus could my story be true. The local government and policy makers are very accessible. There is still a lot of work to be done here. It’s a city on the rise.
By Molly Kime, ASC Communications Student