AUBG 30: Game-Changers
30 years ago, as Bulgaria entered a new chapter in its long history, a group of people from opposite ends of the world came together to establish the American University in Bulgaria. While the country was moving on from its political revolution, it needed a revolution in education, too. The ones behind the idea for AUBG understood that and sparked the flame.
In honor of AUBG's anniversary, we are showing off some of the university's greatest achievements in the past three decades. Here, we've gathered some of the people who make the AUBG community proud. Alumni and students who do not accept the status quo and dedicate their time and efforts to bring change on scales small and large.
Daniel Tomov ('97) is among the pioneer investors in tech companies in Bulgaria and a driving force behind the establishment of an entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystem in the region. He is a Founding Partner of Eleven Ventures, an early-stage VC that has since 2012 invested in over 150 of the most promising technology startups in Southeast Europe.
Beyond his successful career, Daniel, who studied Business Administration and Economics at AUBG, has been an active supporter of the university for many years. Member of the University Council, Daniel established the AUBG Accelerator, a four-month experience and mentorship-based program designed to help students start their own businesses. “We were brought up at AUBG as citizens who always think of giving back to communities and institutions that helped us succeed in life,” he said. “I would like to contribute to the long-term success of the university and see AUBG as one of the top educational institutions in Europe in the next 20 years. And I would love to see my kids consider AUBG as one of their options when they have to decide which school to go to.”
Daniel is married to fellow alumna Rene Tomova, who successfully pioneered design thinking in Bulgaria and is currently a Design Partner at Eleven Ventures.
Ashod Derandonyan ('01) is the Founder and CEO of Listen Up Foundation, an NGO that has made it its mission to empower Deaf people in Bulgaria and provide them with equal access to education and professional development. A Business Administration major at AUBG, Ashod has over 10 years of experience in business development executive roles.
“I will never forget the moment I learned that I was accepted at the American University in Bulgaria,” Ashod said. “It is right then that I realized that this is a special place that felt like home, a place where I made friendships for life. And most importantly — I was part of a unique community of wonderful people. In the 90s, when we witnessed crises and difficult times in Bulgaria, we were lucky to be among the innovators of our time and among the people who believed in change and progress. I realized that AUBG had allowed me to believe in myself. Even then, a quarter of a century ago, AUBG ‘decided’ to accept me — this made me a confident Deaf person who always felt equal. This feeling fills me with gratitude. And this feeling only intensified in recent years when I dedicated my life to the cause of equality for Deaf people and the Bulgarian sign language.”
Sindi Shkodrani ('15) is Research & Development Engineer for Autonomous Driving at location technology company TomTom in Amsterdam and technical advisor to the augmented reality startup Augmentio. She also mentors women-founded early-stage AI startups launched under the Women in AI WaiACCELERATE umbrella. In 2020, together with her team, she helped launch over 20 startups in the Netherlands and internationally. “Socially responsible projects are a way to give back to society,” Sindi said. “Not all professionals consider them to be a necessity for their careers, but to me, this is the most fulfilling part.”
Sindi, a Computer Science and Information Systems major at AUBG, was awarded the Outstanding Achievement Award in Computer Science at AUBG’s Honors Convocation and graduated summa cum laude. Upon graduation, she received the prestigious Google Anita Borg Scholarship, which aims to support the education of women in computer science. And this year, she was named one of 11 AI leaders from Amsterdam to watch in 2021.
“My AUBG experience has been meaningful and stirring of my passions for innovation, entrepreneurship, and social impact,” Sindi said. “The strong presence of communities around many topics strengthened our joint sense of purpose on campus and in the world.”
Montenegrin alumnus Miladin Bogetic ('03) is currently a Press Officer at the United Nations Geneva, where he covers digital communications and outreach activities. In 1992, his family fled Sarajevo as the war was starting in his hometown. Despite the hardships, he was accepted to AUBG on a full scholarship, where he studied Political Science and International Relations.
“AUBG was an eye-opener in so many ways and a springboard to the world,” Miladin said. “The experience was both challenging and rewarding academically; fun socially; and very enriching culturally.”
Miladin is a student of both American and European educational traditions. After AUBG, he completed a two-year Master’s degree in Advanced International Studies from Johns Hopkins University (USA). During his first year, he studied at the Bologna Center in Italy, and in the second year, he attended the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna to complete his thesis.
He began his professional career at the Foreign Ministry of Montenegro and then joined the United Nations. His first mission as part of the UN led him to Lebanon. In 2017, he became the Spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Ukraine.
“There is more to life than just getting a good salary and climbing a career ladder,” Miladin said. “Having a feeling that you are helping real people through socially responsible or humanitarian work is priceless.”
Rumyana Trencheva ('01) is Senior Vice President of Midmarket & Partner Business in the Middle and Eastern Europe Region (DACH, CEE and CIS Market Units) at SAP since 2019. Under her leadership, the Midmarket sales and channel management organization are going through a massive transformation and accelerated market growth. Before that, she had successfully managed and doubled SAP business in the region of South-East Europe, where she was the Managing Director of a cluster of 10 countries: Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Kosovo, Albania, Macedonia, Croatia, and Slovenia. Rumyana was also Managing Director of SAP Bulgaria for more than 5 years, where she had made a complete turn-around of the local organization and pivoted SAP presence on the local market.
She graduated from AUBG with a major in Political Science and International Relations and a minor in Applied Economics. Rumyana also holds post-graduate specializations from Duke Corporate Education (USA) and IMD (Switzerland).
Rumyana has been on the AUBG Board of Trustees and gives back time and effort in supporting institutions and NGOs dedicated to education, female leadership, and young entrepreneurship. She is a mother of 3 kids and in her spare time enjoys yoga, running, and spending time with her family.
Maria Alexandrova is a second-year student at AUBG who plans to study Journalism and Mass Communication, volunteers for UNICEF, and has become the first person with a physical disability in Bulgaria to take the Cambridge exam in English. In this way, Maria paved the way for other people with disabilities in the country to take the prestigious exam and improve their academic and career prospects.
A champion for accessible education, Maria says that – beyond the right policies and reforms – inclusive education depends on each and every one of us. “I don’t want to sound like a broken record but it is mostly discrimination and lack of understanding from others that hinder the opportunities for people with disabilities,” she said. “If the attitude changes, everything else will follow.”
“I am proud of the chance to work closely with UNICEF Bulgaria,” Maria said. “That is in large part due to the fact that I can improve my skills in a multitude of areas while being a voice for both those with disabilities and youth in general. The experience of advocating for inclusive education has shown me the importance of speaking up and raising your voice to fight injustice.”
Angel Ivanov ('12) is a film producer and Founder of boutique production studio Handplayed, and Co-Founder of Skapto, a gourmet burger chain in Bulgaria. He studied Business Administration and Journalism and Mass Communication at AUBG, where he established student media AUBG Daily.
Angel continued his education in film production at programs in Vienna, Strasbourg, and Rome, before becoming a Sarajevo Talent at the Sarajevo Film Fest, 2015. That same year, he founded Handplayed and has since produced commercials for some of the largest brands in Bulgaria, as well as award-winning short and social films and several music videos. In 2018, as founder of Handplayed, Angel became a Fellow at the Young Transatlantic Innovation Leaders Initiative and went to the USA for business mentorship at Austin, TX and Washington, DC.
In 2013, Angel, together with alumnus Georgi Georgiev ('10), co-founded Skaptobara – a hangout spot for AUBG alumni. Today, Skapto is the largest Bulgarian gourmet burger chain with 10 restaurants in Sofia and Plovdiv. In 2019, Skapto was admitted to the Endeavor global mentorship network by an International Selection Panel in Cairo, Egypt. The two major criteria for acceptance in the network are growth potential and a give-back mentality. Angel is a Teenovator mentor, teaching high-schoolers business, and has volunteered as a Global Shaper.
Daniel Penev ('16), who studied Journalism and Mass Communication and Political Science and International Relations at AUBG, works as a journalist, translator, and editor. He is the author of three books in Bulgarian: "The People Changing Bulgaria" (2019), "It’s Up to Us" (2020), and "Running Towards Yourself" (2021 – with ultramarathon runner Krasse Georgiev). Daniel has completed an MA in International Relations from the Central European University and has been published in a number of print and online media in Bulgaria and internationally.
“While I am proud of my professional accomplishments, I experience the greatest joy when I see that my words and actions have had a positive impact on other people’s lives,” he said. “The more we use our knowledge, skills, and contacts to do work that matters while giving back to society, the more we inspire one another through our personal example.”
Daniel says that beyond academics, AUBG instills personal values in its students. “AUBG has shaped my personal and professional path in many ways but I want to believe that it has, first and foremost, made me a more inquisitive, open-minded, creative, courageous, and reliable person who has the energy and patience to make the world a better place.”
Rositsa Zaimova ('11) is a Partner and Co-founder at Dalberg Data Insights (DDI), a data analytics firm based between Brussels, Nairobi, and Kampala that helps governments and development agencies use data to better target, implement and evaluate their programs and initiatives. Dalberg Data Insights is the big data entity of Dalberg Group, a global consulting firm that works to build a more inclusive and sustainable world.
Rositsa graduated from AUBG in 2011 with a Bachelor’s in Economics and Business Administration. Upon graduation, she moved to Spain where she got her Master of Science in International Management from ESADE Business School. Before founding Dalberg Data Insights and moving to Uganda where she is currently based, she worked as a product manager in the tech industry in Germany and later in Belgium.
She is a member of the Global Shapers Community at the World Economic Forum and an Ambassador of One Young World. Rositsa was recently named one of Forbes’ 30 Under 30 Social Entrepreneurs in Europe. “At AUBG, you meet people who stay in your life for good,” she said. “It is the similar mindset of the people or the special atmosphere at AUBG, or both, that really creates lifelong bonds. AUBG also made me curious about what is out there and gave me the basis and courage to go chase chances.”
Manol Peykov ('95, EMBA '08) is an award-winning translator and publisher, Managing partner of Janet 45 Print and Publishing, Owner and CEO of 2x2 Digital Print Factory, WePrint, and Booklover, Co-founder of Pekarnata Recording Studio, and Member of Parliament in Bulgaria’s 46th National Assembly.
“I'm probably most proud of a breast cancer campaign that I was a part of about ten years ago,” he said. The campaign featured a book he published, "A Woman Goes to the Doctor" by Ray Kluun. “We did win the FARA Grand Prix for the campaign that year, but that’s not why I am proud of it,” Manol said. “About a year later I found out that a 23-year old girl who had read the book, had gone for a check-up and had been diagnosed with an early form of breast cancer. So, I reckon – no matter what you do for a living, if you’ve helped save even a single life, you have fulfilled your purpose.”
“I was truly lucky to be admitted to AUBG – its first class, in fact – after flunking my Bulgarian Literature exams at Sofia University not once, but twice,” Manol said. “If I were to go back, I wouldn’t change a thing. AUBG means freedom – of choice, of thought, of expression. It also means a breadth of knowledge – which for me, as a multitrack person and a serial entrepreneur, has been the most useful tool I ever got hold of in my life.”
In 2020 a group of AUBG alumnae – Albina Tomova ('20), Sofia Shirokanska ('20), Kristina Uzunova ('20), Simona Galabova ('20), Veronika Yugova ('20) and Dimitrina Pashova ('20) – teamed up to start Vendy+, a chain of vending machines offering sanitary products. But their goal goes beyond providing easy private 24/7 access to pads, tampons, condoms and others. They want to break the stigma surrounding sexuality and help improve sex education in Bulgaria.
This year Vendy+ installed their first machine on the AUBG campus in Blagoevgrad. The team developed their company through Elevate, the AUBG accelerator program, and then went on to win first prize at the Bulgaria Innovation Hackathon. This summer they installed a second machine at StudyHub in Studentski Grad.
"Although we always enjoyed being part of the AUBG community, it wasn't until after we graduated, that we were able to fully appreciate it," said Albina Tomova. "It was the community spirit and values more so than anything else that encouraged us to be bold and take the initiative to not just get a job, but hopefully create one for ourselves. It was that very spirit that made us believe we are capable of making a change and using our creativity to adapt to a not necessarily very welcoming environment."
Alexander Stoytchev ('97), who studied Computer Science at AUBG, earned both his M.S. and Ph.D. from the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he specialized in AI and Robotics. Upon graduation, he joined the Electrical and Computer Engineering department at Iowa State University, where his work has been recognized with several awards. A recent research paper, co-authored with one of his graduate students, made international headlines as it solved a 50-year-old problem in signal processing. The problem generalized one of the fundamental algorithms used by all cellphones and computers today.
“This career path would not have been possible without the dedication to excellence that AUBG instilled in me,” Alexander said. “I started at AUBG in the fall of 1993 when the university was brand new. At the time, this was a risky decision because the university had yet to graduate its first class. In retrospect, this was one of the best decisions that I have ever made. I got to meet many talented students from Bulgaria and the entire region, including my future wife. It was an intellectually stimulating environment that was full of energy. My Computer Science and Mathematics professors were brilliant.”
Florina Ivanova (‘15), or Flori, as her friends call her, is a sports news anchor and reporter at bTV, the first private TV station in Bulgaria. A sports lover since an early age and an excellent student in Journalism and Mass Communication at AUBG, Flori has successfully combined her two passions upon graduation. And while she practiced rhythmic gymnastics for 10 years as a child, she says her favorite sport to watch and cover is football.
In 2021, Flori flew to Portugal to cover the Champion League’s final, a professional opportunity she admits was a dream come true, and to Tokyo to report on the Olympic Games. Flori also loves making documentary films, a passion she first discovered at AUBG. She has already received local and international recognition for her documentaries: she won the 2021 edition of the Bulgarian journalism contest Web Report in the ‘Sports’ category with her documentary “Speaking with Your Heart: A Story about Football and Signs,” and she was ranked among the 10 best young reporters in the world in the AIPS Sport Media Awards for her film “Mission 'Golden Girl.'”
“I am not exaggerating when I say that graduating from AUBG, you are one step ahead and you are ready for real life. So, go out there, never settle, and just be brave,” Flori said in advice to current and prospective AUBG students.
AUBG's largest alum donor, Albanian-born Elvin Guri ('96) has donated $1,100,000 to the university and has provided more than 250 students with scholarships. His contribution, however, goes beyond monetary support -- Guri has been actively involved with the university as a Board member for many years.
An Oxford Said Business School EMBA graduate and CEO of €21 million Empower Capital Fund, Elvin studied Economics and History at AUBG. Upon graduation, he spent six years working as an associate banker in the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in London and then co-founded JetFinance International, the largest independent consumer finance lender in SEE. The multi-million dollar business was acquired by BNP Paribas Personal Finance in July 2007.
Elvin is also the largest shareholder in ONE Telecommunications (Albania), the second-largest mobile operator in the country, and is involved with several educational causes in Albania, Kosovo, and Bulgaria.
The alumnus holds the Distinguished AUBG Alumni Award for Social Innovation and Change which was established by HRH Princess Maria Louisa to recognize the AUBG alumni who have contributed to their community and to the advancement of society while developing themselves personally and professionally. At the AUBG Donor Recognition Awards in 2020, Elvin received the Dimi and Yvonne Panitza Visionary Award.
A current student at AUBG, Veliyana Georgieva is majoring in Economics and Political Science and International Relations, and minoring in European Studies. She is Co-President at the youth NGO Bulgaria of the Young (България на младите), as well as the President of the European Society Club at AUBG and Vice President of the Student Government at AUBG.
Together with her friends, Veliyana co-founded Bulgaria of the Young back in 2018 when she was just 16 years old. The youth organization aims to drive positive change in the country through the active involvement and contribution of Bulgaria’s young people. Bulgaria of the Young organizes Model Republic of Bulgaria, the first-ever simulation of the Bulgarian state authority, during which high school and university students from across the country and beyond gather together and get into the roles of Ministers, Members of the Parliament, the President, International Delegates, Journalists, and Photographers.
“By organizing and participating in socially responsible projects we develop ourselves and our community,” Veliyana said. “I believe that Bulgaria of the Young inspired and is continuing to inspire young people to do great things. And AUBG offers the perfect atmosphere to create socially responsible projects. Our club community has always been a great example of that.”
Valdrin Lluka ('05) is an executive with more than 15 years of experience in public and private sector development, management, management consulting, and leadership development. Currently Chief Growth Officer at Solaborate, he also served as the Minister of Economic Development in the Government of the Republic of Kosovo (2017-2020).
Valdrin is a member of the Kosovo American Education Fund (KAEF) Committee, an organization dedicated to the long-term economic development of Kosovo through the education of its people. In addition to his BA degree in Economics and Information Systems from AUBG, Valdrin was a scholar of KAEF and holds an MBA degree from the University of Minnesota, Carlson School of Management.
He was the keynote speaker at AUBG’s Commencement Ceremony in 2019. “What I love about AUBG is that it brings together people from countries affected by fragility and conflict, not only from the Balkans but also from former Soviet republics,” he said during his address to the graduating students. “When I say it’s you who make the change, I also mean that you, no matter what degree you got today, eventually should get involved with politics. I know that a good part of you hates it, but that’s how we make our region a better place.”
Both a BA and an EMBA graduate at AUBG, Eftim Eftimov ('08, EMBA '18) is a true embodiment of the university’s entrepreneurial spirit. Since graduation, Efo, as his friends call him, has launched two successful businesses and started two NGOs. He has worked for four companies, growing the latest one from 30 to 150 employees in Bulgaria and achieving a successful exit to a multi-billion dollar PE fund in 2020.
Currently, Efo is the VP of Finance and Strategy for Montway, one of the leaders in the automotive-logistics industry in the U.S. He also sits on the board of several startups in Bulgaria, has been a member of the University Council at AUBG, was treasurer at the AUBG Alumni Association and even played a lead role in the AUBG musical All Shook Up. As the Co-Founder of the charity organization One Percent Change, Efo has supported a number of causes to help people in need in Bulgaria.
He says AUBG played an instrumental role in his development. “AUBG was the trigger for success in my professional career. I stay in touch and am always happy to meet AUBG graduates because when we talk, I know I am talking to like-minded people.”
Stefan Ivanov ('95) is the Co-Founder of Challenger Capital Management, a Sofia-based investment banking boutique. Prior to establishing his own business, Stefan held leadership positions at Citibank in London, Brazil, South Korea, and Tunisia and most recently as CEO of Citibank in Bulgaria. During his tenure, the bank topped the rankings in Bulgaria in client satisfaction, return on equity, and revenue to expense. Stefan holds a BA degree in Business Administration from AUBG, an MBA degree from Cornell University, and is an Executive Development alum of Harvard Business School.
He is an aficionado of extreme endurance challenges and has participated in numerous marathons and ultra-marathons and swam across the English channel. In 2020, he rowed across the Atlantic Ocean with his 16-year-old son Maxim in a boat that they built in their garage and called NEVEREST (meaning “Never rest until you reach your Everest”). This was the first crossing of the Atlantic by a rowing boat east to west during the hurricane season, an achievement only made more impressive by the fact that 2020 had the most active hurricane season ever recorded. Stefan and Maxim’s crossing was dedicated to the cause of stimulating more people to decide to donate their organs for transplants after death to save lives. Stefan is married to fellow alumna Jeni Sofronieva-Ivanova ('95) and has two children - Maxim and Lara.
Svetla Baeva ('07) is a human rights campaigner and activist with an academic background in communications and political science from AUBG and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. She is the Campaigns Director at Fine Acts, a global non-profit creative studio for social impact. Over the last ten years, she has worked on championing human rights and social issues at a number of local and international organizations, including the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee and the United Nations Development Programme for Europe and Central Asia. Svetla is the co-author of Vagina Matters, an illustrated book on sexual education for girls, that was recently published in Bulgaria and is coming out soon in the UK. She is also the co-founder of Power Pops, fruity popsicles with a social mission, and a 2018 Fulbright Scholar, exploring digital advocacy campaigning practices and people mobilization at Change.org.
“My time at AUBG has gifted me with the invaluable: cherished friendships, a source of inspiration, and a grounding support network,” she said. “Working for social impact and innovating in the field of human rights by embracing the arts, technology, and entrepreneurship has led me down a magical path of creation and experimentation for change. As a society, coming together to work on issues that are bigger than us to contribute to something that will outlive us is unifying and hopeful, particularly in the face of uncertainty.”
Yelizaveta, or Lisa, Glybchenko ('18) is a current PhD student and researcher in International Relations (Visual Peace Technology) at Tampere University, Finland. At AUBG, she studied Political Science and did a self-designed major in Identity and Peacebuilding, after which she went on to do a Мaster’s degree in Global Society (Peace, Mediation and Conflict Research) at Tampere University. Throughout her studies, Lisa participated in several exchange programs, including in Lithuania, Cyprus, Sweden and South Africa.
One of the things Lisa is most proud of is starting the visual art-for-peace project Color Up Peace, which was part of her self-designed major at AUBG. The project invites people from across the globe to submit photos of what peace is to them, which Lisa turns into coloring pages. Lisa pursued her dreams of peacebuilding through non-formal education and visual art-making by organizing workshops on Color Up Peace and participating in such programs as Embodying Peace (Israel-Palestine) and the worldwide Youth Peace Ambassadors Network.
“I could not emphasize enough the scale and depth of the impact my AUBG education has had on my further life,” Lisa said. She says she is especially grateful for her experiences at the AUBG Politics Department, AUBG Modern Languages Department (French), TEDxAUBG, and AUBG Model United Nations.
Martin Petrov (EMBA '16) is Managing Director for a German electronics production company with 150 employees in the city of Vidin. Beyond his successful career, he is actively involved with social causes and most recently volunteered in the COVID-19 ward in the hospital in Vidin.
In August 2020, he climbed Montblanc with the cause of promoting diabetes awareness. “I’m very proud of my family, my two beautiful daughters and my wife who support me in every endeavor I take,” he said. “Social responsibility means that individuals and companies have a duty to act in the best interests of their environment and society as a whole. It’s also a gateway to further opportunities. The knowledge that you’re helping others is hugely empowering and, in turn, can make you feel happier and more fulfilled.”
Martin said that to him, “AUBG is a way of thinking, a way of doing, a culture, a family, and life-long learning.” Upon graduation, “it’s like revisiting a long, beautiful but challenging hike, and stopping at the scenic bends to take in the glorious view.”
Nikoleta Popkostadinova holds a B.A. degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from AUBG and a Master's degree in Communication Studies from the University of Amsterdam. She has won several international journalism awards while working and publishing in a number of Bulgarian and European media on topics related to human rights.
In 2014, Nikoleta founded LoveGuide: a platform for health and sexual education for Bulgarian teenagers with classes for about 8000 students in over 55 schools across the country; about 65,000 subscribers and 10 million views on the educational YouTube channel LoveGuide; 4 packages with online lessons and a mobile application that answers the most frequently asked questions on the topics.
As the founder of LoveGuide, Nikoleta was featured in the top 10 list of "The most prominent young people in Bulgaria" by JCI Bulgaria and in the ranking of Darik "40 to 40" as one of the 40 young Bulgarians who change the status quo, are thinking, creative and full of ideas and carry an entrepreneurial spirit. She has also become part of the international BRIDGIT network of women - technology leaders and entrepreneurs. LoveGuide was named Project of the Year by the Tulip Foundation and received the Innovators in Education Award. The platform also won the "Inspiration of the Year" award in the "Person of the Year" competition of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee.
In parallel with LoveGuide, since 2015 Nikoleta has been Marketing and Communications Manager at the software company Melon, founded by AUBG alumni.
Deyan Vassilev ('95) is the Founder and CEO of the leading financial comparison portal in Bulgaria, MoitePari.bg and in Romania: Finzoom.ro, as well as the country’s leading mortgage intermediary company Creditland. Deyan’s leadership potential was evident back when he was a student at AUBG when he was actively involved with the founding of the AUBG Alumni Association (AAA) and was elected by the students for three consecutive terms to be the first Student Government President.
“We learned as much in the classroom as by actively participating in founding the University from scratch,” Deyan said. “We were ‘imbibing’ voraciously all the knowledge, values, philosophies that we could learn from our professors while at the same time creating the dozens of clubs and activities that have come to shape AUBG’s bustling campus life.”
A few years ago, Deyan re-engaged with AAA as a board member, and spearheaded two key alumni-led initiatives: the AUBG Alumni Pledge and the AUBG MultiTalent Quest. He is also one of the activists behind “Justice for Everyone,” a citizen pressure group that advocates for judiciary reform, rule of law, and effective judicial institutions “to root out the pandemic corruption in Bulgarian public life. The road is long, but just as we participated in the founding of AUBG, so shall we be an active part in the rebuilding of Bulgaria into a truly modern and prosperous democracy,” he said.
Deyan is married to fellow alumna Kalina Vassileva ('95) and has two sons, Simeon and Nickolay.
Alexandra Gouleva is a fourth-year student majoring in Political Science and European Studies, and minoring in Journalism and Spanish. A keen academic researcher, last year she won a grant from the AUBG Political Department for her research paper on Russian sharp power and influence operations. Alex was also among the students selected to participate at this year’s Athens Democracy Forum. The event, organized by the Democracy & Culture Foundation, in association with The New York Times, gathers together political, business, and NGO leaders to discuss the pressing issues facing democracy.
“Being accepted to AUBG was one of the major milestones in my life, one that opened the door to a multitude of opportunities and achievements,” Alex said. “Between all the all-nighters studying and shenanigans with my friends at AUBG, I’ve come to appreciate the value of clubs and the work that they do for our community and beyond. Being a department Head at Better Community Club and the Political Science Club has taught me responsibility and instilled in me a drive to work towards achieving a tangible change, and helping others in the process. I entered AUBG with the mindset of wanting to make a positive impact with my knowledge, skills, and work. And I’ll leave AUBG with wisdom and experience I didn’t have before, but still with the same stubborn attitude and determination to do good.”
Dr. Slaveyko Djambazov (EMBA '10) is an international healthcare consultant who holds an Executive MBA degree from AUBG and a PhD in Health Technological Assessment from the Medical University in Pleven. Upon enrolling at AUBG’s EMBA Program, Slaveyko was the CEO of a successful pharmaceutical company with more than 500 staff members and over 12 million EUR in turnover. During his studies, he married Elena Djambazova (EMBA '16) and, following the birth of their twins, decided to embark on the entrepreneurial path.
Currently, he is the founder and managing partner at over 20 companies that drive the future of healthcare. “Everything I do is usually done for the first time,” he said. “Like being part of the teams which built the first Bulgarian GMP-certified pharmaceutical manufacturer, the first cardiac clinics network, which changed the face of cardiac care in Bulgaria, the first cancer clinics network with unrestricted access to medical care, introducing health technology assessment and being co-author of the first HTA books in Bulgaria.”
“AUBG added academic knowledge to my business experience,” Slaveyko said. “Besides the love of my family, the great teams I work with, and the lovely job(s) I have, my other personal accomplishment is playing golf, as a proud member of the AUBG golf club.”
Monika Evstatieva ('05) is a Senior Producer at NPR’s Investigations Unit. For the past 15 years, she has worked as a journalist for National Public Radio and the New York Times. She has reported from Afghanistan, the Balkans, Russia, Western Europe, and the United States. Over the years, she has covered current events and breaking news, including wars, protests, elections, border disputes, and even music events. Monika majored in Journalism and Mass Communication and minored in Film and Theater Studies at AUBG and holds a Master of Arts in Journalism from American University in Washington, DC.
“But above all, I am a proud alumna of AUBG, where I was taught by some of the kindest and most generous professors, where I made lifelong friends, who I still hang out with all the time, and where I thrived as a young person trying to find a path in life,” she said. “At AUBG, I also fell in love with radio through my time at Radio Aura, where I worked as a producer and later as a General Manager during my senior year. My four years at AUBG are filled with incredible memories of theater performances, wonderful mentors, and a ton of late nights filled with fun and laughter.”
A photographer with VII Photo Agency in Yerevan, Armenia, Anush Babajanyan’s ('06) work is focused on social narratives and personal stories from Armenia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and countries in Central Asia.
In 2019, Babajanyan won the Canon Female Photojournalist Grant, which allowed her to continue her work in Nagorno-Karabakh. She worked there during the conflict in 2020 and continues today in its aftermath. Babajanyan is also photographing an environmental project in Central Asia, supported by the National Geographic Society. Her work has been published in The New York Times, Washington Post, National Geographic, Foreign Policy Magazine, and various other international publications.
“Some of the most interesting, exciting, strange, surprising days of my life were spent at AUBG,” Anush said. “During those years of exploration, I realized how painfully passionate I was to photograph. I often remember one of my most respected journalism professors, Aernout van Lynden, making a point that my writing had equally as much potential as my photography. But I could not help wanting to create images. It took years for me to actually be confident in calling myself a photographer.”
Igor Myakotin ('15) and Thomas Naglis ('16) are among the star crew of Welcome to Chechnya, a poignant documentary that shadows a group of activists who risk unimaginable peril to confront the ongoing anti-LGBTQ pogrom raging in the repressive Russian republic (nominated for an Emmy; shortlisted for an Oscar; winner in the International category at the BAFTA TV Awards 2021; among many others). Igor, who majored in Journalism and Mass Communication at AUBG and received a graduate certificate in Documentary Production from The New School, is a co-producer, assistant editor, and an additional camera on the film. Thomas, Political Science and International Relations major at AUBG, is the documentary’s leading translator and office manager.
In 2021, Igor helped produce a short documentary called Race to Save the World. Narrated by Oprah Winfrey, the film tells the story of the worldwide cooperation involved in the race to make the vaccine in a breakneck 2.5 minutes and was simulcast primetime across the major networks as part of Global Citizen’s VAX LIVE concert, a wildly impressive night designed to address vaccine hesitancy and vaccine equity. His latest short documentary Swan Song was invited to premiere at Big Sky Documentary Film Festival ‘18 and received an award for Outstanding Documentary Filmmaking at the 38th FINE CUTS at The New School in New York City.
Asparuh Koev ('98) is the Founder and Chief Strategy Officer of the award-winning logistics AI platform Transmetrics. Since 2013, Transmetrics has grown from four co-founders to a team of more than 35 highly skilled employees working with renowned cargo and logistics companies across the globe. The company won the Forbes Best Startup Award in 2014 for its innovative work.
Asparuh himself began his career path while still a student at AUBG. At the university, “we had a really good community of computer geeks who tended to stick together,” he said. “Then that community turned into a real software company - WizCom (Sciant).”
Asparuh joined WizCom during his third year at AUBG and in just a few years the company had over 50 employees, was developing computer games and software design tools, and had customers such as Ford Motor Company for which they created software for Formula 1.“ [At WizCom,] I went through all the ranks, from software developer through project manager, to president and board member,” Asparuh said. “Actually everyone who got in the company early enough went through impressive career growth. Joining a young growing company is one of the best shortcuts to personal growth and among the most honest of them.”
Back in 2014, Vassil Terziev ('01), Boyko Yaramov ('00) and Svetozar Georgiev ('00) together with Hristo Kosev from Sofia University, sold their software company Telerik to U.S. tech giant Progress for $263 million. To this day, this remains the largest software deal in Bulgarian history. But the extraordinary career path of the alumni trio does not stop here – the businessmen went on to establish two colossal projects: Telerik academy, which trains tomorrow’s digital experts, and Campus X, an ecosystem that supports tech companies’ growth and impact.
And while Vassil, Boyko and Svetozar are nowadays among Bulgaria’s most recognizable entrepreneurs, they find the time to support and actively contribute to the cause of AUBG.
“AUBG was life-changing in so many ways,” Svetozar said. “Besides the deep fundamental academic knowledge, the greatest value for me is gaining confidence, independence, and resourcefulness. Those are essential skills for every person, but especially for entrepreneurs.
The other aspect that makes AUBG special is the social connections – we are a small community and all AUBG-ers know and support each other – not only classmates for the respective cohort, but all alumni in general. In many ways we are like family, even a ‘mafia,’ but in the good sense of the word.”