President of the American University in Bulgaria
How does Blagoevgrad reflect AUB’s history as a headquarter?
In some ways, the choice of Blagoevgrad as AUB's home follows the pattern of the American university tradition known as the liberal arts. Many of these universities are located in smaller towns or suburbs rather than in large cities like Sofia. I think the most significant result of this choice is that it has helped us build a very vibrant campus community. Here, our students are inspired to create their activities and entertainment, which breeds incredible student initiative. The building has a wide range of clubs, events, and programs that keep our community constantly engaged and active. It's not impossible for something like this to happen in Sofia, but it still seems unlikely to me.
How has AUB changed the history of the city over the past 30 years?
AUB has attracted positive attention to the city, contributed to its growing prestige and created valuable contacts. In Blagoevgrad, we educate young people from all over the world and thus maintain a cosmopolitan, multicultural atmosphere that adds vitality to local life. The level of formal and informal cooperation with the municipality is determined by the priorities and tasks of the administration, but we are always ready to actively work with the local government and the local business community in supporting Blagoevgrads’ development for the benefit of all who live and work here.
What are the biggest achievements of AUB in the last 30 years and what are you most proud of?
The obvious answer is that over these years AUB has become an example of an excellent, mature educational institution. But in fact, our most important achievements are not our own, but those of our graduates, who have achieved great success in many fields both here in Bulgaria and around the world, including Europe and the USA. The most important indicator for any university is the impact of its alumni and, according to this indicator, AUB can be proud of its achievements.
How does AUB contribute to the economic development of Blagoevgrad?
We are a large employer (we have about 290 employees on contract) and we attract many young people from all over the world to Blagoevgrad to shop, eat and live here. Our students, employees and guests contribute millions of levа a year to the local economy, which is important for maintaining a vibrant community - from small service businesses like restaurants to larger businesses like food chains. Without immodesty, I can say that AUB brings credibility, prestige and valuable contacts to the city, and promote a positive and honest way of doing business at the same time. We owe our existence to the forward-thinking city leadership in the early 1990s and never forget that Blagoevgrad is our home and that we will only thrive if the city thrives too.
What is AUB's position among the city's key employers?
In terms of numbers, I don't have specific data to comment on our exact position among the employers in Blagoevgrad, but we are certainly among the largest, as I have already indicated. We strive to provide competitive compensation both in salary and benefits, but as a non-profit organization our revenue is highly dependent on the influx of students and donors, and we are always challenged to maintain our strong position. This year, we provided an 8% pay increase to almost all of our employees and some additional benefits to help them cope with the problems caused by the inflationary processes. This was important and, I hope, is the first step in maintaining or even improving our competitive position to attract the best employees in the Blagoevgrad community.
Are students taking advantage of the local job market and how?
A large number of our students are not Bulgarian, but only a small number are from other European Union countries, so finding a job outside the university is a real challenge. Some of our Bulgarian students work in the city, but most of them are involved in internships and other activities that prepare them for the job market after graduation. We know that some prestigious employers in the city are actively recruiting our graduates who have made contacts here, and rely on the knowledge and communication skills the young people have developed here.