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Community Update from AUBG President Sullivan, Feb. 11, 2019
Dear AUBG Alumni,
The Spring 2019 semester is underway. I’m happy to have the chance to be back in front of a classroom (at least for one class) with a full class of Principles of Macroeconomics. I returned recently from my trip to the USA to attend AUBG alumni gatherings in San Francisco, Boston, New York, and Washington, D.C. – as well as the Board of Trustees meeting in Washington. I just held a “Community Update” meeting to bring the on-campus community up-to-date, so now it’s time to speak to you – the AUBG alumni.
It was a great pleasure for me to be able to attend AUBG alumni gatherings in Brussels and London last semester, and in San Francisco, Boston, New York, and Washington DC in January.
Since we now attract student applications from the USA each year, we may begin to combine alumni events with recruiting events during the fall – just as we do in Bulgaria and the neighboring countries. This would also make it worthwhile to consider visiting some cities besides those we now visit. If you are an AUBG alum in the Chicago or Pittsburgh area and you’re ready to help organize an AUBG Alumni Chapter in your area, let our Development team know and maybe we’ll see you next year. Our US-based alumni can be very helpful by bringing AUBG closer to these applicants.
Alumni gatherings are a chance to meet with alumni and for alumni to meet with each other, and for me to enlist the support of alumni in supporting AUBG. Alumni support isn’t just about fundraising – the Multi-Talent Quest which brings 11th graders to campus for a competition spanning athletics, academics, creativity, and social impact is an alumni initiative. We are also interested in having alums come to campus to offer short courses, provide internship opportunities to current students, meet and interview prospective students, and provide feedback to us on how well we are preparing students for the world outside AUBG.
Fundraising matters, too. If you are early in your career and without lots of extra money – you can still support AUBG by setting up a recurring monthly gift of $5 (you won’t miss that one beer per month that much!) or with an annual gift of $10. It matters. Major donors evaluate the impact of colleges and universities by the loyalty they inspire among their alumni. This is measured by the percentage of alumni who support the University’s fundraising. Last year, we set a record with the highest-ever number of alumni who gave to AUBG. This year, I want to set a new record!
Board of Trustees Meeting
The decisions made by the Board were:
- To approve the recommendation for undergraduate tuition and mandatory fees for 2019-20. Tuition is to rise by $600, there are increases to the residence hall fees according to the type of room, and the activity fee is to rise by $30.
- No change was made to the tuition for the graduate programs.
- Amended the formula determining the distribution of income from the endowment funds. There is a trade-off between supporting the current needs of the University and preserving (or increasing) the value of the endowment. The Board has responded to the cautious outlook for investment returns by adopting a more conservative approach. What’s new on campus?
Last year, we reversed the long, gradual decline in the number of incoming new students by making a much stronger marketing and recruiting effort in Bulgaria. The 30% increase in the size of the incoming class was concentrated among Bulgarian students – our enrollment of new Bulgarian students was up over 50%! This year, we want to repeat that success in Bulgaria, but also expand it into the regional countries where we actively recruit. It’s too soon to know exactly how this year’s effort will turn out, but the first indications we are getting are that we can expect another year of good results.
The faculty are continuing to work on creating a new general education program. This has been a long time in the works, and also requires some serious thought devoted to how to offer current students the courses they need to complete their requirements under the old system while simultaneously introducing the new system. The proposal working its way through the Faculty Assembly process contains more emphasis on skills and somewhat lighter regulations of academic disciplines.
We are moving forward with plans to introduce an experimental “Maymester” – which is a short 4-week semester where a student can catch up or move ahead by taking one or two classes in accelerated format. We hope this will give AUBG students more options for completing their degrees on time, and also provide a platform to expand cooperation with US colleges that want to encourage their students to have some international experience as part of their undergraduate degree plan.
Depending on when you graduated from AUBG, you may remember the AUBG Canteen on the top floor of the Main Building. That closed when the ABF Student Center opened. The AUBG Main Building has been without food service since then. We are preparing now to re-open a Main Building café on the ground floor of the Main Building, behind the main staircase.
What are the upcoming AUBG events, student events, and student club events?
Last year at this time, I included a long list of spring campus events, with the comment that the pace of events in the spring was “crazy” (in my words). This year, the list is longer! Check our calendar to see everything that’s going on.
Our Development team just organized and launched the Rising Impactors: The Bulgarian Social Impact Scholarship – the first of its kind long-term initiative aimed at providing full four-year scholarships to new students who have launched or materialized projects with positive social impact in their communities. We are collecting contributions from business organizations and individuals who want to support socially responsible young people who are committed to serve their home communities and societies. These scholarships will allow these great students to receive a terrific undergraduate education from AUBG.
AUBG became a permanent member of the GlobalGiving crowdfunding platform by successfully passing the accelerator phase with our Science Lab project. If we can attract many small donations from all of you, we can equip our science lab with the fundamental observational and experimental instrumentation needed for expansion of our science curriculum towards science major and environmental studies minor at AUBG.
AUBG’s University Council and alum Daniel Tomov have launched the AUBG Accelerator – an exciting initiative aimed at providing funding and mentoring for competitive student start-ups. You are welcome to join in giving your fellow AUBG-ers wings to fly.
Finally, the Broadway Musical Club is scrambling for support this year as they did not receive the funding they often receive from the US embassy in Sofia. Possibly they were among the victims of the US government shutdown last month – the embassy could not undertake any non-emergency initiatives. Any assistance you may provide for them would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks for taking the time to read through this (lengthy) report. I hope you’re as proud to be part of the AUBG community as I am!
American University in Bulgaria
Community Update from AUBG President Sullivan, Oct. 26, 2018
It’s the time of year for me to provide you with another update on what’s been happening at your alma mater.
We’ve started the new academic year by welcoming the largest incoming class in the past seven years – a total of 251 new degree-seeking students! The biggest success was in the number of Bulgarian students (170), which is 56% higher than the previous year and the best result in 12 years. Not only that the students were higher in numbers but they are also stronger academically as measured by Admission points (Combination of High school GPA and English Language Proficiency test).
Our challenge for next year is to repeat and improve our success in the Bulgarian market and to apply the lessons we learned in Bulgaria to our other recruiting markets. On the international scene, we will rely heavily on your support – alumni are the most ardent and persuasive ambassadors of AUBG. Please join us at events (check calendar here), talk to friends, and lend us a hand in reaching out to your communities at home.
Our new Psychology program is off to a great start. We have two full-time faculty members in Psychology now, and the courses in the discipline have good enrollments. Now the faculty is considering whether we can offer new academic majors in the natural sciences and fine arts. The faculty is also close to having a final proposal for a new General Education program. The new proposal emphasizes skills that a student builds through the GenEd program in addition to sampling a diverse set of courses.
Another new initiative we intend to try this year is “Maymester”. This is an intensive semester lasting only four weeks or so, but packs in the entire semester’s contact time with a faculty member within that time, by having course meetings last longer and take place during every weekday. Maymester allows us to make better use of our campus facilities year-round and provides more flexibility for students who want to catch up or get ahead. We can also use our Maymester as a platform for developing collaboration with U.S. schools that use intensive summer programs to provide international experiences for their students.
The AUBG Board of Trustees held its regular October meeting last weekend in Blagoevgrad. The one bit of important news coming from the Board meeting was the election of Svetoslav Georgiev (EMBA 2005) to the AUBG Board of Trustees. This means that the AUBG Board now has five voting members who are AUBG alumni – an all-time high! Congratulations, Svetloslav!
The October meeting is typically devoted to review of enrollment, the previous year’s financial results, and providing the first discussion of where tuition and fees are likely to go in the following year. Enrollment is already discussed above. Our financial results last year were right where we want them to be – with a modest operating surplus. This current year is the third year in a row with exactly the same tuition and fees. Our seniors are the only ones who have ever experienced a tuition increase! While we continue to provide a top quality education to our students, our costs continue to rise (electricity, gas, monthly minimum wage, etc.). Since tuition is our biggest source of revenue, higher costs eventually create the need for higher tuition. This is why our fundraising efforts are so important. The more success we have in fundraising, the better able we are to limit those increases in tuition.
This year we scheduled an alumni homecoming event (feel the spirit by watching the video) on the same weekend as the Board meeting, so that the constituency updates could be a part of the homecoming program and the Board members would be able to meet with a larger group of alumni. The homecoming event was also an opportunity for alums to visit the campus and re-connect with their old classmates and some of their favorite faculty members. We also had the first-ever awarding of the Griffin Cup and the Skaptopara Cup. The Griffin Cup award is presented to the graduating class with the highest participation rate in giving to AUBG – and was awarded to the class of 2016. The Skaptopara Cup is awarded to the graduating class which raised the most funds – and this was awarded to the class of 2001. If your class didn’t win – there’s always next year!
Any donor who provides a gift to support AUBG is helping to keep tuition and fees affordable. But sometimes an alum feels a special attachment to some particular part of his or her AUBG memory – often associated with the extracurricular activities or student clubs. This year – like every year – the student clubs and organizations are planning many different special events and activities, and many find themselves a little bit short of the amount of money they need to carry out their plans. I’ve asked the student clubs and organizations what they are planning, and what things they could use some financial assistance to do. If you are the type of person who is inspired by what AUBG students and organizations are doing now and are willing to help, read on!
- AUBG Choir is traveling to Moscow this year to perform in a choir festival. The participants have already chipped in some of the personal expenses, but need about another BGN 3500 (about $2000) to cover the remaining travel expenses.
- The Better Community Club is hoping to have a small pool of funds to draw upon to support their efforts to work with the children in the Blagoevgrad orphanage, to provide opportunities to take the children out of the orphanage for events, picnics, etc.
- The AUBG Writer's Guild holds an annual event in the Spring showcasing their project(s) for the year around World Book Day. Raising around $200 would help offset costs such as catering and their writing project costs.
- The folk dance club "Samodiva" is planning on presenting two performances on a famous and well-known Bulgarian piece at the end of the 2018-2019 academic year. They are seeking $650 for the décor for the play, buying garbs and costumes for the participants, paying copyrights of the music, and for travel expenses to support a small tour in the biggest cities in Bulgaria.
- The AUBG Business Club wants to enlarge its event portfolio and organize the first Business conference on campus. They aim to invite 12 speakers from Bulgaria and Europe, who will come to our campus, especially including people who were recognized by the Forbes magazine and became part of the Forbes 30 under 30 class. They estimate the needed amount at around 15 000 leva.
- AUBG Dance Crew is organizing their own show with the topic to be “Night at the Movies”. The examples of the movies are The Mask, Dirty Dances, Harry Potter, The Greatest Showman, etc. They think that the approximate cost that can help the club to make the performance more vivid is about $800 to offset the price of costumes and decorations.
- The Rock Jamming Club would like to organize Spring fest, a huge campus event, which will bring together alumni and current students during the alumni weekend in April and will feature acoustic and full band performances. They will need 1500 leva (around $870) in order to be able to pay for the lights, sound, and additional equipment.
- The AUBG Daily began organizing Media Week last year by inviting Bulgarian journalists from two of the most known televisions in the country. This year they want to invite people who work in different media in different countries and show journalism from different perspectives, not just the Bulgarian one. We started looking for speakers but they are looking for about 2000 leva to cover their guests’ traveling and accommodation costs.
If you would like to support one of these worthy student causes, you can make a contribution through the portal at www.aubg.edu/give-to-aubg. The easiest option is to choose to direct your gift to “other” from the drop-down menu, and send a short email message to our development office ( firstname.lastname@example.org) with one of the boldface causes in the subject of your message. We’ll make sure your gift goes to the right student cause.
Steven F. Sullivan
American University in Bulgaria
Can ANYONE catch the AUBG class of 2016, April 26, 2018
The end of every academic year is a time for celebration, and this year is no exception. On May 20 we will celebrate the graduation of the AUBG class of 2018.
Even before then, we have another celebration. Every day between now and April 30 will be the first ever AUBG Giving Days! We are close to reaching another milestone in our history – we are only a few people away from reaching the highest number of alumni donors in a single year. AUBG needs your help to get us there!
The AUBG Giving Days are an opportunity for alumni, staff, faculty and friends of the university to help future generations of young leaders to receive the best possible education in the region.
Every contribution matters, whether it’s big or small. Each gift matters not for some record to go in the books, but to nurture the spirit of giving back, to keep the entire AUBG community united in helping future students have the life-changing experience of AUBG.
The spirit of AUBG is to respond to challenges, so we have prepared a challenge. We are inaugurating the Griffin Cup and the Skaptopara Cup that will be displayed prominently on campus. The Griffin Cup will be awarded each year to the graduating class with the highest participation rate in giving. Any gift of $10 or more counts! The Skaptopara Cup will be awarded to the class with the highest total giving. In case you are wondering, the Class of 2016 is the current leader for the Griffin Cup, but there’s still time for the lead to change! As a special award, I pledge to match the first $100 of every gift made by the class that wins the Griffin Cup – and my matching gift will be added to that class’s total in the Skaptopara Cup challenge.
There are many ways to give back to AUBG. You can do it online, send a check or visit the Business Office in the Main Building and catch up on some memories from back in the day. You can donate once or set up a monthly recurring payment – pledge as little as a few dollars and continue to support your alma mater as long as you wish without all the hassle. It’s just like your Netflix subscription, but for a good cause.
You choose what fund your money goes to. Support the Young Entrepreneur Scholarship, one of the regional Alumni Scholarship Funds or the ones dedicated to beloved late professors. Find more information on www.aubg.edu/donate.
Invest in education and take another step in building a better future for our region and the world.
Steven F. Sullivan
PresidentAmerican University in Bulgaria
AUBG Wins 1st Prize for its Alumni Network, Jan. 24, 2018
Dear AUBG alumni,
I am excited to share with you that the new year started with yet another award for AUBG. The university ranked the highest in the Network category at B2B Media’s Employer Branding Awards. AUBG received the honor in recognition of the strong bond between its alumni and current students, who stay connected all over the world and are always there for each other - for help, orientation, advice, job search. It also acknowledges the role AUBG alumni play in enhancing the AUBG brand as the strongest ambassadors of the university.
Thank you all for your continuous support!
Steven F. Sullivan
American University in Bulgaria
AUBG Donor Recognition Campaign, Oct. 24, 2017
Dear AUBG Alumni,
The American University in Bulgaria is proud to announce the AUBG Donor Recognition campaign. This campaign aims to honor our donors’ commitment and generosity by providing them with recognition for their support in an exciting, new and digital way.
AUBG contributors can now claim their own digital AUBG Donor badge or to become proud owners of the electronic AUBG STAR ALUMNI* status and badge.
Whether you are a one-time donor or give regularly, we at AUBG would like to acknowledge our gratitude to you for being part of this philanthropic endeavor!
How does the AUBG Donor badge differ from the AUBG STAR ALUMNI* badge?
The AUBG Donor badge acknowledges the support of anyone who makes at least one donation in the period July 1, 2017- June 30, 2018.
The AUBG STAR ALUMNI* status and badge are established to provide prestigious, highly visible recognition to our committed alumni donors.
Who is eligible to attain an AUBG STAR ALUMNI* status and a badge?
An AUBG STAR ALUMNUS/ALUMNA is a person who has given a minimum of $10 each year for the past 5 years, or every year since graduation (for those graduated after 2012).
If I haven’t given consecutively every year since graduation or in the past 5 years, can I still attain an AUBG STAR ALUMNI* status and a badge?
Yes. The AUBG STAR ALUMNI* status and badge can be attained by making a special "catch-up" contribution. We have a special rate of $500 for catch-up contributions during the launch phase of this campaign. The launch phase lasts from date of announcement (October 24, 2017) until December 31, 2017. Regular donations on yearly basis are required in order to keep the AUBG STAR ALUMNI* status and badge. To contribute the launch phase rate and attain the AUBG STAR ALUMNI* status and badge click here.
If I am an AUBG STAR ALUMNI* status and badge holder but quit giving in future, will I be eligible to keep the AUBG ALUMNI STAR* status and badge?
No. The AUBG STAR Alumni* status and badge can only be kept if regular donations of at least $10 are made on yearly basis. Otherwise, a new catch-up contribution or re-starting the 5 consecutive years of giving will be needed to regain the badge.
How will I receive my badge?
Shortly after making a donation you will receive an email invitation to claim your badge.
Can I share the badge on social media?
Yes, you will be able to share your digital badge on social media for your network to see.
Can I invite my friends to join me in this initiative?
Yes. By claiming your digital badge, you will be able to invite your friends to join in.
Can I invite my friends to join me in this philanthropic initiative?
Yes. By claiming your digital badge, you will be able to invite your friends to join in.
AUBG Alumni Community Update, Sept. 14, 2017
Dear AUBG Alumni,
The new academic year is underway. At the beginning of the academic year, I meet with faculty, staff members, and students to update them on what is new since commencement in May 2017. I would like to take this opportunity now to update the alumni community as well. AUBG alumni are important stakeholders in AUBG, and the controversies from last spring have demonstrated the need for better and more open communication between AUBG and all of its stakeholders.
Some of our alumni members crossed the stage at commencement only last May, while others made that journey more than 20 years ago. The AUBG that each person remembers will be different. Some will remember their parties at the Volga dormitory while others recall Skapto 3. There are some things about AUBG that don’t change. These are:
- AUBG students come with strong academic credentials from many different countries. Our new incoming class represents 15 different countries and has incoming scores comparable to those of the past several years.
- AUBG faculty members are highly-qualified and dedicated to their mission of teaching and scholarship. Over 80% of AUBG’s full-time faculty hold Ph.D. degrees or equivalent. Our faculty today comes from 13 different countries.
- AUBG maintains full accreditation in the USA and in Bulgaria. AUBG graduates are welcomed to the top graduate programs in Europe and the USA.
- AUBG’s flexible curriculum and English instruction makes us attractive to visiting students from the USA and all over Europe. In fall 2017, we are hosting 39 visiting students.
- AUBG students continue to distinguish themselves through their active participation in clubs, sports and cultural activities. AUBG alumni continue to enjoy outstanding career success wherever their professional aspirations take them.
- AUBG ranks number one in career success according to Bulgaria’s official university rankings system.
Then again, depending on how recently you graduated, the AUBG our current students experience is different than yours.
- AUBG will launch this October in Sofia its new master’s degree program in Finance, Banking, and Real Estate in cooperation with SDA Bocconi School of Management. This program expands our presence in the market for graduate education by complementing our existing EMBA by offering a specialized program that targets senior managers in these specific areas. Our partner SDA Bocconi is recognized as one of the top graduate business schools in Europe, ranked 5th in business programs in Europe and 3rd in the world in custom programs.
- Following a recommendation by the Faculty Assembly two years ago, AUBG is awarded emeritus status to 4 of its long-standing faculty members – Prof. Popov, Prof. Bonev, Prof. Stefanovich, and Prof. Mutafchiev.
- AUBG has created spacious new computer labs in the Main Building ground floor, and a new mac lab in the Balkanski Academic Center.
- A new lounge space is created on the ground floor of the Main Building so that students, faculty, or staff have a place to relax between classes.
- A new science lab will be completed before classes start in the Spring semester.
- More campus improvements are in the works.
This is not to claim that we face no challenges. Some of the major donors who supported AUBG in past years have wound down their support. OSI is winding down all of its educational programs, including its support for AUBG. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) formerly supported AUBG as one of its top projects in Bulgaria. USAID is no longer present in Bulgaria. AUBG needs to identify new supporters to help keep the AUBG experience accessible for students with limited financial means.
AUBG faces a more challenging environment for recruiting new students than ever before. The challenge is felt most keenly in our international markets – where the absence of new Open Society Institute (OSI) scholarships to offer makes it more difficult to grab the attention of the top students from these countries. Even in Bulgaria, many prospective students and their families are inclined to consider any university in Western Europe to be superior quality due to location alone, and sometimes will not be willing to listen long enough to hear the real AUBG story. As a result, AUBG enrollment is lower now than where we hoped it would be a few years ago.
In the middle of the semester last spring, as the change in presidents was taking place, some groups attempted to enlist alumni support for their cause by exaggerating the difficulties facing AUBG. We were not then – and are not now – in any kind of financial crisis. AUBG finished the most recent year with its second-highest unrestricted budget surplus in its history. AUBG’s endowment fund balance reached an all-time high this summer. In order to strengthen our financial position further, we repaid half of our remaining long-term debt ahead of schedule last month – this will result in reduced interest charges saving us over $1 million over the next several years. This saving will be on top of the savings we have already made in other areas that reduce our total annual expenses by over $1 million per year from where they were just a few years ago.
During the summer of 2016, AUBG commissioned a strategic study carried out by an international educational consulting company. The consultant’s report covered marketing strategy, strategic options for AUBG, pricing, organizational design, and staffing levels. The terms of the contract forbid AUBG from publishing the study itself, but since March 2017 the executive team and I have reviewed the report thoroughly and double-checked all of the data used to generate the report. Many of the recommendations from the study have already been carried out, and many others are still underway.
Some of the study’s conclusions were inaccurate due to errors in their data. They found that AUBG had more non-academic staff than comparable US-based colleges, but in reality the difference is not nearly as large nor as significant in terms of cost as the consultant concluded. Nevertheless, a complete review of all staffing requirements undertaken over the summer of 2017 has resulted in a reduction of 23 full-time staff positions. This was carried out by delaying the filling of vacant positions until a review was complete of the necessity of re-hiring. Other recommendations from the study related to the organizational design and staff development policies are being carried out. In short, if you have heard any rumors that AUBG is not following the recommendations from the study – you should know that those rumors are without foundation.
In the meantime, steps are being taken to address our real challenges. AUBG has engaged President Rosen Plevneliev as our special envoy. His role will be to use his expertise and his contacts to bring us into contact with foundations and other donors who can help us bring in support funds to help AUBG further its mission and remain affordable to students with limited financial means. He will also help us convince potential students and their families that quality education is available in Bulgaria at AUBG.
I would like to close with an invitation to alumni to maintain and deepen your connection with AUBG. We need you. Alumni can help us by promoting AUBG among their own circle of family and friends. (Every survey we ever run of new students tells us that “word of mouth” is the most effective recruiting platform we have.) I’d like to invite you to come to our admissions and alumni events in Bulgaria and in our other recruiting markets. I attended such an event last April in Tbilisi – our Georgian alumni worked wonders to convince our new Georgian students to attend AUBG. If you are in Bulgaria and like to golf (who doesn’t?) – I’d love to see you at the first annual AUBG Golf Tournament at the Pirin Golf and Country Club on September 29. If you are out of Bulgaria, maybe I can see you at one of the alumni events we are scheduling for Brussels, London, Boston, New York, or Washington D.C. We might add San Francisco or Toronto to the list – we are still planning.
Every university counts on its alumni to be its strongest supporters, and AUBG is no exception. Alumni participation in giving is one of the instruments foundations and other donors use to measure whether an institution’s own customers are among their supporters. We are also working on some new ideas on fundraising, but I’ll save the details for another message.
Hoping your lives and careers are fulfilling all your dreams,
American University in Bulgaria
AUBG opens the new academic year with strategic partnership, Sept. 5, 2017
Dear alumni community,
I am bringing some exciting news at the start of the new academic year.
AUBG has come to an agreement with former President of the Republic of Bulgaria Rosen Plevneliev to act as special envoy for the University. President Plevneliev has agreed to help promote Bulgaria and AUBG at home and abroad, and to use his extensive network of contacts to assist AUBG with bringing distinguished guests to campus, with approaching foundations for grant support, and to help our new student recruiting efforts.
We are glad to have the opportunity to form such high caliber partnership to serve the best interest of our community. President Plevneliev will be joining us for the traditional All-Campus Picnic, which will take place on Wednesday, September 6.
Stay tuned for more exciting news from AUBG.
Steven F. Sullivan
American University in Bulgaria