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University Council

Empowering AUBG Community Participation and Support

Acting as an established arm of the Board of Trustees of the American University in Bulgaria, the University Council (UC) is designed to encourage participation and interaction of the broader AUBG community with the BOT, University administrators, faculty, students and alumni in a manner providing essential human and material support for selected activities.<p>
The mission of the UC is to help raise the profile of AUBG, locally, regionally and internationally, by engaging the interests and resources of individuals and organizations that can contribute to the continuing success of the University. <p>
All activities planned and sponsored by the UC are undertaken with endorsement of the BOT and University Administration. All activities of the UC and its members are intended to harmonize with AUBG’s mission and to complement the ongoing efforts of the University’s fundraising, programs and activities. <p>
The University Council consists of distinguished individuals interested in maintaining regular contact with AUBG and willing to share their expertise and connections to secure financial and in-kind contributions in support of selected activities. UC members may serve on Standing and Special Committees of the Board of Trustees.

UC Members

  • Dobrin Staikov (’96) is the Group CFO & Head of Capital Markets and board member at Lion’s Head. He has an extensive 25-year experience in private equity, capital markets, and structured finance with an industry focus on commercial real estate, non-performing loans and distressed real estate, and financial institutions, as well as equity and debt transactions in Europe, Asia, and Africa. Mr. Staikov served as non-executive director and observer on boards of investee companies and has held leadership roles in companies and financial institutions such as EBRD, UNIQA, Raiffeisen Bank International, Deutsche Bank and PwC.

    Mr. Staikov holds an MBA degree from INSEAD and a B.A. from the American University in Bulgaria, where he also taught a course on international accounting. He completed the Real Estate Executive Management Program: Finance, Design and Leadership, Real Estate at the Harvard Business School and is a Financial Certified Chartered Accountant, ACCA.

  • Ahmet O. Evin, Professor Emeritus and founding dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at Sabanci University, serves is Senior Scholar at Istanbul Policy Center. As a Jean Monnet Professor ad personam, he has held the Jean Monnet Chair of European Policy Studies, as well as the Anna Lindh-La Caixa Chair for Euro-Mediterranean Studies at Sabanci University. He received his B.A. and Ph.D. degrees at Columbia University.

    Professor Evin has been a senior fellow of the Transatlantic Academy (Washington, DC) and an Alexander Onassis Senior Fellow at Eliamep, Athens. He currently serves on the Advisory Board of Columbia Global Centers – Istanbul, Senior Advisory Board of the NATO Defense College Foundation (Rome), University Council of the American University of Bulgaria, Advisory Board of the Turkey Programme at Eliamep (Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy), and International Advisory Board of the Institute of Advanced Studies - Köszeg.

    He has taught at Harvard, NYU, University of Pennsylvania (where he was director of the Middle East Center), the University of Hamburg and Bilkent University. He served as Director of Education of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (Paris and Geneva), and Advisory Board member of the Aga Khan University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

    He has authored or edited over 10 volumes on politics, culture, and development, and currently serves on the editorial boards of four international journals.

  • Andrea Leskes, former President of the Institute for American Universities in Aix-en-Provence, France (2006 to 2011), is currently a member of the Registry for College & University Presidents. From 1999 until 2006, she was Vice President for Education and Quality Initiatives at the Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U) where she directed the U.S. national initiative called Greater Expectations. From 1996 to 1999, Dr. Leskes served as Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean at the American University of Paris, where she was a Professor of Comparative Literature and additionally assumed the responsibilities of both Interim and Acting President. Former administrative positions include Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education at Northeastern University; Associate Dean for the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences at Brandeis University; and Associate Dean for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Dartmouth College. Dr. Leskes has helped raise over $14 million for four universities and one national association. Her education includes a B.A. from Vassar College, M.A. in French from the University of Massachusetts/Amherst, and Ph.D. in the Life Sciences from The Rockefeller University. Dr. Leskes has many years of service to the academic profession including as grant reviewer for the National Science Foundation Division of Undergraduate Education, the National Endowment for the Humanities Translation Program, and the Fulbright Specialists Program; accreditation team member in the U.S. and abroad; member of the Pew Forum on Undergraduate Learning; Senior Fellow at AAC&U; and trustee of the American University in Bulgaria. As a Fulbright Specialist she worked with Sedibeng College in South Africa (2012) and with Al Akhawayn University in Morocco (2014). A consultant to many universities on general education reform, curricular design, and international education, she has written extensively and spoken in many venues about undergraduate education. (07/2022)

  • Anguel Anguelov (’00) has a Business Administration major and minor in Fine Arts from AUBG. He is an accomplished serial entrepreneur and digital marketing strategist with a strong background in software development, strategic digital marketing and SEO, who consulted hundreds of online businesses on their digital presence and performance marketing approach. Anguel is also a founder of MediaSpy - a media monitoring SaaS powered by machine learning, which disrupted the industry with real-time custom monitoring reports and analysis, promoting media integrity and transparency. Anguel has served on the AUBG board of trustees during his term as AAA president 2004-2007. From 2007-2017 he served on the University Council. On top of his active participation in the leadership of AUBG, Anguel has supported many on-campus projects such as the Broadway musicals, More-Honors ceremony (created by him in 1998) and other AUBG events and activities. He was awarded 2 AUBG distinguished awards for his contributions. His current interests include the long-term growth and sustainability of AUBG and other social projects outside of academia.

  • Boriana Handjiyska works in investment management at Alkeon Capital which invests in public and private companies globally, having joined 11 years ago from Morgan Stanley, Institutional Equities. Immediately prior to Morgan Stanley, she worked at CIBC in credit portfolio management where she started her career. She holds an M.S. degree in Management from Stanford Graduate School of Business, an M.A. degree in Economics from Johns Hopkins University and a B.A. degree in Economics from Bard College; she is a CFA charter holder. Boriana serves on the Board of Governors of Bard College.

    In terms of location, after years in NYC, she now lives in Palm Beach, with some time spent in New York.

  • Brien P. Horan joined the University Council of AUBG in 2021. He is a retired U.S. Administrative Law Judge. Before becoming a judge, he spent decades as a lawyer in the private sector, including as a partner in a large American law firm and as vice president in the law department of a Fortune 100 financial services company. He is also a former diplomat, having been a U.S. Foreign Service Officer in Jamaica and France, and a former U.S. Army officer, assigned in Germany and France. After leaving active military duty, he remained for many years both in the U.S. Army Reserve (where, as a Colonel, he was the senior Army Reserve judge advocate assigned to U.S. Army Europe) and attached to the Connecticut National Guard. He retired as a Brigadier General in the Connecticut military. Judge Horan has a bachelor’s degree from Amherst College, a master’s degree from Harvard University, and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Connecticut.

  • Daniel Tomov (’97), is an AUBG alumnus, who served on the AUBG Board of Trustees in his capacity of President of the AUBG Alumni Association for the period 2001-2005 and as an ex-officio member in his capacity of Chair of the University Council for the period 2019-2022. He is a Founding Partner at Eleven Ventures, a top brand VC that invests in early stage technology companies from CEE. Tomov has been involved with startups since 2000 as an investor through bulventures, a pioneer in pre-seed funding in the region, founded by AUBG alumni. He has also been a founder in diverse domains ranging from technology to retail to renewable energy. Daniel Tomov has been engaged with different institutions and initiatives that support entrepreneurship such as the European Business Angel Network (board member 2016-18) and the Bulgarian Venture Capital Association (board member). Tomov is the founder of Elevate – the AUBG accelerator program.

  • David Cleave is a highly accomplished non-executive director with a remarkable global track record in Banking & financial services. With expertise in banking operations, corporate governance, and strategic leadership, he drives constructive actions to advance businesses. Known for empowering executive teams and fearlessly navigating uncertainties, David has successfully led Banking and Multi-Government NGO institutions through diverse economic climates. His contributions to esteemed organizations like ING Barings and Raiffeisen Bank have solidified his position as a respected leader in the industry.

    His areas of expertise include business strategy, finance, mergers and acquisitions, investment banking, risk management, restructuring, and international business. As a member of prestigious professional institutes, including the Chartered Management Institute, David continues to make an indelible mark as a forward-thinking and results-driven non-executive director in the international banking and finance arena.

  • Eftim Eftimov (’08) graduated from AUBG's BA program in Business Administration in 2008. A decade later, he earned his EMBA degree from the same institution. Eftim Eftimov is a seasoned professional with extensive experience in business development, more recently in the automotive logistics tech sector. Currently, he is the President at Ship.Cars, a company at the forefront of transforming the auto transport industry in the US. Beyond his professional activities, Eftim is a dedicated philanthropist and co-founder of One Percent Change, an organization committed to making a positive impact on society. Over the past 7 years, the organization raised over 1mln BGN for support of local charitable causes. Today, he serveс as Chair of the board of directors. During his time at AUBG, Eftim enjoyed a vibrant campus life, engaging in sports and even participating in the musical "All Shook Up." This experience rekindled his connection with the university, fostering new friendships and personal growth.

  • Elizabeth Kostova is a novelist, essayist, educator, and literary organizer. Her first novel, The Historian, appeared in 40 languages and won several awards, including a Hopwood Award, the Quill Award, the U.S. Independent Booksellers’ Award, and Spain’s Que Leer Prize; it was the first debut novel in history to debut at #1 on U.S. bestseller lists and is being made into a film by SONY. Her second novel, The Swan Thieves (January 2010), is also an international bestseller. Kostova has 15 years of experience as an instructor of writing, literature, film, and related subjects. She has taught at five American universities, including the University of the Arts, the University of Michigan, and UNC-Wilmington. She is a co-founder and board member of the Elizabeth Kostova Foundation for Creative Writing in Bulgaria, which hosts an international fiction seminar and sponsors writing and translation competitions and fellowships. Kostova tours internationally, works for literacy and related causes, lectures widely at American universities, libraries, and literary festivals, and teaches annually at creative-writing conferences in Bulgaria and the U.S. Kostova's third novel, set in Bulgaria, will be published by Random House.

  • Francois Riston is a general manager at French underwear giant DBApparel, managing the Western Europe commercial operation for leading brands like DIM, Playtex, Wonderbra and overseeing a €400 million business employing 2,000 people. He joined the company in July 2008. Between 2006 and 2008, Riston served as a managing director at Procter & Gamble with responsibilities in the company’s oral care business. He has also held top managerial positions at Gillette and Sony’s European operations. Riston holds an M.Sc. in Mechanical Engineering from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) and an MBA from IMD Business School. He is fluent in French, English, and German.

  • George Soros is founder and chair of Soros Fund Management and the Open Society Foundations. Born in Budapest in 1930, he survived the Nazi occupation during World War II and fled communist-dominated Hungary in 1947 for England, where he graduated from the London School of Economics. He then settled in the United States, where he accumulated a large fortune through the international investment fund he founded and managed. Soros has been active as a philanthropist since 1979, when he began providing funds to help black students attend Cape Town University in apartheid South Africa. The Open Society Foundations today operate in more than 100 countries, with annual expenditures that reached $835 million in 2011, working to promote the values of open society, human rights, and transparency. Soros is the author of over a dozen books, including Financial Turmoil in Europe and the United States: Essays (2012). His articles and essays on politics, society, and economics regularly appear in major newspapers and magazines around the world.

  • Georgi Fotev is a prominent Bulgarian professor of sociology with international reputation. He is member of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts and other prestigious academic organizations. Professor Fotev is author of an important number of scientific publications part of which published abroad (16 countries). Some of his fundamental works are “Sociological reality and imagination” (1986 and 1996), “The other ethnicity” (1994), “Crisis of legitimacy” (1999), “Political borders” (2001), “Dialogical sociology” (2004), “The Long night of the Communism in Bulgaria” (2008), “Bulgarian Melancholy” (2010), Meaning and Understanding (2014); Human Uncertainty (2016); Sociology as a Rigorous Science (2018); Phenomenology of Feelings (2018). Dialogical Reason (2022) and others. Professor Fotev was Director of the Institute of Sociology at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences from 1990 to 2003. From 1990 to 1991, Prof. Dr. Fotev was Minister of Culture and Higher Education, professor of sociology in the Saint Kliment Ohridski University from 1977 to 2008, National Director for Bulgaria on the project European Values Study from 1998 and President of the Bulgarian Sociological association from 2006 to 2009. He is professor emeritus and senator of the New Bulgarian University. He is married and has a son and a daughter. (07/2022)

  • Karen I. R. Boucias retired from the University of Maine after a long career in international education. She has held various higher education administrative positions in Florida and Kentucky as well. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English, and a Master of Science in Library Science. She was awarded an administrative Fulbright grant, was a scholarship reviewer and in-country interviewer for the Open Society's higher education exchanges, and held regional and national positions in international higher education professional organizations. She continues to serve on several boards for the University of Maine, including the University of Maine's Board of Visitors, which is advisory to the President, and she volunteers with local organizations.

  • Kathryn Loosemore has thrived in the content management industry for over 20 years, working across three continents and amassing a wealth of experience in data management, data/process quality, program management, and customer service. She is a keen advocate of Diversity and Inclusion in and beyond the workplace.

    Throughout her career, Kath has successfully managed off-shoring operations teams and implemented quality management programs, ensuring exceptional customer satisfaction. She has led the Process Excellence (Six Sigma) team and designed performance metrics for diverse financial, legal, news, and tax content.

    Kath's expertise extends to close collaboration with clients in the news, tax, and legal sectors, where she provides thought leadership on technology solutions, performance measurement, and customer service.

    During her time at Thomson Reuters, Kath held a pivotal role as the leader of the Legal Entity operations team, where she effectively translated market-driven (regulatory) changes into customer-centric solutions. Her deep understanding of Market Data and Symbology has greatly influenced her strategy and program management for a global technology team. Currently, as the Chief Operations Officer at Kantar Worldpanel, Kath manages a global team that leverages technology and market insight to create unique consumer behavior insights. Her team is responsible for collecting, aggregating, and analyzing consumer data, delivering timely, accurate, and visually engaging presentations to clients.

    Kath's key areas of expertise encompass Operations management, Project Management, data governance, quality governance, M&A, cloud migration, AI, ML, and technical governance. Her proven track record and diverse skill set continue to drive impactful results in the content management industry.

  • Leon Morange Selig retired in 1998 from his activities with INSEAD, the European Institute of Business Administration in Fontainebleau, France, where he had been director of executive education; and in 2003 from Polytechnic University of New York where he was associate director of a telecommunications research center. He was previously a visiting professor of marketing at l’Ecole Superieure de Commerce de Lyon and associate dean and assistant professor at Pace University, New York. Prior to entering the academic world in 1977, he had been in government service on the staff of the Mayor of the City of New York, as a U.S. Foreign Service officer and prior to that as an officer in the medical service corps of the U.S. Army. His third career, in business, spanned some twenty years, most of that time in France, where he managed European affiliates of international companies. Selig retired from the Board of the American University of Paris in 2010. He worked with Outward Bound France as a member of the advisory council and then as chairman of the school. He holds an MBA from INSEAD, a B.A. in Art History from Wesleyan University, and a certificate from l’Institut d’Etudes Politiques in Paris. He also studied at the Georgia Institute of Technology, l’Universite de Lyon III and at the University of Bath. Selig is married to Cornelia Higginson. Higginson had been responsible for international philanthropic activities at American Express from 1987 to 2006. Previously she was an investment banker and editor at Selection du Reader’s Digest in France. She is a graduate of Radcliffe College with a B.A. in History and Literature and holds an MBA from Boston University. Between 2008 and 2011, they were co-directors of the Camargo Foundation in Cassis, France, and from 2011 to 2013 served as consultants to the Foundation when they officially retired.

  • Marianne M. Keler, formerly served as Executive Vice President and General Counsel of Sallie Mae, the largest private sector source of education finance in the U.S., and is currently a member of the Sallie Mae Board of Directors. She also serves as Board Chair of The American College of the Mediterranean in Aix-en-Provence (formerly the Institute for American Universities). From 2007 until 2022 she was a director of CubeSmart, a public self-storage company and has served as a trustee for a variety of nonprofits, including the National Student Clearinghouse, Building Hope (financing U.S. charter school facilities) and the Levine School of Music in Washington DC Ms. Keler obtained her undergraduate and law degrees from Georgetown University and began her legal career at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. She is a partner with her husband, Michael Kershow, in the law firm of Keler & Kershow, PLLC. Marianne Keler served of the Board of Trustees from 2000 to 2004 and from 2006 to 2015. She was granted the Distinguished Service Award, May 2015. (06/2015)

  • Mark Potts is an accomplished professional with a Juris Doctor degree, cum laude, from Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School, and a Bachelor's Degree from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. With over 20 years of experience in the fields of international affairs and strategic management, Mark is committed to sustainability, food security, and peace.

    Mark serves as the Managing Director of Biodapt GmbH, Vienna, Austria, overseeing the expansion of plant-based biostimulants to meet the needs of the circular economy and a better climate.

    At home in Michigan, Mark is the Director of the Personal Financial Planning Program at Central Michigan University, recognized as an Honors Faculty Member, and a recipient of the Lorrie Ryan Memorial CMU Excellence in Teaching Award in 2021.

    As a Principal at Potts Law, PLC, Mark specializes in startup ventures and corporate law, showcasing his versatility in legal matters.

    Mark's contributions extend beyond his professional roles, with peer reviewed articles that include the Oxford University Press.

    Outside of work, Mark is actively involved in volunteer service, serving as a Board Member of his local Rotary Club and other local community organizations.

    Fluent in English, Bulgarian, and German, Mark's language skills facilitate effective communication in various settings. He is a licensed member of the Michigan Bar Association and the Missouri Bar Association.

    Mark extended his service to serve the Republic of Bulgaria in the US Peace Corps. Mark is committed to the future of Bulgaria, the University, and what we can achieve together today and in the future.

  • Minko Balkanski is the founder of the Minu Balkanski Foundation – organization, working for the betterment of Bulgarian education and helping talented young Bulgarians develop and receive quality education at prestigious universities. He became a professor of physics at the Sorbonne at the age of 28 – the world’s youngest professor at the time. Throughout his life, Professor Balkanski has been actively involved with research and academic activities. For his contribution to science, Professor Balkanski received France’s highest distinction, Chevalier of the Legion of Honor of France, as well as Chevalier of the National Order of Merit of France. He is also the recipient of Poland’s Commander Cross with Star of the order of Merit, the prestigious Von Hippel prize, Bulgaria’s highest distinction, the Order of Merit Stara Planina, and India’s highest honor for service to the country by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. Currently, Professor Balkanski is a professor emeritus at the Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris and a visiting professor at the University of California.

  • Nathalie Willis-Davis is a dynamic entrepreneur with a proven track record in various industries. As the Founder and Managing Director of Tendoria, an education consultancy in Portugal, she has successfully established the firm as a market leader within a short span of two years. Nathalie played a key role in the launch and growth of Fleurisse, a luxury childrenswear brand, where she maximized sales through strategic eCommerce and wholesale channels.

    In her previous role as Manager of Sales & Marketing at Feed Me Bottles, Nathalie spearheaded the successful launch of 'yoomi,' a revolutionary self-warming baby bottle, securing exclusive placement in renowned retail stores like John Lewis. Her expertise in business development and strategic planning has been recognized throughout her career. Nathalie holds a Master of Business Administration from INSEAD and a Bachelor of Arts from Columbia University, where she graduated magna cum laude and was awarded Phi Beta Kappa honors. Her educational background is complemented by a rich international experience, including a study abroad program at St. Petersburg State University in Russia. Fluent in English, French, and Spanish, with a working knowledge of Portuguese and Russian, Nathalie possesses excellent communication and language skills.

  • Petia Dimitrova is Chief Executive Officer and Chairperson of the Management Board of Postbank (under the legal name Eurobank Bulgaria AD). She joined the team of Postbank in 2003 as Country CFO for the eight affiliated companies of Eurobank EFG Group in Bulgaria. In 2005 was appointed Procurator of the Bank. In 2007 she was appointed Executive Director and Member of the MB of DZI Bank. After the legal merger of DZI Bank and Postbank she became Executive Director and Member of MB of the unified bank. In 2012, Mrs. Dimitrova became Chief Executive Officer and Chairperson of the Management Board of Postbank.

    Under her leadership, Postbank completed in just a few years two successful deals, the acquisition and integration in a record short-term time of Alfa Bank - Bulgaria Branch, followed by Piraeus Bank Bulgaria. They are another step to strengthen its position as a systemic for the bank market and to expand its customer base.

    Mrs. Dimitrova began her career in 1996 at the Consular Department of the US Embassy. Then, in 1998-2003, she worked at PricewaterhouseCoopers as Senior Manager and Senior Auditor.

    She is a chartered accountant, qualified ACCA member of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) in London, UK. Mrs. Dimitrova has an Executive MBA in General Management from the University of Sheffield, UK and holds two Master Degrees in Finance and Banking and Tourism from the University of National and World Economy and Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski.

    In addition, she is a graduate of ALBA Leadership Development Program, Harvard; holds a Certificate of Merit from Georgetown University Leadership Seminar, Washington D.C. and graduated Management and Social Development of NGOs at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and University of Macedonia, Greece. She also holds certificates for successful completion of the program "Harvard Business School in 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021, and Said Business School, University of Oxford in 2022.

    Mrs. Dimitrova has acquired her professional qualifications in UK, Greece, Holland, Belgium, USA and Bulgaria, and has participated in various prestigious international trainings, seminars and conferences.

    Mrs. Dimitrova is a Member of the Management Boards of the Association of Banks in Bulgaria, “Atanas Bourov" Foundation, Endeavor Bulgaria Association, the International Banking Institute. She also is a Deputy Chairman of the Board of Directors of Hellenic Business Council in Bulgaria, member of the Management Board of CEIBG and Member of the University Council of the American University in Bulgaria. Petia Dimitrova is a Member of the National Council of Global Compact Local Network Bulgaria, Industrial Advisory Board - CITY College, International Faculty of the University of Sheffield, Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO), Young Global Leaders Forum, part of the World Economic Forum, Gerson Lehrman Group Accounting Council London, UK, Fellow Member of the Chartered Management Institute, UK and Cofounder of the Public Council of Women in Business.

    Under her leadership Postbank won nearly 100 prestigious international and Bulgarian awards.

  • Petia Stoycheva (’07) is an accomplished EU policy professional who currently serves as Senior Policy Advisor at BDO. With experience spanning the Netherlands, Brussels and Bulgaria, Ms. Stoycheva has contributed with her expert work to several organizations, including the Legal clinic for refugees and immigrants at Sofia University, Bulgaria's Ministry of Environment and Water, FEAD, and the Global Reporting Initiative. She holds an LLM degree in International and EU Law: EU Law from the University of Amsterdam and a BA degree in European Studies and International Relations from the American University in Bulgaria.

  • Princess Maria-Luisa of Bulgaria is the older sister of King Simeon II and daughter of King Boris III and Queen Giovanna. In 2012 Princess Maria-Luisa was awarded the degree Doctor Honoris Causa of AUBG. She was the first of the royal family to revisit Bulgaria after the fall of communism, and is extremely well respected among the Bulgarian émigré community in North America. Princess Maria- Luisa is involved in charity work in support of Bulgarian hospitals and Bulgarian art. After leaving Bulgaria the Communist-staged referendum that abolished the monarchy and proclaimed the People’s Republic of Bulgaria, Princess Maria-Luisa lived in Egypt, Spain, Canada, and since 1974 in the United States. She studied at the Medical Nurse College of the Spanish Red Cross Society and graduated with honors.

  • Sani Silvennoinen is an experienced fundraiser who has spent the last two decades advancing the mission of American and European educational institutions. He is currently the Associate Vice President for Development at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, the world’s largest living history museum. Most recently, Sani was an Assistant Vice President for Development at William & Mary, a top-40 American university. Previously, Sani served as AUBG’s Vice President for Institutional Advancement for two years under presidents David Huwiler and Michael Easton, and in fundraising roles at Johns Hopkins University, Helsinki University of Technology in his native country of Finland, and at Yale University, his undergraduate alma mater.

  • Sonia Hirt is an academic with a remarkable career in landscape architecture and planning. As the Dean and Hughes Professor in Landscape Architecture and Planning, her contributions to academia have been recognized with a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship, making her one of the few UGA faculty members to receive this honor.

    Originally trained as an architect in Sofia, Bulgaria, Sonia Hirt holds a master's and a doctoral degree in urban and environmental planning from the University of Michigan. Throughout her career, she has held various leadership roles, including serving as Dean of the School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at the University of Maryland and as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at Virginia Tech's College of Architecture and Urban Studies. Sonia is a prolific author and editor, with numerous scholarly publications to her name, including books that have received multiple academic honors. Her expertise extends to various areas, from shrinking cities to planning for sustainable development, demonstrating her wide-ranging impact on the field.

    Her research has been sponsored by prestigious organizations, and she has delivered invited presentations at renowned universities worldwide. Currently, Sonia is working on her fifth book in collaboration with other professors, continuing to contribute significantly to the urban planning discipline.

    As an elected Fellow of the American Institute of Certified Planners and an elected co-chair of the Executive Committee of the Alliance for Advancement of the Arts in Research Universities (a2ru), Sonia Hirt's influence extends beyond academia into professional and research communities. Her dedication and achievements have made her an esteemed figure in landscape architecture and planning.

  • Spas Dimitrov holds a Degree in law from the Sofia University, which he graduated with honors in 1977. After a one-year internship, he started practicing as a lawyer, thus continuing the family tradition (his father is a lawyer). In June 1990 - September 1991, he was a member of the Bulgarian Grand National Assembly, with a second consecutive mandate in the 37th Bulgarian National Assembly from December 1994 to April 1997. In June 1997, Dimitrov became Chair of the State Savings Bank, and in January 1999, after the restructuring of the State Savings Bank into an actual bank, he became Chair of the Board of Directors and Executive Director of the State Savings Bank EAD until the fall of 2001. He is a former member of the Board of Directors of the Bulgarian Stock Exchange, Deputy Chair and then Acting Chair of the Association of Commercial Banks and a former board member of the insurance company “BULSTRAD-LIFE”. Since September 2005, he has been a member of the supervisory board of Municipal Bank JSC. He is currently a practicing lawyer and is also developing his own business in real estate and construction.

  • Stephen Auth currently serves as Chief Investment Officer of Federated Global Equities, as well as Executive Vice President of Federated Investors. He leads a team of more than 115 portfolio managers, analysts, and traders who manage Federated’s domestic and international equity investment products. Auth has over 32 years of investment experience with Federated and previously, Prudential Investments. At Prudential, Auth led a global investment team with offices in Tokyo, Hong Kong, London, and the United States. Auth graduated Summa Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa, from Princeton University in 1978. He received his master’s degree in business administration, with High Distinction, from Harvard University in 1985, where he was a Baker Scholar and a Loeb Rhodes Fellow. He is a chartered financial analyst. He lives with his wife and two sons in Chatham, New Jersey. He is a frequent contributor on CNBC and Fox Business News. He is member of The Economic Club of New York as well as of The New York Society of Security Analysts. He is active in youth work and is on the board of the Manhattan Chapter of Lumen Institute. He has published one book, “The Ten Years’ War,” a revisionist history of the period just prior to the American Revolution.

  • Varbin Staykoff (’96) is a senior banker with BayernLB in New York focusing on the energy and technology sectors in North America and in Europe. He is an expert in renewable energy and clean technology/ In this capacity he has advised the U.S. Department of Energy on the assessment of renewable energy projects and funding for the development of new clean technologies. Mr. Staykoff started his professional career at Deloitte in Bulgaria as a corporate finance expert and later joined J.P. Morgan in New York gaining experience in capital markets, M&A across various industries for over 10 years. During his career, he has advised on M&A and capital raising transactions totaling over $10 billion in value.

    Mr. Staykoff holds a BA degree from the American University in Bulgaria and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University. He is co-chair of AUBG Alumni chapter NYC, a member of the American Council on Germany in New York and a former board member of Fifth Avenue Committee, a $230MM affordable housing development non-profit organization in New York.