The 28th Annual Commencement Ceremony of the American University in Bulgaria took place at the university’s campus on May 22. 218 bachelors and 23 EMBA graduates from 24 countries received their diplomas accredited in both the United States and Europe. This year’s valedictorian is Elena Kalinova from Bulgaria who graduated with a GPA of 4.00 and a degree in Economics and Business Administration.
U.S. Ambassador to Bulgaria H.E. Herro Mustafa, government officials, the mayor of Blagoevgrad Ilko Stoyanov, professors, AUBG friends, and parents all attended the ceremony. This year’s commencement speaker was world-renowned journalist and AUBG alumnus Christo Grozev (’95). AUBG also received a congratulatory address from Bulgarian President Rumen Radev.
AUBG President Dr. David Evans
For those of you graduating today, this is a long-anticipated moment, a culmination of countless hours of work towards a very worthy goal,” said AUBG President Dr. David Evans. “Receiving an academic degree is a major milestone in a person’s lifetime. Each and every one of you, graduates, exemplifies the success of our efforts as a university. We are very proud of you, and we look forward to your many successes and accomplishments we expect you will attain in the years ahead.”
Chair of the BoT Michael Marvin
“The education that AUBG provides is needed throughout the world,” said Chair of the Board of Trustees Michael Marvin. ” (…) And when I learned how the Ukranian and the Russian and indeed many other students on campus rallied together to help those from war-torn Ukraine, it brought tears to my eyes. It still does. This can only happen as a result of very complex, highly-developed levels of education and maturity that many do not achieve in a lifetime. (…) I have had the privilege to meet and work with many AUBG alumni. You are joining a remarkable club. They are dedicated, hard-working individuals. They are passionate about their alma mater. Many are working to make it even better for those who follow. Note: I have been saying ‘they.’ But since this is graduation, ‘they’ is now ‘you’.”
Mayor of Blagoevgrad Ilko Stoyanov
Blagoevgrad mayor Ilko Stoyanov congratulated Class of 2022 as well, saying they graduate from “one of the most prestigious universities not only in Bulgaria but also in the world.”
“From now on many doors will open for you,” he also said. “You are about to begin your career journey and the decisions you make from now on will define your future development. Still, no matter what direction you choose, I believe that there will always be a special place in your hearts for Blagoevgrad!”
U.S. Ambassador Herro Mustafa
Ambassador Herro Mustafa spoke about the importance of defending democratic values with compassion and perseverance. “Your relationship with AUBG is not over,” she said in her address to the graduating students. “And your work to strengthen democracy is just beginning. You and your work will now become part of AUBG’s legacy. It’s a legacy of leaders, of a community that works to make Bulgaria and the world a better place. A community that fights for the future of democracy. What you do from now on is not only a reflection of who you are but of what AUBG graduates can accomplish.”
Student Speaker Victoria Ivanova
Victoria Ivanova from Bulgaria, a graduate of Political Science and International Relations and Journalism and Mass Communication with a minor in History, was the student speaker at the graduation ceremony. Victoria was editor-in-chief and later president of the university newspaper AUBG Daily.
“In our final year we saw how AUBG truly is about the community,” she said. “A war was waged against our friends and families not far away from here. And that’s when it happened. We came together more than we ever have before. We spoke up, we coordinated our efforts, we showed support, and did everything in our abilities to keep people reassured. Reassured that, here, at AUBG, anyone can find their home, their solace, and their backbone. I want to take this moment to thank the people who guided us in their unique ways. The faculty, the staff, and everyone else we’ve encountered during this wonderfully hectic AUBG experience. (…) I wish that the graduating class preserves its uniqueness. I feel honored to know and excited to see us all continue to exude ambition, resilience, and compassion beyond the AUBG campus. Beyond Blagoevgrad. Beyond Bulgaria. To places beyond our reach and in ways beyond our vision.”
Keynote Speaker Christo Grozev (’95)
Christo Grozev (’95) who is a graduate of the first AUBG class and founder of the university radio AURA was the keynote speaker at the Commencement. He serves as Chairman of the Management Board and Executive director of Bellingcat, an award-winning open-source and investigative journalism platform headquartered in Amsterdam. Before taking the CEO role, Christo for many years served as director of special investigations and lead Russia investigator for Bellingcat. Christo was awarded the European Prize for investigative journalism in 2019 for his investigation into the Skripal poisoners, and two Emmys for investigative journalism and outstanding research for his team’s identification of the poisoners of Alexei Navalny.
“It is ironic that I have graduated with a degree in JMC from AUBG and I spend my time now not reporting the facts, but sorting through news reports to find the facts,” he said. “I – for one – am a big believer in objective facts. The only way to solve a problem, be it ending a military conflict, getting out of the fossil fuel dependency, or finding our way out of the climate crisis – is to base our proposed solutions on facts, on the objective truth, and nothing but the truth… I also know all too well that even if the real facts are available, many people will choose not to accept them as such. The truth is not always pleasant or convenient. It is very often easier to ignore it and let someone else deal with it and its consequences. Well, dear graduates, about to become alumni, I am afraid this ‘someone’ is you. As the newest members of our ‘grown-up’ club, you have to find a way to defend the truth, because my generation has failed. You would need to show the rest of us how to differentiate between ‘MY truth’ and ‘THE truth’ and to design a process to defend the truth without limiting free speech. You would also have to remind us every day, that the only way to show compassion, grace, and responsibility as human beings is by honoring the truth.”
EMBA Class of 2022
Out of the 218 BA graduates in 2022, 72% come from Bulgaria, and the rest are from Albania, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Russia, Italy, Greece, and the USA, among other countries.
Most graduates have completed a major in Business Administration (37%), followed by Journalism and Mass Communication (15%), Political Science and International Relations (13%), and Computer Science (10%). A significant share of graduates (63%) has completed two majors. AUBG is the only educational institution in the region that provides this opportunity thanks to the liberal arts system, which aims to allow young people to reach their full potential. AUBG ranks first in key majors according to the official university rankings of the Ministry of Education and Science.