Listen to the interview with prof. Evelina Van Mensel (EMBA ’16) who teaches Marketing Research and Social Entrepreneurship. Read some of the highlights below.
“This experience is once in a lifetime. An amazing four-year window where so many magical things are happening, you are really learning everything. And you meet the most important people in your life.”
This is what Evelina Van Mensel, an Adjunct Instructor at AUBG, shared about the student life on the university campus in Blagoevgrad.
“If there is one thing, I am sorry about in my life is that I haven’t been a student here for my Bachelor’s,” adds Van Mensel.
Instead, she went to AUBG for her Executive MBA.
As an employee at a global company, who was responsible for millions of workers abroad, she had to expand her knowledge.
“All of a sudden, the fact that I only had a Bachelor’s was not enough anymore. I had to look for an education that would match my professional experience.”
She found that at the AUBG Executive Master’s program in Sofia where she is currently residing with her family. The proximity to her home is only a bonus to the amazing professional and personal experience that Van Mensel had.
“I needed an executive Master’s program where I could study with other professionals who have experience with managing people. That was very important for me. Little did I know that this place is going to change my life entirely because in the center of the EMBA social entrepreneurship was discussed.”
Currently, Van Mensel is teaching a course in Social Entrepreneurship as part of the AUBG bachelor program in Blagoevgrad.
How to Teach Students Empathy
According to Van Mensel, for students to be successful social entrepreneurs, they need to learn empathy. The Adjunct Instructor has two main strategies for doing that.
“One of the things I really like doing is having guest- speakers … when I can give the floor to actual social entrepreneurs from Bulgaria and not only to come and speak to the students or come and bring their products… This is number one. To be able to put yourself in the shoes of the other, which empathy is, you first need to meet the others, meet them, talk to them, what are the main challenges they are facing.”
Her other strategy is related to the global initiative of the Open Society University Network that allows one course to be taught synchronously in several institutions.
“Our university has been chosen among ten others in the whole world to participate in the so-called global social entrepreneurship classes of the Open Society University Network and those are in the series of three courses which teach different aspects of social entrepreneurship, and they lead to a global certificate for those students that have taken the courses.”
Aside from branching out and collaborating with universities all over the world, Van Mensel is also working with educators from AUBG and in particular with Professor Kiril Kirkov who teaches documentary production classes.
“His student teams will be shooting their documentary projects on my entrepreneurship students when creating their business enterprises… We are working this fall and creating this multi-disciplinary initiative syllabus which will combine the two classes and will put the student in the center of these projects… We constantly think of how we can make it more interesting, how we can have more impact, how we can bring them [the students] to the most practical assignments but at the same time give them the theoretical knowledge they need.”
Students are among Van Mensel’s main goals. They are the main reason why she wants to pursue a Ph.D.ph in Social Entrepreneurship.
“I wanted to become a university professor [so] when next time students tell me “Professor Van Mensel”, I want to fill it with all the essence that they put in addressing me. “
The word “global” could be also used to describe her PhD studies.
“I started my Ph.D. last year at the University of National and World Economy in Sofia. It turned out they had a joint Ph.D. program with Brussels Free University with a Bulgarian professor who has a complete team in social entrepreneurship. Of course, it is 10 times more difficult doing a joint Ph.D. than doing a normal Ph.D. in Sofia. But the fact that I am traveling is because I have the opportunity to use these resources, the contacts of my team, of my professor there and I get exposure to top scholars from around the world. ”
As part of her Ph.D. program, Van Mensel has studied various business and social-oriented accelerators. Now, she is part of one herself – the SEAccelerator.
“We are lucky to be part of a European project which is an interregional project between Blagoevgrad region and Alexandroupolis region in Greece. As a part of this project, we will teach 30 start-ups from the region who are not necessarily AUBG students. It’s really directed to the larger audience we have here in the region… What is great about this idea is we will start the first co-working space in Blagoevgrad which will be open to our students, professors, and everyone from AUBG but also everyone outside AUBG. ”
Van Mensel shares her hopes about this project.
“I am very hopeful, I am very happy that with the power of the university we can do great things for the students but not only – for the entire region and beyond as we usually do.”