Sabina A. Wien Adventures in the Wonderland of Civic Engagement

July 03, 2024
Sabina A. Wien Adventures in the Wonderland of Civic Engagement

Iren Dimitrova, a second-year student at the American University in Bulgaria is pursuing a double major in Business Administration and Information Systems. She has a passion for business and technology, as well as a strong commitment to civic engagement and social justice. Over the past seven years, Iren has been actively involved in projects with a positive social impact. As a member and president of a club in the largest NGO in the world, she has initiated various civic projects. Read her article about our Dean of Students Sabina Wien and her continuous involvement in civic engagement. 

Sabina A. Wien joined the American University in Bulgaria – a small residential and highly relational liberal arts college in Southeast Europe – as an adjunct faculty member in 2006.

She intended to stay there for just a year. Seventeen years later, she is striving to be a superhero, supporting the academic, career, and personal success and wellbeing of AUBG students while also fostering a vibrant campus culture, promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion, and contributing to the education of AUBG students to become good citizens.

Too much on her plate? “Nothing is too much for a civically engaged person who is supported by a team of devoted colleagues and motivated and energized by an awesome student crew – my AUBGers!”

Sabina finds it challenging to remember when she did her first act of civic engagement: “My father used to call me ‘advocate of the oppressed.’ Helping someone in need is an instinct. I can not not do it. Civic engagement is deeply rooted in my nature but is also a conscious act. My family background is very diverse; the Jewish part of my family survived the persecution during WW2 because of the moral and civic courage of Bulgarians who were not afraid to speak up for their neighbors and friends.”


Before becoming Dean of Students, Sabina served as the faculty advisor for AUBG’s volunteer student-run organization, the Better Community Club (BCC). Seeing students gaining inspiration through activities such as assisting children in local foster homes, participating in public cleanup initiatives, fundraising for cancer patients, and various community service projects, she came to recognize the profound role of a university as an institution that not only educates future professionals but also nurtures responsible citizens.

Furthermore, she realized that the societal impact of a university is double – apart from donating their own ideas, time, and energy, the BCCers inspired other peers and members of the local community to join their efforts, and provided them with valuable opportunities to engage in community and civic action.

A pivotal moment on Sabina’s journey toward becoming a civic engagement educator occurred during the Fall of 2021, when she enrolled in the professional development course “Managing Civic Engagement.” Reflecting on her experience, she remarks, “The course, taught by Professor Jonathan Becker, struck me like a bolt of lightning. The readings, the discussions, the stories, and the guest speakers-particularly the remarkable Professor Syed Hashemi – brought together the fragmented pieces of my life’s puzzle. Professor Becker served as a true source of inspiration to me – he is the absolute embodiment of the good citizen – personally responsible, participatory and justice-oriented, as defined by Westheimer and Kahne (2004)*


What follows now might be compared to Alice’s adventures in OSUN’s Wonderland of Civic Engagement. As the OSUN Network Coordinator, Wien accompanied two AUBG students, Veliyana and Mihail, to the Get Engaged conference at American University of Central Asia (AUCA) in Kyrgyzstan in June 2022.

“AUBG students showed great civic involvement at AUCA, proving our university’s dedication to building a sense of community and civic participation. Even though we don’t have a specific Civic Engagement Center, our students thrive in an environment that encourages creative ideas and meaningful contributions to both our campus and the larger community, both locally and possibly globally.”

The examples of student-run community and civic engagement initiatives which took place on AUBG grounds in the past year are multiple: Thanks to the OSUN Civic Engagement Block Grant and AUBG staff mentorship, we organized workshops for Ukrainian refugee children, sessions for underprivileged youth, a charity bazaar for earthquake victims, a project challenging stereotypes about the Roma population, debate training for high-school students, activities for foster home children, MUN and MEU simulations, inclusion of dyslexic children in the AUBG Olympiad, and celebrations for World Refugee Day in Blagoevgrad, including collaboration with UNHCR Bulgaria, alongside internships in civil society organizations.

“Community service has been part of AUBC’s mission since the very founding of the university. Its aim was to help the democratic transition of the region by educating young ethical leaders. But through the partnership with OSUN Civic Engagement Initiative (CEl) and the establishment of the Center for Information, Democracy, and Citizenship at AUBG, the university now has the chance to become a role model civic actor in Bulgaria and East Europe,” said Sabina.


For Wien, who was invited to become member of the OSUN CEI Steering Committee, collaborating with colleagues and working with students from Al-Quds Bard College, Ashesi, AUCA, Bard College, BCB, BRAC, CEU, UniAndes, and all other member universities, means a dream come true, not only with regard to her professional development and the co-curricular educational opportunities for AUBC students, but also pertaining to her as a person.

The desire to pass on the passion for civic engagement led her to start teaching the respective OSUN Network Collaborative Course at AUBG in Spring ’23. In July 23, she co-taught the “Civic Engagement: Student as Citizen” course which was part of the CEU Summer University, co-funded by OSUN.

“The gratification of having the whole world in your classroom is immense! I had the privilege to mentor the impressive civic engagement projects of a student from Tunisia, a student from Palestine and a student from Myanmar!”

“What I learned through them was that civic engagement is the other thing that can unite people of different cultures, ages, and interests. The first one is, of course, love.”

Wien is optimistic about the future relations between AUBG and OSUN, with a special focus on civic engagement. “AUBG boasts three OSUN student fellows. Their involvement will surely amplify our efforts to foster interest in global education and active citizenship, both within and beyond the AUBC campus. Because the community we aim at improving extends far beyond the local. After all, we are global citizens and our students are the change-makers of the future for the entire world!”