Highlighting Fulbright Bulgaria’s Impact
Fulbrighters make a difference in their areas of expertise and communities. Thirty years since the Commission’s founding, Fulbright Bulgaria alumni on both sides of the Atlantic number over 1,500 across diverse academic fields and professional specializations. Their work is what embodies the people-to-people diplomacy at the heart of the Fulbright experience.
Find out how some of our alumni innovate, solve problems, and inspire others to do the same.
Prof. Dr. Anna Proikova
Dr. Proikova is a highly cited computational physicist and research professor at Sofia University. She also heads the High-performance Computing Lab at Sofia Tech Park, holds two doctorates, and co-founded the Bulgarian Center for Women in Technology. In 1994, she was a Fulbright Visiting Scholar at the University of Chicago. She is among the Forbes 2022 list of 50 women across Europe, the Middle East and Africa who are “proving that 50 and beyond is the new golden age”.
Photo credit: Forbes Bulgaria
Fulbright Civil Society Scholar Ivo Danchev visited the Crow tribe in Montana on a photo-journalistic project in 2009. His work has been published in National Geographic – Bulgaria, among other magazines. Following his Fulbright grant, a travelling exhibition titled “Indian Summer” was co–sponsored by the US Embassy in Bulgaria and America for Bulgaria Foundation. Most recently, his photographs of Bulgarian kukeri (mummers) were featured in an exhibition at the Bulgarian Cultural Institute in Paris.
Lyubomir Minkov received his MBA from Emory University on a Fulbright Student Grant in 2012. He had the opportunity to participate in the Fulbright Enrichment Seminar entitled “Democracy in Action: The Influence of Growing Minority Populations in Changing Political Landscapes”, alongside approximately 140 other Fulbright Foreign Students from around the world. Today Lyubomir is Senior Vice President of Marketing at FairPrice Group, Singapore.
Photo credit: Tigerhall Thinkfluencer
George Siedel is a Business Administration and Business Law Professor at the University of Michigan. Professor Siedel was a Distinguished Fulbright Scholar to Bulgaria in 2001 and continued coming back each summer until 2014 as a lecturer on negotiation at the Fulbright International Summer Institute, also bringing along a cohort of UMich students. He has published numerous books on business and negotiation strategy, and hundreds of thousands of students have taken his courses via the Coursera platform.
Photo credit: Coursera
Following her Peace Corps service in Bulgaria, Sarah Perrine came back in 2002 as a Fulbright Student Researcher and studied emerging leadership trends and policies to promote social inclusion. She is the founder and CEO of the Trust for Social Achievement, a grantmaking NGO primarily focused on removing barriers to equality among Roma. The Trust received the Sustainable Cities and Human Settlements Award from the United Nations Environment Program in 2017 for its project serving 1,800 families in economically disadvantaged communities.
Executive Director Angela Rodel, an acclaimed translator of Bulgarian, musician, writer and ethnomusicologist, was a Fulbright Student Researcher in 1996-97 and returned as a Fulbright-Hayes Fellow in 2004. She was awarded a PEN Translation Fund grant in 2010 and two translation fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts in 2014 and 2023. ED Rodel also serves as a Trustee Member at the American University of Bulgaria. She was awarded Bulgarian citizenship for her significant contributions to Bulgarian society through her translation work.
Bulgarian and U.S. grantees to date
Bulgarian educational institutions have hosted an ETA
Bulgarian grantees in the U.S. for 2022-23
Lilly Drumeva-O’Reilly of the Bulgarian country group Lilly of the West is a renowned singer-songwriter, producer and journalist with her own radio show, “In the Mood with Lilly”. She was a Fulbright Civil Society Scholar in 2013, when she studied country and bluegrass music in Kentucky and Tennessee. She has organized music festivals and published a book on the history of popular music based on her radio show of the last 20 years.
Prof. Dr. Yantsislav Yanakiev
Professor Yanakiev of the Tsvetan Lazarov Institute for Defense was a Fulbright Senior Scholar in 2012-13 to the U.S. Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute (DEOMI) in Florida. His research, “Challenges of Diversity in Defense Organizations: Lessons from the U.S. Experience and Implications for the Bulgarian Armed Forces”, was turned into a monograph upon his return to Bulgaria. While in the US, he also attended the Fulbright Enrichment Seminar in Atlanta, which included visits to a number of cultural and institutional landmarks.
Dr. Ronald Harvey
Dr. Harvey, professor and founder of the psychology program at the American University in Bulgaria, first arrived as a Fulbright Student Researcher in 2009-10 and returned in 2015 as a Fulbright Scholar doing fieldwork in community psychology and, more specifically, testing the viability of U.S. substance abuse recovery practices in Bulgaria.
Dr. Kong Ho
Dr. Ho, Associate Professor at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, was a 2009-10 Fulbright Scholar to Bulgaria’s National Academy of Art. The cover of his 2016 book “Larger Than Life: Mural Dreamscape” features the mural developed with students there and can still be seen in the main building of the Academy.
Dr. Ghodsee, chair of Russian and East European Studies at the University of Pennsylvania is an award-winning author of 12 books, including Second World, Second Sex (Bulgarian translation published in 2021), The Left Side of History, and The Red Riviera: Gender, Tourism, and Postsocialism on the Black Sea. She was a Fulbright Student Researcher to Bulgaria in 1999.
Judge Evgeni Georgiev of the Sofia Regional Court received an LLM from Tulane University School of Law as a Fulbright Student in 2003. He was instrumental in founding Fulbright Bulgaria’s judge internship in 2010. This exchange program brings one lawyer or third-year student to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. Most recently, Judge Georgiev was a panelist at the Fulbright International Seminar on Democracy.
Photo credit: BG Nes
History of the Commission in Sofia
Since 1993, Fulbright Bulgaria has brought together scholars, students, and professionals on exchange grants as part of Fulbright’s global mission: to promote mutual understanding and be a foundation for friendship and peace between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.
Fulbright International Summer Institute
Established in 2002
Fulbright International Summer Institute
The Fulbright International Summer Institute, or FISI, was established in 2002. FISI brought together students, scholars, professors, and representatives of civil society and government from many corners of the globe. FISI was a very special introduction to Bulgaria for new grantees, an important crossroads where lifelong friendships were made, and a unique opportunity for cross-generational, cross-cultural, and cross-disciplinary exchange that embodied the core pillars on which the global Fulbright Program stands.
The BEST Foundation - a legacy project
Established in 2013
The BEST Foundation
The BEST (Bulgarian English Speech and Debate Tournaments) Foundation was co-founded by six Fulbright | America for Bulgaria English Teaching Assistants and has been organizing tournaments for Bulgarian high schoolers since 2013, with many current ETAs serving as debate team coaches in their schools. In addition to the tournament events, BEST’s Student Leaders Program promotes mentorship and community service. Fulbright Bulgaria is proud to sponsor the Debate Summer Camp and Coaches’ Training each year. BEST relies on volunteer support for all its tournaments.
The Fulbright International Seminar
Established in 2018
The Fulbright International Seminar
The Fulbright International Seminar (FIS) was launched to bring academic experts with diverse backgrounds, but particularly in economics, political science and law, in front of an audience of students, civil society representatives and other professionals interested in the future of democracy. Interactive discussions and workshops are an important component of the event. The 2022 edition of FIS focused on rule of law, with the participation of judges from the United States as well as the European Court of Human Rights and Sofia Regional Court.
Preserving Bulgaria's Cultural Heritage
Established in 2016
Preserving Bulgaria's Cultural Heritage
The goal of the Bi-National Commission for the Preservation of Bulgaria’s Cultural Heritage is to bring together experts from diverse fields dealing with tangible and intangible cultural heritage and to identify projects worthy of preservation and to work with American specialists to identify and recommend best practices for such preservation efforts. Over 200 participants from Bulgaria and the Balkans took part in the 2016 conference, “Museum Exhibits and Standards: A Look Ahead”, which brought experts from the Smithsonian and National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., among others.
Opportunity Funds Bulgaria
Through EducationUSA, a program sponsored by Fulbright and the Embassy in Sofia, each year hundreds of virtual participants receive advising services in preparation for undergraduate study in the United States. The Opportunity Funds Program – Bulgaria is a scholarship established in 2016 supporting highly qualified but financially disadvantaged 11th graders with preparatory courses as they apply to four-year colleges in the U.S., followed by a $5000 stipend.
Thanks to Scandinavia Grants
The Thanks to Scandinavia Foundation in 2007 began providing an annual scholarship to a Bulgarian Fulbright student grantee to complete a master’s degree in the United States. Alongside TTS partner countries Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland, Bulgaria is the only non-Scandinavian country to be recognized and supported by the foundation in recognition of Bulgaria’s heroic efforts to save their Jewish countrymen during the Holocaust. In 2017, in celebration of a decade of partnership, TTS generously increased its contribution to two annual scholarships of $20,000.
Fulbright Open Lectures
In order to provide a forum for returning Bulgarian grantees to share their grant work, in 2015 we launched the first annual TED-style event where Bulgarian experts present their personal and professional experiences in the U.S. The Fulbright Open Lectures showcase the diversity of topics pursued by our alumni: scientific research, civic engagement, social outreach, the performing arts and many more!
In the age of disinformation, we are committed to promoting these vital skills in several ways. Fulbright Bulgaria sends 3-4 secondary school teachers to the US each year through the Fulbright Teaching Excellence and Achievement (FTEA) Program. We hosted an international conference for ETAs across Southeast Europe on media literacy in the classroom in November 2022. Since 2017, Fulbright Bulgaria has also worked with the Association of European Journalists in programming focused on teachers as well as young journalists (professional development for teachers, sCOOL Media, and the Media Literacy Summer Bootcamp).
Celebrating Fulbright at 75
Throughout 2021, Fulbright Commissions, U.S. Embassies, universities, and other Fulbright partners and supporters held Fulbright Days to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Fulbright Program with a wide and varied range of activities. In total, 66 countries and territories around the world celebrated the impact of Fulbright partnerships across the globe.
Fulbright Day in Bulgaria was held virtually on May 24, 2021 – the holiday of Saints Cyril and Methodius and of Bulgarian culture and education. This was the premiere of our film, “Fulbright at 75: Bulgarian-American Visions and Voices”, featuring alumni in the arts with music, dance, theater, visual arts, poetry and even a choral performance! This is our story.
Your story is worth sharing because it will inspire others. If you are a Fulbright alumnus, please email us your story and we will feature you on our anniversary page.