By Maria Kostova

On Thanksgiving Day, November 23, 2023, the Bulgarian-American Fulbright Commission gave thanks for its fantastic community of Bulgarian alumni by renewing the annual Open Lectures, which highlight the achievements of Bulgarian Fulbright grantees. For the first time post-pandemic, the Fulbright Bulgaria community gathered to celebrate the knowledge and insights of our scholars, graduate students and visiting researchers. The title of the series was “Knowledge that Sustains,” since in challenging times the expanding of knowledge offers confidence and hope.  

A friendly atmosphere infused the Open Lectures from the opening remarks to the final words of the last presentation. Ten Bulgarian Fulbrighters presented their research findings in short and captivating talks broadcast live on Facebook. The in-person audience at Launchee consisted of alumni, friends, partners and citizens who learned about the event via our digital campaign. The interdisciplinary program allowed the audience to compare cutting-edge research in the spheres of the humanities, hard sciences and professional fields. Dr. Biliana Manova, Assoc. Prof. Vladislav Slavov, Dr. Velislava Petrova and Gabriel Georgiev took us into the intricacies of legal access to information, the role of artificial intelligence in education, the importance of social consensus in waste policies, and efficient ways to design drones. In the second session the guests could learn more about digital social reading, spectral geometry and the correlation between shape and sound, and ways to empower signing communities from Assoc. Prof. Alexandra Glavanakova, Assoc. Prof. Alexander Petkov and Civil Society scholar Hristina Katsipidou. The coffee break allowed for vivid conversations, reunions and new acquaintances. In the final session, Dr. Iva Boneva, Lazar Lazarov and Martina Novakova shared their perspectives on inclusive teaching, the role of carbon offsets in combating pollution, and amplifying empathy via social theatre. In the various threads of knowledge some tendencies were conspicuous. The digitalization of education and research, the role of interactive social media platforms and artificial intelligence in learning, the importance of community building pervade discussions in the academic and professional fields. It will be interesting to trace how these aspects develop next year 

Fulbright Executive Director, Angela Rodel, closed the event with warm words of thanks to the lecturers and attendants. The sense of gratitude was profound in the following Thanksgiving party, where lecturers, alumni and guests had the chance to discuss informally the rich topics and enjoy a glass of wine together. The Fulbright team organizing the event also raised a toast to the longevity of the initiative – we hope to see everyone back at Fulbright Open Lectures in 2024!  

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