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The other Sofia

Jeff Rankin
12/20/2010
Monmouth College has been invited to send a group of students to Sofia, Bulgaria for its first “Chicago Festival,” to be held June 20-26, 2011.

A faculty team has begun working to organize a group of 12 to 15 students to travel to Bulgaria next summer, where they will participate in a roundtable discussion about higher education in a globalized world with approximately the same number of Bulgarian students. They will also assist in the “backstage” running of the festival over the course of the week, getting hands-on experience while working closely with Bulgarian festival organizers and student volunteers.

Fred Witzig, assistant professor of history, has also been invited to attend the festival to deliver a talk about Abraham Lincoln.

Presented in conjunction with the Sofia-based Friends of Chicago Foundation, the festival will promote collaboration between the cities of Chicago and Sofia, in particular, and between Illinois and Bulgaria, in general. The invitations were issued by foundation president Ivan Sotirov, the former Bulgarian consul to Chicago.

Helping to facilitate Monmouth’s partnership with the foundation was associate dean of academic affairs Brenda Tooley, who spent five months in Bulgaria earlier this year as a Fulbright Senior Scholar. “We’re still working on the process by which we’ll invite students to become involved,” she explained, “but it is very likely that the students’ participation in the Chicago Festival will occur in conjunction with a two- or three-week stay in Bulgaria that will enable them to learn about Bulgaria’s history and culture and to explore the country.

“The participation in the roundtable is an offer exclusively made to Monmouth College,” she added. “Our students would effectively be representing not simply the college but, in a sense, U.S. students’ perspectives on higher education in a globalized world. This is quite an honor.”

President Sotirov has also arranged internships for up to two Monmouth College accounting students next summer at TechnoLogica Ltd., one of Bulgaria’s top information technology companies. According to MC accounting professor Frank Gersich, who will be structuring the internships, the company “has strategic partnerships with a number of European and U.S. firms and was recently ranked 26th in the Deloitte Technology Fast 50 fastest growing Central European technology companies.”

In addition to hosting Monmouth students in Bulgaria, the Friends of Chicago Foundation has agreed to underwrite the travel cost of a short-term Bulgarian visiting artist, writer, filmmaker or scholar to Monmouth College on an annual basis.

“We can all be proud and thankful for the good work of Dr. Tooley in working with the Friends of Chicago Foundation to make these wonderful opportunity for our students possible,” said dean of faculty David Timmerman. “This will begin a relationship that we hope will provide many more international opportunities for the Monmouth community.