AUBG President Stratsi Kulinski Hosts First Town Hall Meeting
An increased and better targeted student enrollment efforts, modernizing classroom learning, greater community involvement and finding new revenue streams for AUBG. Those will be the focal points to address and tackle in the administration’s strategic plan for the next five years, Stratsi Kulinski, the new university president, said. He spoke at the first of many planned town hall meetings on Thursday at the Main Building Auditorium.
An AUBG alumnus from the class of ’95, Kulinski stepped in to replace former president Kevin Aspegren and was welcomed back to his Alma Mater in December last year. This semester marks the start of his presidential tenure.
At the formal meeting Kulinski stressed on four areas of improvement as challenges, the solutions of which will be pivotal for the development of the academic institution.
“I don’t have all the answers,” the president said. “We will be thinking about how we probe, how we become sustainable…It will require a lot of experimentation, more comfort with participating, celebrating our successes and really learning from our missteps. We have the commitment to make that happen.”
Talking about the recruitment of prospective students as one of the key university flaws, Kulinski was adamant that an increase in the enrollment rate is necessary. As of this year the university has fixed costs for a capacity of 1500 students but revenue from only 1000. According to him AUBG has all the right tools to succeed, including a renowned world class campus which rivals many U.S. university facilities and a commendable practice of open days that help aid the achievement of that goal.
No new raises in tuition costs are planned to be enforced as a possible stepping stone for opportunities to grow financially. The president’s satisfaction with the sponsors stems from their recognition of having international students coming from somewhat resource-scarce countries and thus investing heavily in their academic prosperity.
In terms of AUBG’s academic assets, Kulinski emphasized on the course study adaptation that is in line for the university.
“The faculty have come and said we have a curriculum that hasn’t necessarily changed over the last fifteen years. The world again is changing. Many people are experimenting with more effective approaches to classroom learning, interdisciplinary approaches or corporate academic partnerships and we need to be looking for those things.”
The president also touched upon the state of the campus environment and the further development of fund raising. He will focus his efforts on enabling the students and faculty to operate with greater cohesiveness and resilience to the upcoming changes. Those challenges will inevitably relate to the issues of competition with other universities for money and the now lesser investment from AUBG’s two main sponsors, Open Society Foundation and America for Bulgaria Foundation. The administration will also attempt to persuade a greater portion of the AUBG alumni worldwide to contribute to the solution process. Currently only 3.5 percent of all 4,000 graduates donate back to the university, according to Kulinski.
Photo credit: Zora Gouhary
As promised before the meeting, the president gave a brief update on the master plan of the new sports field, which is located between ABF Student Center and Kaufland, but is currently under construction. The outdoors facility will incorporate two tennis courts, a basketball ground and a volleyball ground, a soccer field, a parking lot, a service building and an open gym.
On a personal note, the president disclosed that he prefers to be called on a first-name basis. He believes direct communication will be beneficial for all.
“The keyword for me is agility. We have to be a combination of flexible, responsive and responsible,” Kulinski asserted.
He also noted that he will apply an open door policy to his office once a month, on a given Friday, when students, faculty and staff can come to him without an appointment and talk about a concern or an issue they want to discuss with him. “You cannot complain, if you don’t propose a solution,” the president added.
Kulinski’s will to communicate with these three campus groups will continue with the friendly lunches the president will take on with each to establish yet another opportunity to talk face-to-face. Once a month four or five students will be selected to have a meal with him. The same procedure will be repeated for faculty and staff. While he will be paying for the lunch bill, he wants to set a different, more casual venue to collaborate and see people bring solutions to the table.
Yordan Karayankov, a fourth-year AUBG student, was pleased with the president’s speech and his efforts to excel the organization at AUBG. “What I found to be most valuable was the fact that the president seems really open about AUBG’s situation,” Karayankov said. “As an AUBG alumnus, I believe, he has a different point of view from the other presidents and this can be advantageous for AUBG.”
Back in the days when he was an AUBG student, the first place Stratsi Kulinski visited in September of his first year in 1991 was his future presidential office. Walking in he asked for information about his course of study and his exams. Today, 25 years later, he will be the one answering those student questions.