The Board of Advisors (BOA) is comprised of professionals who are accomplished in their respective fields and are passionate about BEST’s mission. They serve two-year terms as organizational advisors and supporters. In order to be part of this prestigious group, one must be nominated and selected by the BEST Board of Directors.
2017-2018 Board of Advisors:
Angela Rodel came to Bulgaria on a Fulbright grant in 1996, lured by the mystery of Bulgarian voices. Having fallen in love with Bulgarian folk singing and Bulgarian language, she decided to make Bulgaria her permanent home as of 2004. In recent years, she has become a leading translator of Bulgarian literature into English, with seven novels published in the US and UK, as well as plays, poems and essays by leading Bulgarian writers. She is now executive director of the Bulgarian-American Fulbright Commission. At her first BEST tournament two years ago, she was blown away by the students’ talent, intelligence and artistry – and immensely proud of the Fulbright/ABF ETAs who founded this wonderful organization.
Mark Leonard was born and raised in Kansas, where he competed in speech and debate in high school and in speech in college. Since then, he has judged competitive speaking events at both high school and college tournaments in the USA. He has been a judge for BEST Foundation events since the first annual tournament. Mark is Associate Professor of Economics at American University in Bulgaria. Mark makes daily use of his prose and poetry competition skills while reading to his daughters.
Claire Sagstuen – Co-Founder, BEST
Ronald Harvey earned his PhD in Community Psychology from DePaul University in Chicago in 2014. He is a two-time Fulbright recipient to Bulgaria (2009 and 2015) where he did research and implementation of recovery housing for former drug addicts in Sofia and Varna. He is current Assistant Professor of Psychology at American University in Bulgaria. He is also a trained long-form improviser and teaches English-language improv comedy as part of “Shizipro” Comedy Theatre in Sofia, Bulgaria.
Dr. Harvey has been involved in BEST Foundation competitions as a judge and speaker since February, 2016. He has also had the great fun and privilege to lead a number of improv workshops for BEST teams and BEST ambassadors in Montana, Stara Zagora, and Sofia.
Ivan Dimov – Founder, Single Step Foundation
Ivan Dimov returned from New York to Sofia in order to establish Single Step Foundation in 2016. His professional career is in the field of finance: as an investment banker and investor in New York, Buenos Aires, Argentina and Sydney, Australia (Credit Suisse, Gramercy Communications Partners, Lazard) in the media, telecommunications and technology sectors.
Ivan is a former CFO of Edamam, which provides nutrition data services and value-added solutions to health, wellness and food businesses. He is also the former Chairman of the Board of Netinfo.
Ivan is a keen marathon runner, CrossFitter and world traveler.
Val Nikolov is from Burgas, Bulgaria and was an active member of a non-profit focused on educational and environmental projects in high school. A life-long believer in the power of intellectual inquiry and critical thinking, Val is excited to share his expertise in planning, analytics, and strategy towards advancing BEST’s mission.
Val holds a BA in Mathematical Economics from Colgate University and an MBA from Northwestern University. A former economic consultant in Boston, MA and London, UK, he is currently living in Austin, TX where he is a Sales Analytics and Planning Manager at Dell Technologies.
Tyler Donahue – Director, Data Partnerships at Yext
Tyler is currently the Director of Market Development at Yext and has been tasked with leading Yext’s go to market efforts in Japan. Prior to helping to open the Tokyo this past July, Tyler ran and managed all Data Partnerships for Yext for several years and was a crucial part of expanding Yext’s business into Europe. Before Yext, Tyler spent time working in the bagged salad industry with Chiquita, as well as working with a small grassroots organization in Kenya. He has a double degree in Mathematics and Economics from Duke University and served as the Blue Devil Mascot while there.
Ettie (Tzvetelina) Nikolova graduated from Cornell University with a B.A. in Government and Russian Literature. After graduation, she lived in the Republic of Georgia, Taiwan, and Bulgaria, where she taught English at Bertolt Brecht Language Academy (located in the best city in Bulgaria- Pazardzhik).
In 2015, Ettie left Bulgaria to obtain her Master’s in Business Administration from Yale University. Although she no longer lives in Bulgaria, Ettie’s heart will always be with BEST and her former students. She is excited to watch BEST continue to grow!
Michael Pelehach is from North Carolina where he studied Psychology and Markets & Management at Duke University. After graduation, he spent four years working for Target Corporation in Minneapolis, MN. In search of more meaningful work, he accepted a Fulbright Grant to teach English at Peyo Yavorov Languages High School in Silistra, Bulgaria.
Michael is currently pursuing his Master’s in Business Administration at Northwestern University, where he is learning to apply business principles to solve social problems.