Willamette alumnus earns two grants for international research

International education has defined Ivo Dimitrov's life, starting when the Bulgarian native came to the U.S. for high school and to earn a degree at Willamette University.

"During my time at Willamette, I was able to study in Spain, go to Bulgaria for research, travel to Ecuador for a post-session program, study four languages and explore topics that were internationally focused. Such global exposure at a small school is quite powerful.

"Willamette facilitates access to knowledgeable and empathetic mentors, but it also allows you to do research and cultivate your interests beyond the frontiers of the campus."

Dimitrov '08 will continue expanding his global perspective for the next year through two prestigious grants: a $30,000 European Union Fulbright and an Individual Advanced Research Opportunities Fellowship, funded through the U.S. Department of State.

The $7,200 IARO grant will allow him to spend three months in Bulgaria this summer, interviewing members of parliament about the country's lack of historical reconciliation efforts following five decades of Communist rule.

Then, through the Fulbright, he will spend a year in Spain comparing his Bulgarian research with Spain's attempts at reconciliation after a history of fascism. He will study at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, finishing a master's in European governance that he began at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

"Spain has gone through a long process of denouncing its fascist legacy," Dimitrov says. "Bulgaria had similar political repression under the Communists, but little has happened there for reconciliation. I would like to study how the Spanish model could potentially act as a blueprint for achieving something similar in Bulgaria.

"My goal is to publish an academic article and compile a set of recommendations for spurring the reconciliation process. The idea is to see how we can reintegrate the ideas of truth and justice at the societal core and stimulate a public discourse."

Fostering discourse is a skill Dimitrov honed at Willamette, where he majored in history and Spanish and competed regionally and nationally for the debate team.

"Debate is where I garnered much of my knowledge about economics, science and politics, and it also helped me become a capable orator. It was a way to translate my academic knowledge into something applicable."

He also earned a Carson Undergraduate Research Grant as a sophomore to travel to Bulgaria and conduct archival research on the country's protection of Jews during World War II.

"When you begin college, you're starting to cultivate interests, but you lack the methodology and experience," he says. "At Willamette I had engaging mentors who helped me develop my passions."

Dimitrov plans to earn a doctorate in a politics-related field and use his experiences to influence policy on an international level, possibly by working for the United Nations.

"I've always been attracted to academia - the pursuit of knowledge and discovering how our thoughts and perceptions are structured. But I've always felt that shouldn't be an end unto itself. That understanding should be translated into something that benefits the public good."

For more information on national scholarships for students, visit Student Academic Grants and Awards.