2021 Best 40-Under 40-Professors: Veselina Stoyanova, University of Birmingham (U.K.)

Veselina Stoyanova of the University of Birmingham (U.K.) is a 2021 Best 40 Under 40 Professor. Courtesy photo

Veselina Stoyanova

Associate Professor in Strategy & International Business

University of Birmingham, Business School United Kingdom

Veselina Stoyanova is an award-winning business school professor from the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom. Receiving about 50 nominations, Stoyanova was one of our most highly nominated professors. In 2018, Stoyanova won her school’s Teaching Excellence Award.

“I research how managers and entrepreneurs develop organizational capabilities, navigate, and orchestrate existing resources to adapt in times of crisis and adversity,” Stoyanova says. “I am interested in issues related to migration, sustainability, Fintech ventures’ strategies as well as social enterprise capability development for addressing the UNSDGs. My most recent research examines how migrant entrepreneurs in the UK develop survival capabilities through the process of shaping during the Covid-19 crisis.”

Like many other professors to make this year’s list, we appreciate Stoyanova’s nimbleness in researching the impact of the coronavirus and the pandemic.

Current age: 34

At current institution since what year? April, 2021. I just joined the University of Birmingham, Business School. Prior to last week, I was working as an Assistant Professor in Strategy & Entrepreneurship at the University of Strathclyde, Business School, UK.

Education: Ph.D. Management (Strategy), University of Edinburgh, UK; MSc (distinction) International Business & Emerging Markets, University of Edinburgh, UK.

List of MBA courses you currently teach: New Venture Creation; Entrepreneurship, Management and Leadership (University of Strathclyde)


I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when…I was studying for my bachelor degree in a college in the United States. I was a part-time research assistant for one of my business professors in Business Ethics & CSR. We were working on a few very interesting projects studying corporate responsibility practices. I found the process extremely enjoyable and since then I knew I wanted to be an academic.

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it?

I research how managers and entrepreneurs develop organizational capabilities, navigate, and orchestrate existing resources to adapt in times of crisis and adversity. I am interested in issues related to migration, sustainability, Fintech ventures’ strategies as well as social enterprise capability development for addressing the UNSDGs. My most recent research examines how migrant entrepreneurs in the UK develop survival capabilities through the process of shaping during the Covid-19 crisis.

If I weren’t a business school professor… I used to work as a Sustainability Consultant for an Asset Management Firm, maybe I would have continued to work as a consultant in the financial service sector.

What do you think makes you stand out as a professor?

I used to play in a small theater in Bulgaria before I started my international academic journey. Then, I substituted the theater with the classroom. The experience that I gained performing on stage and being able to read the audience emotions has turned to be a valuable competence when I am teaching and engaging with my students. Well, that and also the fact that I give ‘social media breaks’ during my lectures.

One word that describes my first time teaching: Exciting! I was super excited and grateful for the opportunity to share my knowledge and to motivate my students.

Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: Being a business school professor is a very demanding profession.  It often feels that you have 5 jobs, not one. You are a researcher, a teacher, a mentor, a supervisor and an academic citizen. However, you have the unique opportunity to produce impactful research that is interesting and can make a change not only in the business world but also in someone’s individual journey. And, this is the charm.

Professor I most admire and why: There are a number of inspiring professors and mentors that I respect very much. Professor John Amis at the University of Edinburgh, Professor Brad Mackay at the University of St Andrews, Professor Royston Greenwood, as well as some of my fellow Bulgarian colleagues such as Professor Dimo Dimov at the University of Bath. They are exemplary scholars but most importantly very nice and down-to-earth people.


What is most challenging about teaching business students? Trying to remember your students’ names in a class with 100 students. I always try to remember my students’ names from the first lecture. This is quite easy when you have 20 students but quite challenging when you have a larger cohort of students.

In one word, describe your favorite type of student: Curious and engaged

In one word, describe your least favorite type of student: not participating in the class discussions.

When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as…I hope as being fair and encouraging.


What are your hobbies?

I love hiking in nature. It is energizing. This is when I get most of my creative ideas…and the ‘AHA moments’. If I am not hiking, you will find me dancing – Bulgarian traditional dances, also Latin American dances such as salsa, bachata, or playing tennis outdoors.

How will you spend your summer?

I have few research projects to finish during the summer. I hope once the Covid restrictions are lifted to be able to travel and to visit my family and friends in my native Bulgaria.

Favorite place(s) to vacation: many…Greece, Costa Rica, the Bulgarian coast (Varna).

Favorite book(s): I do not think I have one specific favorite book in mind…but overall, I like to read French classics so that I can practice my French language from time to time.

What is currently your favorite movie and/or show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much?

I do not really watch much TV but when I watch I prefer investigative/detective movies and documentaries. I recently watched Seaspiracy which I really liked and recommend.

What is your favorite type of music or artist(s) and why? I listen to different international artists and styles depends on the mood. I can say that I am a fan of French jazz/chanson styles and artists such as Zaz but I also like to listen to Latin American rhythms.


If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this… Games, smaller in size classes, and student scholarships. I am a big fan of teaching through games and other experimental forms of teaching which break with the ordinary, traditional and boring delivery.

In my opinion, companies, and organizations today need to do a better job at… promoting a work-life balance and happiness.

I’m grateful for… my profession, my family, and my friends.

Faculty, students, alumni, and/or administrators say:

“Professor Stoyanova is by far the most energetic and authentic professors that I had during my MBA studies. I took the EML course with her in Singapore. I remember being so impressed by how young and smart she is. She is the youngest female MBA professors teaching at the MBA programme but for me definitely one of the most enthusiastic and intellectually motivating academics I know.”

“I was so lucky to have Dr Stoyanova as my MBA project supervisor. She is the best mentor I have had – very approachable and understanding. During the Covid-19, I went through a lot of personal and professional struggles. There were difficult moments that I did not think I can finish my project and my studies. I felt so much better and supported after every meeting with Dr Stoyanova. She gave me the strength and courage to continue, and here I am done with the project. I submitted it last month and I cannot wait to graduate. I will be forever grateful to Dr Stoyanova!”

“Professor Stoyanova is my favorite MBA professor. During our New Venture Creation course, she was going the extra mile to help us with our business plans. Although we were 75 MBA students in the course and the course material was delivered via Zoom, the course was very energizing and encouraging for me and my classmates.”

“It is unusual to see people with deep expertise in sustainability topics and entrepreneurship. Prof. Veselina is driven, organized and someone who develops inspiring relationships with her students. I had the pleasure of working closely with her during the module courseworks as well as during the MBA thesis. Her timely feedback helped me not just improve my skills and knowhow on emerging sustainability issues, but I have successfully applied learnings in my workplace and able to assist clients in areas of sustainable value creation. I highly recommend Prof. Veselina to be featured as a notable member of Poets&Quants‘ 40-Under-40 list as she has continued to demonstrate her talent and devotion to the concept of quality education. What really differentiates her from others is the strong sense of responsibility she feels towards the students in her classes. I wish her the very best.”

“Dr Veselina Stoyanova is the youngest female professor of the MBA program’s New Venture Creation and Entrepreneurial Management & Leadership courses at Strathclyde Business School. My classmates and I could relate to Dr Stoyanova as she is approachable and engaging. For example, Dr Stoyanova interacted with us during in-between class breaks and after classes, and constantly sought our feedback on past lectures. These opportunities not only allowed us to share our thoughts with her, but also encouraged us to proactively seek her out in-person or through email whenever we had questions. Dr Stoyanova also engaged us during lectures, which were never boring. Not only would she share her academic anecdotes, but also encouraged us to share our work experiences in class to relate to the topics discussed during lectures. This approach has helped me to better remember what she has taught. Greatly appreciate the efforts she has made towards us.”

“I have learnt entrepreneurship module from Dr. Veselina and she was also a supervisor of my dissertation. Although it was my first dissertation in my academic history, I could successfully complete it with her support. She has used an interesting metaphor to clarify the concept of key components such as research and sub-research questions, and what is the function of interview in overall dissertation. Her creative and intuitive advice guided me to well understand the framework and the essence of what is required in respective chapters. While she is the youngest MBA professor and one of the only female academics in SBS, she has in depth wisdom in entrepreneurship module and the articles she has introduced have supported my decent understanding to the module, inspired dissertation theme, and enabled me to have quality literature review. Eventually, I could receive a dissertation grade, which contributed to my graduation with distinction.”


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