Stefan Angelov Avdjiev, 28, Economics
Americans like to believe that we control our own destinies — at least as far as something as malleable as careers go. But for Bulgarian native Stefan Avdjiev, fate seems to have played a role. Avdjiev graduated in May 2009 with a specialty in macroeconomics; just at the time that macroeconomics is front and center among America’s concerns. After graduation Stefan will join the Bank of International Settlements in Basel, Switzerland as a macroeconomist. While at SMU, he also won the distinction of being one of three members of the number one data mining team in the U.S. in 2008.
Avdjiev was born in 1980. In 1989 the Berlin wall fell and in 1990 Bulgaria switched from a Communist government-controlled economy to a free-market economy. “I grew up in Bulgaria in the late ’80s and ’90s and these were turbulent times both politically and economically and this triggered an interest in economics.”
When Stefan was a young teen, he enrolled in a school that emphasized foreign language and studied English. “A lot of the students come to the U.S. for their college, so you know, at the age of 13, you have a good chance of ending up here.”
Avdjiev ended up pursuing his undergraduate degree at Southern Arkansas University, where he met his future wife, another Bulgarian immigrant interested in economics. (Teodora is a CPA.)
His destiny apparently set, Avdjiev now finds himself completing a multi-essay dissertation that includes a centerpiece essay looking at the way news about important macroeconomic variables affects stock and bond prices.
Avdjiev is building a model of the U.S. economy using data from 1947-2006 on consumption, investment, output, hours worked, total market valuation and short-term interest rates. He’s using sophisticated statistical methods to analyze movement in asset prices and to advance the leading theory about why business cycles occur.
“Modern macroeconomics theory has tried to explain business cycles with technology shocks (changes),” Avdjiev explains. “According to theory, when the economy is expanding, it’s because technology is expanding more rapidly than normal. When the economy is slowing down, it’s because technology is not expanding as fast.”
His refinement of that theory is that news of coming technological advances, or “news shocks,” jump-starts changes in business cycles that precede the actual technological advances. For instance, “In the early 90s people started to hear about the Internet coming. And because people were anticipating the technological changes of the Internet, the economy boomed. People were excited about it and adjusted their spending up,” Avdjiev says.