With a passion for teaching and a love of travel, Milena Petrova, associate professor of finance at Syracuse University’s Martin J. Whitman School of Management, has built her academic career around global experiences.
She grew up in Bulgaria and was exposed to academia from an early age. Her mother was a special education teacher who, according to Professor Petrova, never missed a day of work in 37 years.
“Seeing how children learn was always an inspiration,” said Professor Petrova.
While her mother influenced her interest in teaching, her father, who had a doctoral degree and successful research career before starting his own business, encouraged her to pursue an academic career. After completing a master’s degree in international business relations at the University of National and World Economy in Sofia, Bulgaria, Professor Petrova sought to expand her knowledge and gain new experiences by continuing her studies and working throughout Europe. She took various courses at universities in the U.K., Sweden, Denmark and Holland and completed a certificate program in industrial management and a Master of Science in business administration program in Finland.
“It’s exciting to see new places,” said Professor Petrova. “Studying and working in many countries provides a much broader view on business.”
After dabbling in management consulting and working for Booz Allen and Hamilton, Professor Petrova quickly realized that she particularly enjoyed the financial aspect of business. As a student in Bulgaria, she excelled in math and won multiple math competitions. Her love for math and fascination with investment banking led her to further her studies in finance. Professor Petrova came to the United States, where she earned a master’s degree in finance and conducted real estate research at Hofstra University in Long Island, New York. Not one to remain stationary, Professor Petrova moved south to complete her Ph.D. in finance at the University of Florida.
In 2006, upon finishing her Ph.D. studies Professor Petrova chose to accept a position at Syracuse University, as Whitman was designing its new real estate program. Having completed her doctoral dissertation in real estate as well as being exposed to family real estate business, Professor Petrova felt that Whitman would give her the best opportunity, not just to conduct research in real estate, but also be a part of the establishment of a top real estate program.
“Not many schools offer a real estate program,” she said. “I was excited to build the program here.”
Ten years later, Professor Petrova is pleased to see the program thrive and her students succeed in the diverse field of real estate. While she is often teaching, mentoring students, working on the real estate program and conducting research, she still finds time to travel. Her favorite city is New York and she also frequently visits Europe.
To anyone facing the decision of what path to choose in life, Professor Petrova suggests following your passion and doing what excites you.
“I chose an academic career, and I love what I do,” she said.