Deyan Kozhuharov ’08, MBA, ARM, AAI, AIS, AINS, CAWC, hoped his experience at The University of Olivet would help him create a successful future, but he had no idea his time as a student would lead to starting his own business and meeting his wife. As an international student from Bulgaria, a leap of faith landed Deyan at OC, and while he was nervous to be in an entirely new environment, he wouldn’t change a thing now.
From Bulgaria to OC
Interested to expand his worldview after high school and seeking a brighter future after political and economic turmoil in Bulgaria, Deyan applied to many colleges across the United States and searched for scholarships designed for international students. The year prior, Deyan’s brother, Hristo Kozhuharov ’07, AIS, AAI, had set out on the same mission and landed at The University of Olivet. Hesitant to jump into small town life, Deyan didn’t consider OC a main contender until his brother shared the power of relationships he had built as a Comet.
“My brother told me he really liked The University of Olivet, and explained that he would not be my only family there. Leaving your country and going across the ocean is no small task, so the promise that I would have a connection there and the scholarship opportunities were enough to convince me to give Olivet a try,” Deyan explained. “My parents took out a loan for a one way ticket to Michigan, and told me it would be up to me to find my way back home if I were to fail. I ended up really loving it, and all the professors, students and people on campus were welcoming, understanding and made it feel like home.”
Deyan admits that he was in total shock during his first few weeks in his new surroundings, questioning his decision to become a Comet. After an adjustment period, he realized he was embraced by his classmates and teachers, and everyone from the food services staff to the student life team were going out of their way to make him feel welcome. Deyan knew Olivet could be a home – and it felt like his home.
A Passion for Insurance
In the classroom, Deyan studied business, interested in a subject that would be useful anywhere in the world. After learning of OC’s renowned insurance and risk management (IRM) program, he declared a double major, interested in the various career paths the field offers and eager to shape his future around a role where he could work with others. It was through his IRM studies that Deyan connected with one of his most beneficial mentors – Carol Breed ’98, former IRM program director and professor.
“I just ended up loving my insurance studies,” Deyan exclaimed. “Professor Breed specifically went out of her way to help me and was just amazing all around. She always pushed me to reach my goals, and even helped me get my first job in the U.S. – it was at McDonalds, but it was a great first step for me.”
Deyan’s role at McDonalds was just one of three jobs he worked during college to make ends meet, but he credits his strong work ethic in helping him succeed from his time as a student through his time as a professional. Despite a busy schedule, Deyan still made time to be involved in student life, joining Gamma Iota Sigma, OC’s professional IRM fraternity; Omicron Delta Kappa, a national leadership honor society; and pledging to the Kappa Sigma Alpha fraternity.
Insurance Runs in the Family
Through Deyan’s campus involvement, he embraced The University of Olivet’s guiding principle, Education for Individual and Social Responsibility, having numerous opportunities for community service and building strong relationships through his experiences. Still today, Deyan has a passion for service and says he considers The University of Olivet his family, but that’s partly because he’s married to fellow alum Katelyn (Harmon) Kozhuharov ’10.
Deyan says his favorite memory from his time at OC is not just meeting Katelyn, but how he got to know her family. One of Deyan’s roles with GIS was to explore internship opportunities for students. While exploring potential roles with the Allen Harmon Insurance Agency, Deyan connected with Mr. Harmon himself, only to find out a year later he was Katelyn’s father.
“I think my father-in-law thought I was a crazy foreigner,” Deyan joked. “He even tried to scare me away once by helping me get an internship in Memphis, Tennessee, but things turned against him because I proposed to Katelyn shortly after. If her father did have sneaky plans, I think he was actually hoping to get Katelyn into the insurance industry one way or another. She wanted to have a career as a librarian, but eventually did switch over to insurance when she realized the potential in the field and the flexibility it gives her to raise our two daughters.”
Built to Serve
Now a full-fledged insurance family, Deyan says he loves being able to share his work with the people he loves most and the opportunities to have a rewarding career. In fact, Deyan even founded the Kozhuharov Insurance Agency as part of the Allen Harmon Insurance Agency, opening a physical office after several years of success. The agency serves a large Bulgarian population and other ethnic groups across Michigan and in parts of Illinois, and focuses on providing services to those who may not speak English, motivated to treat all clients with fairness and respect.
“Founding an insurance agency that catered to Bulgarians actually started as a class project,” Deyan explained. “Michelle Woodhouse-Jackson, a former business professor, challenged students to create a business proposal project. My studies prepared me to think about the real world, and I recognized an actual need for this type of business. Now it has become my reality and allows me to have a job I enjoy with people I love. Everything has turned out even better than I could have dreamed, and The University of Olivet played a big role in that.”
In addition, Deyan’s passion for service instilled in him while at The University of Olivet motivates him to give back to his community still today. He is a member of the Michigan Masons, a community-based fraternal organization, and regularly volunteers at soup kitchens, leads fundraising drives and partners with local nonprofits. As a father, Deyan’s favorite annual event is the Child ID Program, designed to educate parents about abduction prevention and how to expedite law enforcement efforts to locate a missing child. prepare parents to respond efficiently if their child is lost or stolen and enable law enforcement with the resources to locate the child.
Comet to Comet
For students, Deyan advises them to set goals for their career and education, and especially build connections with other students. “Have some sort of dream or plan,” Deyan said. “It can be for your career or personally, but make one. These dreams are what drive us, and if we don’t have dreams, we will get lost on the way. I am proof that my dreams come true if you work hard, and that The University of Olivet helped me do that.”
Learn more about The University of Olivet and opportunities for all students – including international students like Deyan – by visiting campus or attending an upcoming admissions event. Contact the Office of Admissions at 800.456.7189 or firstname.lastname@example.org for questions.