2022 Best & Brightest Business Major: Petar Bozhilov, Southern Methodist University (Cox)

Petar Bozhilov

Southern Methodist University, Cox School of Business

“An energetic young man who won’t stop grinding it out until Elon Musk becomes the second richest in the world.”

Fun fact about yourself: In Europe, we microwave our cereal – so, yeah, I heat up the milk before eating cereal – gross, right?

Hometown: Sofia, Bulgaria

High School: National Sports School “General Vladimir Stoychev” – Sofia, Bulgaria

Major: Finance with Specialization in Alternative Asset Management

Minor: N/A

Favorite Business Course: EnCap Investments & LCM Group Alternative Asset Management Center Program (the AAMC Program)

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles During College:

  • University Honor Roll: 4x High Distinction (Spring 2019, 2020, and 2021 as well as Fall 2021); 2x Distinction (Fall 2019 and 2020)
  • Certificates: Assistant coach in swimming, skipper of a seagoing vessel of up to 40 GT – international waters, swimming referee, and lifeguard for pools, water parks, and beaches
  • Don Jackson Center Associate Program – Teaching Assistant: EnCap Investments & LCM Group Alternative Asset Management Center Program – Conduct weekly financial modeling sessions and audit models/pitchbook deliverables as well as grade student teams’ performance. Serve as the face of the University’s Finance department
  • Altshuler Learning Enhancement Center (A-LEC), SMU – Academic Tutor – Teach advanced finance as well as introductory accounting, economics, and statistical methods
  • Private Equity & Venture Capital Club, SMU – Investment Analysis Committee Member –Research and discuss industry trends, develop investment theses within a group of 5, and provide and receive feedback on investment ideas
  • SMU Board of Trustees – Student Representative to the Board of Trustees – Investments Committee – Empowered by the Board to make investment decisions regarding the funds and assets of the University Endowment and advise the Board on its policies relating to University investments
  • Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) – Vice President of Campus Relations; Men’s Swimming & Diving Representative – Serve to represent 400+ student-athletes and all 16 sports at SMU; selected to serve as Vice President of Campus Relations for 2021-2022
  • SMU Men’s Swimming & Diving – NCAA Division I Swimmer – Encourage teammates’ performance and camaraderie by leading 11+ weekly workouts requiring 25+ hours commitment of time while also balancing 15-18 academic credit hours, ~10-15 hours of academic tutoring, ~15 hours of Don Jackson work, and other extracurriculars
  • Member of the SMU’s Triathlon Club

Where have you interned during your college career? Cowen Inc. in their Dallas office during the summer of 2021. I served as an investment banking summer analyst. In Dallas, Cowen does all kinds of deals (so, one could say it is a generalist program) but focuses on healthcare and education. They do not do public deals in Dallas; rather, efforts are focused on the private M&A side.

Where will you be working after graduation? Same company, same role, same location – Cowen Inc. in their Dallas office as a full-time investment banking analyst

Who is your favorite professor? It is Professor William Maxwell, who teaches the AAMC Program at SMU. I believe that Professor Maxwell is solely the reason why so many SMU Cox undergraduates secure spots in Investment Banking. The AAMC program, that he has led for about 10 years now, is not just a class but a community and network of alumni. In addition, the way Professor Maxwell teaches helps students understand the “big picture” and what the purpose of finance is. He is not the type of teacher who is picky about grades, but instead focuses on whether the student actually learns and grows. The class resembles an internship in a sense.

What is the biggest lesson you gained from studying business? The business world – and especially finance – is a competitive space and only the most dedicated make it to the top.

What advice would you give to a student looking to major in a business-related field? I would advise students to pick a major or career that fits their interests. I appreciate accounting and management, for example, and a good amount of my friends are successful in these fields. However, I cannot imagine myself working in that space. If you have the passion and are willing to put in the hours, the success and extra comma on the paycheck will come.

On another note, I also want to advise folks to ignore factors such as firm location, compensation, or prestige. I would rather focus on team culture and, more importantly, on personal growth and learning exposure.

What has surprised you most about majoring in business? I always thought finance would be very math-heavy and a “pen-and-paper” type of field. In my case, it turned out to be 50% Excel and 50% trying to understand the “big picture,” and how businesses operate. Both are important, but the second is a skill that takes more time to master.

Looking back over your experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently in business school and why? I would have started early! I was late in every process – securing a spot in the business school, building my resume and cover letter, recruiting for investment banking, and overall trying to figure out what I want to do with my life. I was lucky enough that everything played out well in my case, but I admire people who start early (freshman year) and stay ahead of the curve. 

What business executive do you admire most? I admire Paul Singer a lot. Paul is an American hedge fund manager, activist investor, philanthropist, and the founder, president, and Co-CEO of Elliott Management. He spoke in one of SMU’s Board of Trustees meetings last year (I am serving as a student representative on the Board). By listening to him speak, I saw that the way he manages Elliott is amazing. His down-side protection strategies are among the most effective in the industry. It is really remarkable to generate consistent returns with essentially insignificant downside risk. I feel so lucky to say I met Paul in-person and learned from him.

Which academic, extracurricular, or personal achievement are you most proud of? I am proud of multiple aspects of my professional and academic career, but one will always be the winner. I am most proud of the fact that I left my family and all of my friends in 2018 to come to the States and grow as a person. Unlike me, a lot of international students have relatives or close friends in the States – I, on the other hand, had to build my own future from scratch.

Which classmate do you most admire? There is a guy named Hayden Eelkema – Hayden is mirroring my career path, but his character is unique. He never quits and is always grinding away on homework assignments and projects until sunrise. I could write all day about Hayden, but I would rather just say that I believe he will be successful in life!

Who would you most want to thank for your success? I would like to thank my dad, Boris. I am not sure I mentioned before, but I am a student-athlete (swimmer). Without my dad coaching me for the 16 years leading up to college, I would not have been able to secure an athletic scholarship overseas. Coming from Bulgaria when I did, anything above $2K per year for tuition was impossible to cover, so swimming was the only option.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? These are really general, but as of now, (1) learn and grow as much as I can and (2) not be afraid to take a risk becoming an entrepreneur and create my own business in the long run.

What are your hobbies? While I enjoy skiing and hiking, I am a huge fan of rock/heavy metal music. I got tickets and am looking forward to Judas Priest, Slipknot, and Bon Jovi over the next couple of months. I also enjoy the sport of triathlon; I am still an active competitor, but as time flies by, I am shifting towards sports for older age groups (ha-ha).

What made Peter such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2022?

“Petar Bozhilov is a truly exceptional student, but that would just be an aside if I were to describe him because he is so much more. He maintains an almost perfect 4.0 while thriving as an NCAA athlete in one of the most time-demanding sports, swimming.  In my mind, what really stands out about Petar is his leadership and willingness to help others. He has one of the greatest gifts in life: he makes those around him better. He is constantly volunteering to help.  I often open up my mailbox to find an email from Petar asking how he can help with a project or assignment or something he’s seen that he thinks needs addressing. I’ll respond with a request and as soon as he completes it, I get the next email asking how can he help (this includes communications from him during all the breaks as well).

It is not only students that Petar influences.  He is truly inspiring, and I am a better person from knowing him and spending time with this young man in the classroom.  Petar recently received his green card, and I can say the US is a better place because of it.”

Professor William Maxwell, PhD
Mary Jo Vaughn Rauscher Chair in Financial Investments
Academic Director, The EnCap Investments & LCM Group Alternative Asset Management Center
Academic Director, The Don Jackson Center for Financial Studies



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