Macedonian-Americans Focus on Building Bridges within Communities and Abroad at MALC2019

The 5th Macedonian-American Leadership Conference (MALC2019) was held in sunny Miami, Florida on February 8-10, 2019. Videos of the conference discussions can be found on UMD and Generation M’s Facebook Pages.

On February 8, day 1 of the event, MALC2019 kicked off with a networking reception at Fontainebleau Miami Beach. Conference speakers and other guests enjoyed a night of great music, excellent company, and Miami hospitality.

MALC2019’s conference day commenced bright and early on Saturday, February 9 at Florida International University (FIU)’s Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management. Macedonian food like burek, shopska, and pastramajlija were served by Phyllola Foods.

The opening portion of the conference covered a variety of topics, including a welcome and overview of MALC2019 by conference organizer and UMD Miami Representative, Mishko Josifov, the origins of UMD and their mission to help advance current Macedonian communities and organizations discussed by UMD President, Meto Koloski, and how young leaders can learn about their Macedonian roots and to contribute to the development of Macedonia through Generation M, explained by Generation M Global Co-Chair, Kristina Dimitrievski. UMD’s Birthright Macedonia program was also presented by Generation M Board Secretary, Filip Simeski, during which a letter from Birthright Founder, Peter Dallas was read, stating, “Worldwide, we Macedonians are small in numbers. Only by combining individual efforts into our collective talent, energies and intellect, will our voice be heard in the international arena. It is my hope that Birthright Macedonia will contribute to that effort.” In his letter, Dallas also emphasized the importance of connecting with the Macedonian diaspora in Latin America.

Following Simeski’s presentation, Ivana Trajkovska from the Cabinet of the President of the Republic of Macedonia, Dr. Gjorge Ivanov presented about the President Ivanov International School for Young Leaders, which is celebrating their 10th anniversary this year.

To wrap-up the opening plenary, Member of Romanian Parliament, Mariana-Venera Popescu discussed her work with the Macedonian diaspora in Romania and how she has helped them gain a seat at the table. Marjan Mihajlov, also part of the Romanian delegation at MALC2019, joined MP Popescu to stress the need for diasporans to continue learning and using the Macedonian language, as well as to unite and work together to move forward as a people.

The next panel at MALC2019 was moderated by Kristina Dimitrievski regarding, “Women’s Role in Leadership and Building Bridges in our Communities”. Panelists Seda Aktas, Deana Janceski, Kristina Jovanovska, and Anila Nicklos participated and spoke about their greatest challenges such as moving to the United States and growing up in a different culture, as well as growing up as a first-generation-born Macedonian-American. This led to how they all embraced their American culture and were able to maintain their own respective heritage; leading them to succeed in their fields. The panelists also discussed mentors in their lives, building bridges within the community by reaching out to others and starting a dialogue, and how to give back to the community.

The discussion was then followed by, “The Benefits of Outsourcing to Macedonia. Lessons Learned” featuring Branislav Gjorcevski, CEO of IT Labs. He introduced his company, how they started out, why investing in Macedonia should be considered, and what he considered in order to link his business and Macedonia: free education, affordable resources, and the ability to develop and nurture talent in the country. In addition, he discussed the struggles his company faced, how they bridged the gap between the U.S. and Macedonia, and how they were able to gain recognition in the U.S. as a Macedonian company.

Up next were UMD President, Meto Koloski and former Generation M Global Chair, Filip Jotevski. Koloski and Jotevski had a sit-down discussion with conference attendees to break down U.S. policies affecting Macedonia and Macedonians. Their panel, “The Future of U.S.-Macedonia Strategic Relations After Prespa” emphasized the need for Macedonian-Americans to get involved in the U.S. political system to advance their needs and interests. It included a call to action for attendees to contact their government representatives to build positive relationships and voice their concerns.

Dr. Cami Hofstadter followed this discussion with, “Going Global with Consuls: The Macedonian Diaspora as Bridge Builders.” Hofstadter reviewed the history of consulates, the two types of consuls, requirements for opening a consulate, and what their job description includes. While the following portion, “U.S. Policies Towards the EU and What it Means for Macedonia” discussed by former United States Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, David J. Kramer illustrated how NATO is a bridge towards EU membership for Macedonia, the possibility of the U.S. to withdraw membership and what the repercussions would be for the remaining NATO members, Freedom House democracy ratings and its 13th consecutive year of decline, and where Macedonia falls on the scale.

The closing discussion, “Macedonia’s Medical Tourism Potential and Healthy Lifestyle Management” presented by Dr. Nikola Boskovski makes key points about the potential in Macedonia, especially in medical tourism. This also included tips about living a healthier life through small but significant changes.

Lastly, Mishko Josifov concluded the MALC2019 with a discussion of Stephen R. Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. His discussion re-energized and re-inspired conference attendees to focus on their personal growth and a balanced lifestyle to maintain their health. Josifov stressed that in order to produce results in any aspect of life, health is a top priority to avoid burnout. He ended off the conference on a high note, with guests feeling uplifted and excited to take control and prioritize their lives further.

On February 10, MALC2019’s final day consisted of networking and team-building events, followed by a reception at the Versace Mansion and dinner at Macedonian-owned restaurant, CRUST.

Over the three days, MALC2019 attendees had an opportunity to explore the Miami area, network, and relax while also, engaging and learning at the conference. We would like to thank the local Macedonian businesses Rakija Lounge, Vice Industry Bar, and CRUST for their great food and sharing the Macedonian culture to everyone in the Miami area, as well as our sponsors, IT Labs, Vera and Frank Stavroff, and Anila Nicklos for supporting this year’s MALC. Their support allowed us to plan one of our greatest conferences yet.

This year, we hosted amazing speakers, participants and sponsors from all over the world, and we hope to continue to foster these types of discussions important to Macedonian-Americans. Thank you all for your continuous support!