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University Leadership

                           Isa Sarac, PhD

University President

Dr. Sarac founded VIU in 1998 with the vision of offering students from all over the world the access to higher education. Dr. Sarac has been considered a visionary in his field. As a talented educator, lecturer, publisher, and leader, Dr. Sarac contributes decades of accomplishments and experiences to the ongoing success of Virginia International University.,

Dr. Sarac holds a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from Ege University in Izmir, Turkey. Upon earning his undergraduate degree in 1972, Dr. Sarac went on to earn a Master of Science in Statistics and Computing from Ege University in 1980 and a PhD in Multivariate Statistics & Econometrics from Dokuz Eylul University in Izmir, Turkey, in 1984.

Dr. Sarac has been professionally involved in the field of higher education for most of his life. As a true champion of education, his extensive teaching and lecturing career spans more than 40 years. Dr. Sarac’s career includes serving as a mathematical instructor and as a lecturer at several universities in Turkey. Dr. Sarac taught subjects in the fields of mathematics, statistics, biomedical statistics, economectrics, mathematical analysis, variance analysis, and differential equations.

In addition to teaching at the university level, Dr. Sarac can be regarded as a researcher as well. He has published books and magazines worldwide on subjects related to mathematics and mathematical statistics.

In 1990, Dr. Sarac relocated to London, UK where he opened an education and publishing company. Simultaneously, Dr. Sarac founded and served as the principal of the London Meridian College. During this time, he also served as an education consultant and conducted research on multivariate statistical methods in the Mathematics Department of the University of Warwick, located in Coventry, UK.

In 1997, Dr. Sarac pursued his vision of beginning an international institution of higher education in the United States. Virginia International University opened its doors in Fairfax, Virginia under the leadership of Dr. Sarac. Until today, Dr. Sarac and the university’s vision is to educate students from all over the world who will return to their countries of origin with the knowledge needed to assist their communities and make a difference both locally and internationally. Dr. Sarac wholeheartedly believes that education and knowledge open the doors for peace in the world. Dr. Isa Sarac is a very dynamic and strong-minded individual. It is because of his vision and determination that Virginia International University continues to grow each year with constant improvement and a continued commitment to excellence.

Executive Team

Dr. Suleyman Bahceci - MA, MSC, PhD
Executive Vice President of Student and University Affairs

Dr. Suleyman Bahceci joined Virginia International University (VIU) as the Executive Vice President of Student and University Affairs on May 1, 2015. In this role, he is responsible for coordinating and overseeing the departments of University Affairs and Student Affairs as well as the schools, including the School of Language Studies, the School of Online Education, and the School of Professional Development.

Previously, Dr. Bahceci was the Chief Executive Officer of Accord Institute for Education Research, which provides a wide variety of education services to public schools. His commitment to improving the quality of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education prompted his involvement in education reform movement through starting up charter schools and non-profit education organizations. His visionary focus on data and STEM transformed the client schools into high-achieving schools.

In 2009, he joined Magnolia Educational and Research Foundation as the Chief Executive Officer. Under his leadership, the number of Magnolia Public Schools and their student enrollment doubled in size in three years. In 2007, he joined a group of high performing school leaders to found the Accord Institute for Education Research.  In 2003, Dr. Bahceci co-founded Willow Education, a non-profit public benefit corporation, aimed at promoting science and technology education in public schools. As the Board President of Willow Education, he initiated and led numerous projects, the most important of which was the BayTech-Oakland project, a public charter school located in the underserved community of Oakland.

From 2000 to 2009, Dr. Bahceci worked as the Research Scientist at Exelixis Inc., a biotechnology company in San Francisco, California. His works involved a variety of Drug Discovery projects at Exelixis. Serving as the molecular modeler for multiple projects, Dr. Bahceci demonstrated a strong scientific understanding of biology, chemistry, and modeling methods as well as excellent communication and organizational skills. His name has been listed as the co-inventor on the Inhibitors of Hedgehog Pathway and CDK Modulators patents.

Dr. Bahceci earned both his M.A and Ph.D. degrees in Chemistry from the University of Texas at Austin and his B.Sc. (hons) degree in Science Education and M.Sc. degree in Chemistry from the Middle East Technical University in Ankara, Turkey.

Prashish Shrestha - MIS, MBS
Executive Vice President of Finance and Information Technology (waiting on a bio)

In 2001, he received his diploma in software engineering and since then has worked with web application development and system maintenance.

He completed his Master of Business Studies (MBS) in 2003 from Tribhuvan University in Kathmandu, Nepal, and in December 2008 he received his master (MIS) degree in information system from Virginia International University.

Dr. Ronald J. Kovach - EdD, MA, CSS, BSEd
Vice President of Academic Affairs

Dr. Kovach serves as Vice President of Academic Affairs. In this role, he is responsible for coordinating and overseeing programs and schools including the School of Computer Information Systems, the School of Business, the School of Education, the School of Public and International Affairs, the Director of Library Services and the Registrar’s Office.

Prior to joining Virginia International University, Dr. Kovach was Provost of the Mountbatten Institute (NY), a British graduate business institute, and oversaw academic programs with centers in New York City, London, and Bangkok. Dr. Kovach has over 36 years of higher education experience. During his career, he has held positions as Vice President of Student Retention at American Public University System; Assistant Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs in the Purdue University system; Director of International Studies and Director of the Graduate Program in Organizational Leadership at Lewis University; Dean of Student Development at Benedictine University; Associate Dean of Students at Rhodes College; Director of Student Development at University of St. Francis, and Director of Residence Education at Boston University.

He served as President of the National Society for Experiential Education (NSEE) from 2012-2014, Past President from 2014-16, and Director of the Experiential Education Academy 2014-present. He was Treasurer from 2010-2012, and a member of the NSEE Board of Directors from 2008-2016. In addition, he has served on the Board of Habitat for Humanity, Loudoun County (VA).

Dr. Kovach has conducted over 100 presentations, workshops at both national and international conferences, has authored several publications, and has consulted at national and international universities on a variety of higher education topics. He has been a Lead QEP Evaluator for a SACS accreditation team and served as Principal Investigator for numerous grants (U.S. Department of Education grants as well as private foundation projects) that have addressed faculty development, student success, leadership development and experiential learning.

Dr. Kovach holds a doctorate in counseling and adult higher education from Northern Illinois University, a Certificate of Special Studies in Administration and Management from Harvard University, a Master of Arts in English from Kent State University and a Bachelor of Science in English Education from Ohio University.

Christina Koonts - MA
Associate Vice President of Institutional Effectiveness and Quality Assurance (waiting on a bio)

Christina L. Koonts was born and raised in Fauquier County, Virginia. Upon graduating from Fauquier High School in 2003, Christina made the move to Newport News, Virginia to attend Christopher Newport University for her undergraduate education, where she earned her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science in 2007 with minors in philosophy and religious studies as well as sociology.

After completing her Bachelor’s Degree, Christina returned to the Northern Virginia area and began work at Virginia International University. She enrolled in George Mason University’s Graduate program in political science in the fall of 2008. Christina pursued and graduated with a Master of Arts in Political Science with a concentration in International Relations in December of 2010. Christina’s research interests throughout her educational career included economic development, comparative politics, and humanitarian policy. Christina currently works as VIU’s Associate Vice President of Institutional Effectiveness and Quality Assurance, and resides in her hometown of Fauquier County with her husband, two children, and a yellow lab named Marley.

Deborah Brent - MA
Associate Vice President of Enrollment Management and Marketing

Deborah Brent joined Virginia International University (VIU) as an Associate Vice President of Enrollment Management and Marketing on January 4, 2017. In this role she provides leadership to the University’s Admissions department along with overseeing efforts in both Domestic and International Marketing. Deborah’s Enrollment Management team at VIU also includes the essential divisions of International Student Services, Office of the Registrar, and Lead Management.

Deborah’s 21 year career in higher education began as a Director of Admissions for such companies as TriState Travel School in Cincinnati, OH; Career Education Corporation colleges in Vienna, VA and Boston, MA; The New England Institute of Art in Brookline, MA; and a Corinthian, Inc. college campus in McLean, VA. Deborah advanced to campus operations where she worked as a Campus Director for National Massage Therapy Institute in Falls Church, VA and joined ITT Technical Institute as the College Director of the Chantilly, VA campus. While with ITT Technical Institute, Deborah was awarded College Director of the Year in 2010 and led the Chantilly, VA campus to numerous recognitions for top performance.

Deborah was promoted to the District Manager-Southeast Region position with ITT Technical Institute where she had managerial oversight of 12 college campuses located in Florida, Maryland, and Northern Virginia. She spearheaded ITT Technical Institutes’ inclusion in the President’s Campus Challenge on Interfaith and Community Service Program where she represented the college system’s program participation at The White House and had the honor to present at two annual conferences sponsored by the US Department of Education. Deborah was elected to serve three terms as secretary/treasurer on the Board of Directors for the Virginia Career College Association. Per her notable accomplishments, Deborah was a featured presenter on a Biz Summit’s webinar on “Elevating Performance Metrics through Performance Management” in 2013 and presented at a SCHEV conference in Richmond, VA regarding “Admissions and Compliance Standards.” Based on her deep belief in the importance of post-secondary education, Deborah feels her greatest reward over the years is seeing the success of her students that achieve both their educational and career aspirations that benefit their futures. She enjoys working with the staff and student body that encompass VIU’s global campus community.

Deborah Brent received her MA in International Communications from The American University, Washington, DC and her BSC in Telecommunications from Ohio University, Athens, OH.

Jane Bondarenko - MBA
Public Relations Specialist

Ms. Bondarenko joined the university as a PR Specialist back in 2011 after she earned an MBA in International Business from VIU. As a Public Relations Specialist, Ms. Bondarenko oversees the Media and PR Department at VIU, which was established with the goal to promote the university’s brand through quality media materials and strengthen VIU’s community on social media. The department takes pride in producing engaging videos, photos, and designs for VIU including The University Magazine.

Ms. Bondarenko is actively involved in the VIU Alumni Association to help graduates succeed in their careers and build a network. She is also a member of the PR Society of America (PRSA) and Project Management Institute (PMI). Ms. Bondarenko is fluent in English and Russian.

Before she came to the US as an international student, Ms. Bondarenko graduated from Moscow University for the Humanities with a bachelor’s degree in International Relations and gained experience in international business and communications at multinational tourism and advertising corporations in Moscow, Russia.

Camilla Nunes - MA
Curriculum Director

Camilla Nunes is the Curriculum Director at Virginia International University. She holds a Master of Arts in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) from VIU and three Bachelor of Arts degrees: Translation, English, and Portuguese, from the Federal University of Ouro Preto in Brazil.

While still in college, she was always involved in educational activities on and off campus, either conducting research in the fields of students’ perspectives and teachers’ professional development or developing curriculum for several programs. She has also advised and tutored students while working as teaching assistant. Since 2005, Camilla has been working as teacher and curriculum developer for different institutions. In 2014, she joined VIU as a Curriculum Coordinator; performing research, developing programs, assisting faculty, and improving instructional resources. Camilla also coordinates the scholarship program.

She speaks Portuguese as her native language, and she has knowledge of elementary Spanish.

Courtney Hill - BA
Director of Strategic Planning and Business Development

Courtney Hill joined Virginia International University as the Director of Strategic Planning & Business Development in April of 2016. In this role, she works to develop new institutional strategic plans, promotes the university’s brand, and builds on VIU’s emerging presence in the local and international sphere through business partnerships, educational organizations, and strategic alumni support. She is also responsible for spearheading the university’s fundraising efforts and planned giving campaigns.

Prior to joining VIU, Ms. Hill held senior roles at a DC consulting firm, Book Hill Partners, specializing in management operations, government relations, professional PAC management, business development, and event planning. During her time there she worked with senior White House officials, members of Congress, Fortune 500 companies, national security agencies, federal departments, and international nonprofit organizations. Prior to joining BHP, Ms. Hill worked at the Washington based Government Affairs division for a large international trade association.

A native Virginian, Ms. Hill studied at the prestigious Governor’s School for the Arts with a concentration in Theatre. She graduated from Marymount University in Arlington, VA in 2007 with a BA in Politics and continued her studies with intensive licensing programs at the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business in South Bend, IN.

Bayarjargal Battulga - MBA
Director of Operations, Facilities and Property

Bayarjargal Battulga joined Virginia International University as an Operations, Facilities and Property Manager in August 2015 and was promoted to Director of Operations, Facilities and Property Management in June 2016. In this role, he provides direction, oversight and operation management for facilities and property maintenance; campus development and construction; campus security; transportation and parking; information services; and food service. Additionally, Mr. Battulga provides general accounting support to the university subsidiary entity.

Previously, Mr. Battulga was the Financial Manager at Hera Equipment LLC, a heavy duty equipment sales and service company in Mongolia. Prior to joining Hera Equipment LLC, he worked as a Financial Controller for TWB Drilling Ltd, a multinational core drilling company in the mining industry.

Mr. Battulga earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Economics from the National University of Mongolia, School of Economic Studies and his MBA degree in International Finance from Virginia International University.


Dr. Halil Atabay - PhD
Dean of General Education

Dr.Halil Atabay is the Dean of General Education. He received his Ph.D. in microbiology from the University of Bristol (UK) in 1998 and his DVM degree from Istanbul University in Turkey in 1992. After completion of his Ph.D., he worked as a professor at several universities, including departments related to the field of microbiology. His tasks involved teaching, research, and administrative activities, which also covered curriculum development for undergraduate and graduate studies and oversight of academic policies and procedures. He is a dedicated academician in his commitment to student success, institutional effectiveness, and academic excellence. He has extensive experience in grant writing and project management. He successfully led and completed many research projects either as PI or researcher and supervised and/or mentored many postgraduate and undergraduate students.

In addition to his work as a professor, Dr. Atabay served as the director for a graduate school at a health sciences institution where he was actively involved in developing and opening numerous graduate-level programs and respective courses. He taught a wide variety of courses in the field of microbiology, including general microbiology, immunology, food microbiology, medical microbiology, project techniques, and more at both the undergraduate and the graduate levels. He has also served as an expert evaluator for the European Union’s HORIZON 2020 Projects since 2009 and has worked for several national-level project funding bodies. Throughout his career, he also worked in research and project coordination and international relations.

Dr. Atabay completed his postdoctoral studies in Denmark and Sweden in 2001 and 2005, respectively. He has over 34 research papers published in high-ranked journals, written two book chapters, and has received over 1805 citations to his publications with an h-index of 22.

Dr. Klara Bilgin - MA, PhD
Dean of School of Public and International Affairs

Dr. Klara Bilgin is Dean of the School of Public and International Affairs at the Virginia International University, Fairfax VA. She holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from the Johns Hopkins University and an MA in International Relations from the University of Delaware.

Prior to her VIU position, Dr. Bilgin has taught at the College of St. Mary's in MD, Western Illinois University, and the State University of New York, Geneseo. Her research work and publications focus on the processes of regime change, elections and transitions in Eastern Europe and Eurasia.

Dr. Bilgin has also worked as an international elections observer with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the European Network of Election Monitoring Organizations.

Dr. Chakib Chraibi - MSc, PhD
Dean of School of Computer Information Systems

Dr. Chakib Chraibi is the Dean of the School of Computer Information Systems at Virginia International University. Dr. Chraibi is a dedicated, visionary leader with a proven record of active engagement and accomplishments, and an extensive and diverse experience in higher education that spans over 25 years. He is steadfast in his commitment to student success, academic excellence, institutional effectiveness, and outreach to the community. In an environment increasingly shaped by technological change and globalization, his pledge is to offer students a world-class education in the computing discipline from a diverse faculty who are experts in the fields of computer science, information systems, and information technology.

Before joining VIU, Dr. Chraibi served as a member of DeVry University’s Academic Leadership Committee and Associate Dean of the College of Engineering and Information Sciences where he was involved in overseeing academic policies and procedures, including curricular, faculty, student, administrative, budgetary, accreditation, and regulatory issues. At Barry University, he worked extensively in curriculum development, evaluation, and assessment as the Chair of the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science and member of the College of Arts and Sciences Curriculum and Policy Committee. Activities of the committee included reviewing academic policies and procedures, curriculum proposals and revisions, budgetary requests, academic partnerships, and other academic initiatives.

He has taught more than 40 courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels and published several research papers in peer-reviewed journals. He is a member of several professional organizations, including ACM, IEEE, and IBM Scholars and an editorial board member of the Engineering Letters. He received his BSc, MSc, and Doctorate degrees from the University of Bordeaux in France and his Ph.D. in Computer Science from Binghamton University - State University of New York. His Doctorate in Science was awarded high distinction by the committee and his Ph.D. dissertation was awarded the Distinguished Dissertation Award in the category of sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

Dr. Grace Klinefelter - PhD
Dean of School of Business

Dr. Grace Klinefelter was named Dean of the School of Business in September 2016. Prior to joining VIU, she served as Program Chair for the Graduate School of Business and Management at Argosy University. She has an extensive background in higher education administration as well as teaching, advising, and coaching business and leadership students from undergraduate through doctorate levels.

Dr. Klinefelter earned her Doctorate in Business Administration degree from Nova Southeastern University. She holds professional certifications in Human Resource Management and Professional Coaching. Her vision of the educational environment is to relate the classroom with students’ lived experiences and to provide tools and resources for students to navigate their lives through personal growth, creativity and curiosity, development of critical thinking and problem-solving skills, and an appreciation of the importance of self-care and personal accountability.

Since becoming Dean of the School of Business at VIU, Dr. Klinefelter is working to build a supportive and inclusive environment to support active and engaged students, faculty and staff that empower students to develop their skills and talents, and develop collaborative relationships with others within and outside the university to succeed in a rapidly changing world.