ASTANA – Several notable Kazakh graduates have attended the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Since 2017, many more students from Central Asia are having the opportunity to attend the prestigious public policy and administration institute.
Initiated by his wife Gaukhar Kapparova and friends Yerbolat Dossayev, Berik Kaniyev and Yuriy Pak, the Nurlan Kapparov Graduate Fellowship was established in honour of the Harvard graduate and Kazakh statesperson and businessperson. He earned a midcareer-master of public administration (MC/MPA) in 2003 and the funding supports Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) students seeking post-graduate degrees. In an interview with The Astana Times, his niece and fellowship coordinator Ainur Kapparova detailed the history of the fellowship and the ways prospective students may get involved.
“This is the first Harvard fellowship targeting students from Central Asia,” she said. “At Columbia Business School (CBS), which I attended, there were fellowships for European students, for example. We are very proud that such a fellowship now exists for Central Asian students at Harvard.”
Nurlan Kapparov, who died from a heart failure in March 2015 while on a business trip to Beijing, was at that time the chairman of the board of KazAtomProm national atomic company. Previously, he had served as Minister for Environment Protection of Kazakhstan as well as chairman of the board of KazMunayGas national oil and gas company.
The fellowship is awarded on a competitive, merit basis to admitted applicants from Kazakhstan who meet all relevant HKS admissions criteria and enrol in one of HKS’ master’s degree programmes – Master in Public Policy (MPP), Master in Public Administration (MPA), MPA in International Development (MPA/ID) and MC/MPA.
Preference is given to applicants with a minimum of two-years’ work experience in Kazakh government, quasi-government or private sector entities and is related but not limited to economics, finance, trade or infrastructure. If no such candidate is available, the fellowship may be awarded to other admitted applicants from Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan or may be held to be awarded another year.
Asset Abdualiyev, deputy chairperson of the board of the Almaty Development Centre, is the first Kapparov fellow. He recently completed his MC/MPA and is continuing a Master of Science in Management for Experienced Leaders at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Karlygash Zhunusova, the second recipient, began her two-year MPA/ID in September. An economics graduate with honours, Zhunusova works at the Centre for Statistical Surveys and Dasco Consulting Group.
“It just so happens that I am the only student from Kazakhstan and Central Asia in the MPA/ID Class of 2020. For me, learning from the experience of my new classmates from different parts of the world and telling them about Kazakhstan represents a lot of opportunities. I study with people from Argentina, India, Thailand, Turkey, Japan, Peru, China and the United States. Each time, I learn something new from their experiences in public programme implementation to their culture and traditions,” she wrote in a Facebook post.
Throughout his career, Kapparov maintained an unwavering commitment to charity, humanitarian goals and future generations. He was concerned with addressing youth education and in this regard, his days at Harvard were particularly formative.
“My uncle was very active within Harvard’s community during and following his studies,” said Kapparova. “He made significant strides in establishing closer cooperation between Kazakhstan and the university.”
Upon graduation, he founded the Harvard Club of Central Asia (HCCA) to gather alumni from the region. Notably, he made the seemingly unimaginable prospect of entering a world-ranked university a reality for prospective Central Asian students, whom he also provided with financial assistance and admissions guidance. His namesake fellowship continues this legacy.
“My role is to promote the fellowship to as wide an audience as possible and to those generally interested in gaining a postgraduate education so that they become aware of its existence and, most importantly, apply,” Kapparova added. “The fellowship will continue indefinitely and, every year, will be allocated to an admitted student. The more people know about the fellowship, the more people will apply to HKS and, hopefully, more people will be admitted!”
A CBS graduate and Fizmat Endowment Fund managing director, Kapparova has more than eight-years’ experience in investing and consulting with HSBC, McKinsey & Company and State Street Bank. She is thus perfectly placed to promote the fellowship, knowing how personally and professionally rewarding a professional graduate degree may be.
“Thanks to my classmates at CBS, many of whom were consultants, I was thoroughly prepared for the case-solving part of my interview process at McKinsey,” she said. “You could say that, if not for completing my MBA, I would have never made the career switch from finance to McKinsey, where I was able to gain significant experience and get involved in truly engaging projects.”
“I looked forward to becoming a part of the community of Columbia graduates upon my return to Kazakhstan. Since I did not find any such association, I took it upon myself to create one. In this way, I met incredible individuals from a wide range of specialisations upon graduation and we regularly meet up, network and form friendships,” she added.
While graduate school was personally fulfilling, Kapparova recognises a number of barriers exist for students in gaining an Ivy League education.
“The admissions process for graduate school in the United States is relatively tricky, demanding preparation and thinking ahead. Moreover, it is not only difficult to get admitted to HKS, but also quite expensive to attend. The aim of this fellowship is to afford the opportunity for individuals from Kazakhstan and Central Asia to receive an education at HKS, one of the best schools in public policy and administration in the world,” she said.
All decisions regarding admissions and fellowship awards are made at the discretion of HKS in accordance with its established policies and procedures. The application deadline for the 2019-2020 academic year is Dec. 3.
“Two years ago, I could not even imagine being here at HKS. Maybe, someone who is reading this post now also plans to continue their education, return to the atmosphere of studies and open a world of possibilities. Go for it! All you need is a little eagerness and patience, support from your family, colleagues and friends and a lot of courage,” said Zhunusova.
Further information may be found on the fellowship’s official website www.nkfellowship.com, Facebook page www.facebook.com/nkfellowship and HKS’ admissions page www.hks.harvard.edu/admissions-aid/masters-program-admissions/how-apply.