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Sanford’s Master of International Development Policy (MIDP) has a history of training global leaders. Meirzhan Myrzaliyev (MIDP’16) is already fulfilling that legacy. In just seven years, he has been a critical leader in guiding Kazakhstan's administrative structure.  

Serving as Deputy Governor in the Turkistan Region (Mar 2019 - Jun 2021) and the Kostanay Region (Jan 2017 - Mar 2019), he oversaw diverse portfolios, including investment, export, entrepreneurship, and tourism. Before taking on regional roles, Myrzaliyev contributed to national governance as an advisor to the prime minister and the first deputy of the prime minister. His strategic counsel from Oct. 2016 to Jan. 2017 showcased his expertise in shaping high-level policies. 

Myrzaliyev's career exemplifies a commitment to regional and national development, with a promising future in shaping Kazakhstan's governance and economic landscape. 

We asked Myrzaliyev to share some thoughts on his time at Sanford and his career journey since.  

How has your time at Sanford impacted your professional and personal journey? 

Man kneeling by river with Duke T-shirt on
Myrzaliyev is proud to represent Duke internationally. 

Since graduating from Duke Sanford's MIDP program in 2016, my career in Kazakhstan has seen significant milestones. Serving as an adviser to the Prime Minister, I orchestrated the formulation of the National Investment Strategy and a Strategy for Promoting Kazakhstan's Exports, resulting in noteworthy economic growth. Over the period from 2015 to 2019, foreign direct investment surged from $15.4 billion to $24.4 billion, and exports experienced a significant increase from $46 billion to over $58 billion. My responsibilities as the deputy governor of the Kostanay region further underscored my impact, culminating in a transformation of the region's economic standing, marked by an elevation of foreign direct investment from $14.4 million in 2015 to $327.6 million in 2018. This success was replicated in South Kazakhstan, where I adeptly navigated emerging challenges, propelling regional development forward.

The educational framework and experiential facets acquired at Duke Sanford have profoundly shaped my professional trajectory and facilitated personal growth. The program endowed me with a profound understanding of public policy, ethical decision-making, and practical skills essential for impactful policymaking. Notably, my internship at the World Bank, facilitated by Sanford, played a pivotal role in broadening my global perspective and enhancing my comprehension of prevailing economic trends. The invaluable connections and insights amassed during this period proved instrumental in implementing effective strategies upon my return to Kazakhstan. This transformative journey underscores the pivotal role of a robust educational background in empowering individuals to effect meaningful societal changes and navigate intricate policy landscapes with efficacy.

Why does public policy matter? 

Family sitting together inside of a yurt.
Myrzaliyev with his family. 

Public policy in 2023 and beyond plays a pivotal role in shaping a rapidly evolving global landscape. Firstly, it is instrumental in addressing critical global challenges such as climate change and public health crises, which require coordinated and innovative responses.

Secondly, as technology continues to advance rapidly, public policy must evolve to regulate and foster technological innovation while ensuring privacy and responsible use, particularly in the realm of environmental technologies.

Thirdly, public policy is a key driver for promoting social equity and justice, addressing issues of discrimination and inequality, and ensuring equal access to education, healthcare, and economic opportunities.

Lastly, in international relations and democracy, effective policy decisions are crucial for maintaining a country's global standing, fostering diplomatic ties, and encouraging civic engagement, thereby reflecting the democratic values and will of the people. These multifaceted public policy roles highlight its significance in creating a stable, fair, and progressive society.

What is the most notable highlight in your professional journey thus far? 

After completing my MIDP degree at Duke, my personal and professional development has significantly matured—one of the instances that has markedly enhanced the populace's well-being. 

Gasification of Turkistan: Like many countries, Turkistan depended on coal, adversely impacting public health and the environment. Recognizing the urgent need for change, a multifaceted approach was deployed. A budget allocation fostered opportunity for gas pipeline fabrication, shifting from coal to natural gas heating. Initially posing financial strain, collaborative efforts and public policy tools led to reduced household connection costs from $800 to $200. This decisive action swiftly provided affordable gas to the city, eliminating environmental hazards and relieving residents of coal-related challenges. Turkistan now enjoys improved air quality and freedom from coal scarcity and high costs. 

For my participation in solving the issues mentioned above, I was awarded a state order, “Eren Enbegi Ushin.” It was a high honor for me to receive such an award from the President of Kazakhstan. 

I experienced immense pride in making political decisions using my expertise and knowledge, knowing that I could somehow influence and bring happiness to the ordinary residents of our region. Public policy should serve the people's best interests, fostering a just, inclusive, and sustainable society. It should address the population's diverse needs and create an environment where individuals can thrive and contribute to the common good on time.    

Terry Sanford SUGGESTED students 'stand for something.'  What do you stand for? 

Man, wife and daughter all wearing Duke clothing and a sign that says "go blue devils".
Myrzaliyev and his family love Duke sports. 

In embracing Terry Sanford's call to 'stand for something,' my advocacy converges on fostering Economic Prosperity, championing Social Justice, ensuring accessible Healthcare, promoting Education, and strengthening International Relations.

I believe in nurturing a society where economic growth is intertwined with social equity, ensuring job creation and prosperity for all. This vision encompasses the fight for civil rights, gender equality, and racial equality, recognizing their significance in building a just and inclusive society. Healthcare and education are also central to my agenda, advocating for reforms that make quality healthcare universally accessible and education systems that empower individuals through knowledge and skills.

Additionally, nurturing positive International Relations is paramount, as it enhances collaborative efforts to address global challenges, contributing to a harmonious global community. My commitment to these principles is rooted in a holistic approach to societal advancement, recognizing the synergy between economic, social, healthcare, educational, and international dynamics in shaping a better future.

Driven by a profound sense of responsibility and patriotism, my desire to contribute to my country's development is deeply personal. Witnessing the challenges and potentials within Kazakhstan, I am motivated by the belief that significant progress can be achieved through thoughtful policy-making and collaborative efforts.

My experiences, both in Kazakhstan and abroad, have reinforced my conviction that with the right policies and collective will, we can create a society that is prosperous, just, and dynamic. This commitment to my homeland is not just a professional endeavor but a personal mission to contribute to a brighter future for the generations to come, encapsulating a vision where every individual has the opportunity to thrive and contribute to our nation's success.


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