Alumni Spotlight: Adilkhan Kopabayev ’22 MPA

2022 Master of Public Affairs graduate Adilkhan Kopabayev said the skills he developed in the program have been essential in navigating the complex job of chairman of the board of the Situational-Analytical Center of Fuel Energy Complex of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

When Adilkhan Kopabayev wanted to take his career in management, business development, and policy analysis to the next level, he identified Brown University's one-year Master of Public Affairs (MPA) program as the best one to help him achieve his goals. Kopabayev said the decisive factor in choosing Watson's program "was its strong emphasis on data-driven learning." "The program's focus on leveraging data to effect real-world change was precisely what I was looking for to enhance my skills and make a tangible impact in my field," he said.

Before arriving at Watson, Kopabayev earned a bachelor's degree in urban infrastructure engineering and technology management from the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology in South Korea in 2017 and worked as a senior program manager in the office of the Prime Minister of Kazakhstan. After earning his MPA, he worked as a policy analyst at the U.S. DOT Volpe National Transportation Systems Center in Boston, and in June 2023, he accepted the position of chairman of the board of the Situational-Analytical Center of Fuel Energy Complex of the Republic of Kazakhstan (SAC FEC RK).

While the agency's name might sound obscure, it performs the essential functions of overseeing and developing policies for Kazakhstan's fuel and energy complex, conducting research projects, preparing technical documents, and performing marketing research and analysis. SAC FEC RK also oversees a comprehensive database encompassing oil and gas production, energy, and the entire fuel complex.

“ The program instilled in me a profound appreciation for empirical evidence, emphasizing the principle that without data, you're just another person with an opinion. ”

Adilkhan Kopabayev MPA Class of 2022

Kopabayev credits Watson's MPA program with endowing him with the diverse skill set he draws upon in his work. He noted the skills he developed in the program — policy analysis, advanced statistical methods, strategic leadership, and a keen focus on data-driven decision-making — form the cornerstones of his professional endeavors. 

"The program instilled in me a profound appreciation for empirical evidence, emphasizing the principle that without data, you're just another person with an opinion," he said. Kopabayev said this philosophy resonates deeply with his current day-to-day responsibilities, "where data not only informs but also drives policy development and strategic planning."

Kopabayev's current job responsibilities include the establishment and oversight of a sophisticated data lake. He describes the data lake as an "advanced system designed to autonomously aggregate and analyze data," which facilitates "accurate predictions in oil and gas production, energy sectors and helps detect potential field accidents in advance."

He noted his role also "encompasses a diverse array of functions including in-depth data analysis, strategic project management, and dynamic team leadership." He is also responsible for the development of new, AI-driven, tools which he says are "adept at interrelating diverse data streams, enabling comprehensive, data-driven insights." "These insights are crucial for the formulation of informed and effective policies that shape the entire industry," he said.

Looking back on his time at Brown, Kopabayev praised the MPA program's structure. "The program's holistic approach, blending theoretical knowledge with practical application, has been instrumental in shaping my ability to navigate complex challenges and lead with insight and innovation in the dynamic environment of the fuel and energy sector," he said.

Kopabayev recalled one of the most memorable highlights of his time at Brown was an all-night project session with his classmates in the River House lobby. "This collaborative experience was enriched by the diverse expertise that each of us brought to the table," he said, "The intensive work through the night, coupled with the exchange of unique perspectives and experiences, was illuminating. It was during these moments that I gained a profound understanding of the intricacies involved in data analysis."

It was during this session that Kopabayev said the importance of "meticulous attention to detail and the selection of the most fitting case studies" became evident to him. "This experience not only honed my analytical skills but also underscored the value of teamwork in uncovering deeper insights and achieving comprehensive understanding," he said.

Kopabayev advised new MPA students to "wholeheartedly embrace the spirit of exploration and curiosity" that the program promotes. "Venture into new areas that pique your interest," he said,  "this is the ideal time for inquiry, seeking answers, and even embracing the possibility of failure. Remember, each attempt, whether successful or not, is a valuable learning experience."

He also advised students to take advantage of the opportunities to network that the program creates, to immerse themselves in diverse projects, and to dedicate time to acquiring new skills. "These experiences are not just educational, but transformational," he said. Finally, Kopabayev said students should always extend gratitude to their professors and mentors. "They are your guiding lights, genuinely invested in your growth and success. Their wisdom and support are instrumental in your academic and professional development," he said.