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Empowering Futures: Arystan Moldabekov's Path from U.S.-CAEF Scholar to Kazakhstan's Best CFO

Arystan Moldabekov CFO Summit

Arystan Moldabekov, an alumnus of the Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) program and the U.S.-Central Asia Education Foundation’s Enterprise Student Fellowship Program (U.S.-CAEF), has been honored as the Best Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of the Year by the Kazakhstan Growth Forum. Mr. Moldabekov has served as the CFO of Citibank Kazakhstan since 2022, and his achievements were celebrated at the CFO Summit 2024, a gathering of Kazakhstan's leading financiers and economists.

American Councils for International Education takes pride in recognizing Mr. Moldabekov's accomplishments as part of its "50 Alumni for 50 Years" initiative. American Councils had the privilege of discussing Mr. Moldabekov’s academic and professional successes and how his involvement in international education programs was pivotal to his development.

Mr. Moldabekov's international education journey began in 2006 with his participation in the Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) program during high school, where he experienced life in the United States. This experience spurred his pursuit of higher education, leading him to explore opportunities upon his return to Kazakhstan. In 2007, Mr. Moldabekov joined the inaugural cohort of the U.S.-CAEF program, founded and sponsored by the U.S. Central Asia Education Foundation, which provides scholarships to outstanding students from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and formerly Turkmenistan. Since 2019, the U.S. Department of State has provided funding for the U.S.-CAEF program. U.S.-CAEF awards scholarships based on financial need, outstanding academic achievement, and a commitment to the growth and development of Central Asia. 

Reflecting on his acceptance into the U.S.-CAEF fellowship, Mr. Moldabekov expressed gratitude for the transformative opportunity it provided. “Receiving the call during the summer of 2007 from the American Councils’ office in Kazakhstan and being informed that my application to the U.S.-CAEF fellowship had been approved was one of the most memorable moments in my life,” he shared. “I did realize that I was given a rare opportunity, but it seems like I didn’t fully understand the level of importance of that moment. A single opportunity can become a turning point in someone’s life, and I am thankful to U.S.-CAEF for the opportunity.”  

U.S.-CAEF enabled him to pursue higher studies at KIMEP University in Almaty, Kazakhstan, an institution renowned for its Western educational model and influential alumni network. During his second year of studies, Mr. Moldabekov gained his initial exposure to the finance sector through a summer internship tailored for U.S.-CAEF fellows at a government investment promotion agency. Reflecting on this period, Mr. Moldabekov believes it equipped him with the essential professional skills and knowledge needed for his career. In appreciation for his experience in the program, Mr. Moldabekov later facilitated internships for U.S.-CAEF fellows at his workplaces, assuming the role of mentor to students navigating paths akin to his own.

Arystan Receiving Best CFO AwardAfter graduating from KIMEP University, Mr.Moldabekov began pursuing development opportunities within the financial field, exploring careers at consulting firms, banking institutions, and investment companies. These positions eventually led him to the role of CFO at Citibank Kazakhstan, where he received recognition as “The Best CFO of the Year” in Kazakhstan

Mr. Moldabekov attributes much of his growth and achievement to his education, underscoring the pivotal role of these experiences in personal and professional development. He emphasizes the significance of initiatives like U.S.-CAEF in making higher education accessible and catalyzing individual growth.

Aligned with American Councils' commitment to international education, Mr. Moldabekov recognizes its importance in fostering a global perspective essential for business professionals. “International education is crucial for business professions as it provides broader perspective on global markets and diverse business practices adopted worldwide,” he said. “This is especially important for emerging markets, including Central Asia, where knowledgeable talents are expected to become a new generation of change-makers to promote the economic growth and prosperity in their countries.”

Beyond his professional endeavors, Mr. Moldabekov remains actively involved in mentoring younger U.S.-CAEF cohorts and contributing to the U.S.-CAEF Alumni Association. He cherishes the bonds forged within the alumni community, describing it as a platform for collaboration and positive impact within Central Asia.

“The Program has become more than a financial scholarship for our fellows and alumni at KIMEP and AUCA [American University of Central Asia]. It promoted cross-cultural bonds within Central Asian states, built a unique community of like-minded individuals with a shared vision and aligned goals, full of passion and energy to bring positive impact to the region.”

In advising students interested in finance careers, Mr. Moldabekov underscores the importance of lifelong learning and curiosity, urging students to ask unconventional questions, seek answers, and engage with experts. Highlighting the dynamic nature of finance, he stresses the need to stay updated with innovations and changes while advocating for ongoing investments in education. 

American Councils is proud to count individuals among its alumni like Mr. Moldabekov, who use their international education to advance the business landscape in their home countries. Mr. Moldabekov embodies the enduring global impact of international education.

About the U.S.-Central Asia Education Foundation (U.S.-CAEF)

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, the U.S.- Central Asia Education Foundation (U.S.-CAEF) Enterprise Fellowship Program offers four-year scholarships to exceptional students from Central Asia.  Scholarships are awarded based on financial need, outstanding academic achievement, and commitment to the future growth and development of Central Asia.

The program, focused on business and technology with an emphasis on entrepreneurship, is hosted at the American University of Central Asia in Bishkek. Before 2022, the program also supported Fellows from Turkmenistan at KIMEP University in Almaty. Established by the U.S.-Central Asia Education Foundation in 2007, the fellowship has supported over 400 young Central Asian leaders

About the 50 Alumni for 50 Years Initiative

To commemorate American Councils' 50th Anniversary, the organization proudly unveils the 50 Alumni for 50 Years initiative, spotlighting outstanding participants from its expansive portfolio of 250 administered programs spanning five decades. Coinciding with this initiative, American Councils has launched the David P. Patton Distinguished Alumni Award. In 2024, from among the 50 Alumni for 50 Years participants, two inaugural recipients—one international and one domestic alum—will be recognized for their exceptional contributions. Throughout the year, these alumni, ranging from national and community leaders to educators, activists, artists, and advocates, will be celebrated as living embodiments of the American Councils' mission.