When you think of studying abroad, Kazakhstan might not be the first place that comes to mind. For Naim Kapucu, it鈥檚 exactly where the opportunity is 鈥 for him and for many others in the future.

Kapucu, Pegasus Professor of public administration and associate dean of research in the College of Community Innovation and Education, has recently returned from his trip to Nazarbayev University in Kazakhstan as part of the Fulbright Specialist Program. This program provides opportunities for academic subject-matter experts to share their experience during short-term trips abroad. While a traditional Fulbright program typically runs for several months over the span of an academic semester, specialist program trips are just three weeks.

Kapucu accomplished three major tasks on his trip. He worked with Nazarbayev University鈥檚 academic leaders to enhance their doctoral program, helped increase the university鈥檚 research capacity, and delivered lectures on coordinated disaster response and building community resilience.

When it came to enhancing the doctoral program, Kapucu鈥檚 previous role as UCF鈥檚 public affairs doctoral program coordinator 鈥 along with his tenure as both an executive board member of the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs and Administration (NASPAA) and a member of NASPAA doctoral programs committee 鈥 proved instrumental.

鈥淣azarbayev University is a top-notch institution,鈥 he says. 鈥淭he students who graduate from the program will be great faculty sources for the universities in Kazakhstan and other countries.鈥

He also believes Nazarbayev University鈥檚 multilingual environment gives it great potential for international involvement.

鈥淭he students speak multiple languages, and the lectures are all in English,鈥 he says.

To forge partnership between UCF and Nazarbayev University, Kapucu and the academic leaders discussed potential exchange programs through avenues such as the Bolashak International Scholarship.

鈥淲e are also discussing a relationship between UCF and Kazakh National Medical University,鈥 Kapucu says. 鈥淭hey are interested in health informatics, which our college has a school for.鈥

While these opportunities are still in the planning phase, one event is already set in stone. Kapucu says the Kazakh Science Fund is scheduling a trip to Orlando to learn about UCF鈥檚 research administration, partnerships and relationship with the Central Florida Research Park.

鈥淭hey want to improve their grant distribution to research institutions and understand how we manage our research programs,鈥 he says. 鈥淭hey will come and meet with us around July.鈥

While there, Kapucu presented his lectures on disaster response and community resilience, sponsored by the National Academy of Public Administration and Astana Civil Service Hub. He says that pressing events in Kazakhstan 鈥 two recent earthquakes in Almaty and a period of countrywide civil unrest in 2022 鈥 led policymakers to address the need for improvement in these areas. He also met with the Ministry of Emergency Situations, the National Security Administration and local law-enforcement agencies to speak about the importance of emergency and crisis management.

He was even invited to lead a train-the-trainer program, in which experts train instructors to pass knowledge and training on to others.

鈥淭hey want me to go back and do training on these issues,鈥 Kapucu says. 鈥淭he citizens want to be prepared.鈥

As Kazakhstan鈥檚 government refines its emergency management policies, and its learning institutions seek more doctoral graduates in the field, Kapucu is confident that the ties between UCF and Nazarbayev University and other academic institutions will strengthen.

Kapucu says he made hundreds of new connections on his trip. As he continues to work with Kazakh students and faculty from afar, he hopes to return and involve more directly with the people he met.

鈥淭he Fulbright Program isn鈥檛 just about research and lectures,鈥 he says. 鈥淚t鈥檚 about building relationships.鈥