Ambassador (Ret.) Robert F. Cekuta
Ambassador to the Republic of Azerbaijan (2015 – 2018), Bob Cekuta has long and extensive experience as a top level U.S. diplomat. Deeply engaged in advancing high-profile international energy projects, trade policy initiatives and agreements, commercial sales, and other complex international security matters, Amb. Cekuta’s positions in the State Department included Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Resources as well as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy, Sanctions, and Commodities.
His overseas postings included the U.S. Embassies in Berlin and Tokyo where he oversaw the full range of economic, commercial, nonproliferation, and scientific relations. In addition, Bob was Deputy Chief of Mission in Albania and held positions in Vienna, Baghdad, Kabul, Johannesburg, and Sana’a, Yemen. He established the Economic Policy Analysis and Public Diplomacy Office in the State Department’s Bureau for Economic and Business Affairs, and served on the boards of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and the International Energy Agency (IEA), where he also chaired the IEA Board’s Standing Group on Long-term Cooperation charged with anticipating global energy developments.
During his career with the State Department Ambassador Cekuta received nine Senior Foreign Service Performance Awards, four Superior Honor Awards, five Meritorious Honor Awards, and the Career Achievement Award. He is a graduate of Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, the Thunderbird School of Global Management, and the National War College.
Ambassador (Ret.) Susan M. Elliott
Susan M. Elliott, Ambassador (ret.) is an accomplished diplomat with an earned doctorate from Indiana University. During her 27-year diplomatic career, Ambassador Elliott held a variety of leadership positions at the U.S. Department of State. She became President and CEO of the National Committee on American Foreign Policy in August 2018. From 2015 to 2017, Ambassador Elliott served as the Civilian Deputy and Foreign Policy Advisor to the Commander of the United States European Command. Ambassador Elliott was the U.S. Ambassador to Tajikistan from 2012 to 2015. Prior to her Ambassadorial appointment, she served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, U.S. Department of State. Ambassador Elliott worked on the staff of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as a Deputy Executive Secretary and Director of the Executive Secretariat Staff.
Ambassador (Ret.) Richard Hoagland
Ambassador Richard E. Hoagland was U.S. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, October 2013-August 2015. Before returning to Washington in September 2013, he spent a decade in South and Central Asia. He was U.S. Deputy Ambassador to Pakistan (2011-2013), U.S. Ambassador to Kazakhstan (2008-2011), and U.S. Ambassador to Tajikistan (2003-2006). He also served as U.S. Charge d’affaires to Turkmenistan (2007-2008).
Prior to his diplomatic assignments in Central Asia, Ambassador Hoagland was Director of the Office of Caucasus and Central Asian Affairs in the Bureau of Europe and Eurasian Affairs, Department of State (2001-2003). In that position, he wrote and negotiated four of the key bilateral documents defining the Central Asian states’ enhanced relationship with the United States in the aftermath of 9/11. His earlier foreign assignments included Russia where he was Press Spokesman for the U.S. Embassy (1995-1998).
During the course of his career, he received multiple Presidential Performance Awards, State Department Meritorious and Superior Honor Awards, as well as the Distinguished Honor Award.
Kate is an award-winning technology leader with close to a decade of experience at various semiconductor companies holding product, ecosystem and business positions in AI, computer vision, and IoT.
She is currently Head of Emerging Areas at NVIDIA where she oversees ecosystem, strategic alliances and developer relations for emerging markets, segments and applied AI use cases. Prior to NVIDIA, she spent time at Arm where she was leading their global AI ecosystem & developer relations team.
Prior to that, she spent a few years at Intel holding various product and business positions in AI, computer vision, and IoT, and developed the world’s first AI development kit in a USB form factor.
A D&I and mentorship advocate, regularly mentors teens, young girls career development but also startups on tech and business.
She also advises international organizations on the use of AI to solve global challenges speaking regularly at conferences for WEF, UNICEF, UNESCO, UNECA, GPSDD and the Gates Foundation.
During the course of her career she has received multiple accolades including being named Business Insider Top 100 Transformers 2020, VentureBeat Women in AI Rising Star in 2020, the CES ‘Best of Innovation Award’ and the China AI Industry Innovation Alliance ‘Most Remarkable Product Award’ in 2018.
H.E. Mr. Erzhan Kazykhanov
Prior to his appointment as the Ambassador to the United States, Mr. Erzhan Kazykhanov has served as Kazakhstan’s Ambassador to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (2014-2017).
Before becoming Ambassador to the United Kingdom, he held the position of Assistant to the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan since 2012 and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan since 2011.
Mr. Erzhan Kazykhanov has previously served as the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, as well as the Ambassador of Kazakhstan to Austria, Permanent Representative of Kazakhstan to the International Organizations in Vienna and Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York.
Born on August 21, 1964 in Almaty, Kazakhstan, he earned his bachelor’s degree in Oriental studies from the Saint Petersburg State University in 1987. He continued his studies at the Moscow Diplomatic Academy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1991; the Foreign Service Training Institute in New Delhi, India, in 1992; and the Foreign Service Training Center in Washington, D.C. in 1993. Ambassador Kazykhanov holds PhD in History from Al-Farabi Kazakh National University.
He is the author of numerous articles on Kazakhstan’s foreign policy issues, multilateral diplomacy and the role of the United Nations. He speaks Russian, English and Arabic, and is the recipient of several State Awards.
Rear Adm. Ron MacLaren
Rear Adm. Ron MacLaren, was born in Seoul, Korea, but was raised in Mexico, Peru and the Panama Canal Zone. He graduated from the University of Southern California with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and holds a Master’s in Business Administration from Auburn University. He received his commission as a Supply Corps officer through the ROTC in 1979.
He has served in leadership positions both on land and at sea. He has extensive expeditionary logistics experience having held command of the Navy Cargo Handling and Port Group 3, the Navy Supply Support Battalion 2, the Naval Operational Logistics Support unit, the Navy Cargo Handling Battalion (NCHB) 12 and the Naval Supply Center Pensacola 109. He has broad joint and combined staff experience having served as chief of staff, Navy Expeditionary Logistics Support Force; deputy director, United States Pacific Command Deployment and Distribution Operations Center; deputy director of Logistics, United States Joint Forces Command 206 and Logistics Response Cell watch chief, United States Atlantic Command 206. He also mobilized as the group commander, Navy Expeditionary Logistics Support Group Forward Golf in 2007-2008 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.
After selection to flag rank, MacLaren was assigned as the assistant deputy chief of staff for Logistics, Fleet Supply and Ordnance, U.S. Pacific Fleet in October 2009. He was recalled to active duty in March 2010 to serve as director, Joint Contingency Acquisition Support Office (JCASO). JCASO was established by the Department of Defense to orchestrate, synchronize and integrate program management of contingency acquisition across combatant commands, U.S. Government agencies and Multi-National operations during pre-conflict operations, contingency operations and combat operations.
He was promoted to the two star rank in October 2013, the highest rank achievable in the Supply Corps for a Reserve Officer. In this position, he led collaborative business development efforts with foreign governments, multi-national forces, government agencies such as the Department of State, the Department of the Treasury, the General Services Administration, the Department of Commerce, the President’s U.S. Trade Representative’s office, the National Security Council as well as the Army, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard and the Navy. He spent 5 years conducting business development for the U.S. Government in the countries of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Latvia and Lithuania.
Concurrently, MacLaren pursued a civilian career in hospital operations from 1983 to 2004 where he operated hospitals as the Chief Executive Officer, Chief Operating Officer and Director of Materials Management retiring in 2004.
Ambassador (Ret.) Allan Mustard
Ambassador (retired) Allan Mustard, class of Career Minister, was sworn in as U.S. Ambassador to Turkmenistan on November 25, 2014. He previously served as Agricultural Minister-Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, India. A widely recognized authority on agricultural and food aid policy, he has broad experience in guiding economic reform assistance throughout Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.
Previously, Mr. Mustard served as Agricultural Minister-Counselor, Embassy Mexico City, Mexico (2008-2011); Agricultural Minister-Counselor, Embassy Moscow, Russia (2003-2008); Fellow, Senior Seminar in Foreign Relations, Department of State (2002-2003); Assistant Deputy Administrator, Foreign Agricultural Affairs, Foreign Agricultural Service (2000-2002); Agricultural Counselor, Embassy Vienna, Austria (1996-2000); Deputy Director, Emerging Democracies Office, Foreign Agricultural Service (1992-1996); Deputy Coordinator, Eastern Europe and Soviet Secretariat, Foreign Agricultural Service (1990-1992); Agricultural Trade Officer, Consulate General Istanbul, Turkey (1988-1990); Assistant Agricultural Attaché, Embassy Moscow, USSR (1986-1988); Agricultural Economist, Foreign Agricultural Service (1982-1986). Prior to this, Mr. Mustard worked as a social worker in Seattle resettling Soviet emigres(1979-1980)and as a guide-interpreter on the U.S. International Communication Agency’s exhibit “Agriculture-USA” in Kishinev, Moscow, and Rostov-na-Donu, USSR (1978-1979).
Mr. Mustard earned an A.S. at Grays Harbor College, Aberdeen, Washington in 1975; B.A.s in Political Science and in Slavic Languages and Literature from the University of Washington, Seattle, Washington in 1978; and a M.S. in Agricultural Economics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Illinois in 1982. Mr. Mustard studied Russian at Leningrad State University in Summer 1978 under the auspices of the Council for International Educational Exchange. He is the recipient of five Presidential Rank Awards; USDA’s highest award, the Distinguished Service Honor Award; USDA’s second-highest award, the Superior Honor Award, twice; the Grand Golden Medal of Merit of the Republic of Austria, the highest award Austria can award to a foreigner; and numerous other Department of State and USDA performance awards. Mr. Mustard speaks Russian, German and basic Spanish.
Major General U.S. Army (Ret.) Michael S. Repass
Michael S. Repass is the Chief Executive Officer for Able Global Solutions LLC which he founded in 2013 after retiring from the Army. AGS focuses on international business development to match emerging technology, proven products, and capabilities with potential clients. AGS also examines trends and environments for strategic perspectives.
He graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY in 1980 then served as an infantry officer in multiple junior officer assignments including company commander. He subsequently spent over 30 years as a Special Forces officer. He commanded at every level in Special Forces from captain to major general. Mike earned a Master’s Degree in Strategic Studies from the US Army War College. He commanded the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Arabian Peninsula during Operation IRAQI FREEDOM during two combat tours. Mike later commanded the Army’s Special Forces Command, and twice served in Special Operations Command Europe in Stuttgart, Germany first as the Deputy Commander then as the Commanding General. He retired from military service in 2013.
Since 2013, Mike Repass has worked with several international defense companies to assess and develop markets for advanced capabilities placement. He also serves as an Adjunct Faculty member for the Joint Special Operations University and directly supported educational programs to develop strategy and policy options for multiple European and African countries.
Luke Coffey is the Director of the Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation. Prior to becoming Director of the Allison Center, Luke served as Margaret Thatcher Fellow in the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom at the Heritage Foundation where he focused on trans-Atlantic and Eurasian security issues. His work in British politics followed his service to the United States as a commissioned officer in the Army. In 2005 he deployed to Afghanistan and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal. Luke is a board member of the Caspian Policy Center.
Dr. Peter Frankopan
Dr. Frankopan is the director of the Oxford Center for Byzantine Research at Oxford University and a Senior Research Fellow at Worcester College. He specializes in the history of the Byzantine Empire in the 11th century, the history of Asia Minor, Russia, and the Balkans, and relations between Christianity and Islam. He is also a Special Advisor to the UN Industrial Development Organization and was appointed Senior Advisor and Academic Expert to a project for the Department of International Development on Transport Corridors in South Asia. Dr. Frankopan frequently writes articles for the international news media and has published both academic articles and books, such as his latest work, Silk Roads: A New History of the World.
Dr. Roger Kangas
Dr. Kangas is a Professor of Central Asian Studies at the Near East South Asian Center for Strategic Studies and an Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University. His areas of interest include Central and South Asia, the former USSR, transnational threats and terrorism, international security organization, and energy security. Dr. Kangas has published both books and articles on Central Asia. He was previously a Professor of Central Asian Studies at the George C. Marshall Center for European Security and Deputy Director of the Central Asian Institution at the Paul H Nitze School of Advanced International Studies. He furthermore advised the Combatant Commands, NATO, and other US government agencies on Central and South Asia, Russia, and the South Caucasus.
Dr. Soner Cagaptay
Dr. Cagaptay is the Beyer Family fellow and director of the Turkish Research Program at the Washington Institute. He has conducted extensive research on US-Turkish relations and the domestic political and cultural situation in Turkey. He has been published in both academic journals and international news media and appears regularly on television news outlets. He previously taught at Yale University, Princeton University, where he was the Ertegun Professor at Princeton’s Department of Near Eastern Studies, Georgetown University, and Smith College.
Dr. Marlene Laruelle
Dr. Laruelle is a Professor of International Affairs, the Director of the Central Asia Program, and the Associate Director of the Institute for European Russian and Eurasian Studies at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs. She specializes in Russia and Central Asia, conducting research on changes in post-Soviet nationalism and nationhood. Dr. Laruelle has published five monographs, edited several volumes, and is the editor in chief of Central Asian Affairs. Furthermore, she has been the Principal Investigator of grants concerning both Russia and Central Asia.
Dr. S. Frederick Starr
Dr. Starr is the founding Chairman of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute and Silk Road Studies program, a transatlantic research center between Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies and the Institution for Security and Development Policy. Dr. Starr was also the founding Chairman of the Kennan Institute and was involved in planning the University of Central Asia and the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. He has conducted extensive research and published both articles and books on the history, development, and domestic situations of greater Central Asia, as well as on US policy in Central Asia. Dr. Starr furthermore writes about the region for media outlets and journals.