Skip to content

Ensuring equal access to Fulbright scholarships discussed

February 21, 2013
By Megan Clancy
Arrow Buff


A J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board (FFSB) panel discussion was held at Gallaudet on February 12, 2013 to stress the importance of making more opportunities available for deaf and disabled people to experience the personal and professional benefits that a Fulbright scholarship provides.

Gallaudet President T. Alan Hurwitz, who welcomed the panelists, remarked that the University has a strong history of participation in the Fulbright program. He said that since 1998, 26 students and faculty have participated in the program in Italy, Ireland, Germany, Croatia, Brazil, Zimbabwe, Argentina, Israel, and China. In 2010-11, Gallaudet University was designated a top producing institution of Fulbright scholars. Dr. Hurwitz received a letter of congratulations from Dr. Allan Goodman, president and CEO of the Institute of International Education, calling the distinction of being named a top producer of Fulbrights “an exceptional achievement.”

“We must ensure that more people with disabilities become Fulbright scholars,” said Hurwitz. “Gallaudet’s Fulbright scholars are proof that dreams can be achieved through hard work, dedication, and support.

The Fulbright Program, a flagship international educational exchange program, sponsored by Congress, offers scholarships for study abroad up to one year. The program was created in 1946 by the late Sen. J. William Fulbright (D-Ark.) to “increase mutual understanding between the people of the U.S. and the people of other countries” through studying, researching, and teaching. The 12-member FFSB, appointed by the U.S. president, supervises the Fulbright Program and selects students, researchers, scholars, and others from the U.S. and abroad to become Fulbright participants in more than 155 countries. The program provides approximately 8,000 competitive, merit-based grants annually in most academic disciplines and fields of study.

“For more than six decades, the Fulbright Scholarship has allowed young Americans to meet people and study cultures from around the globe,” said Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), former assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, who attended the event. Duckworth, a U.S. Army Blackhawk helicopter pilot who lost both legs in the Iraq War, spoke about the importance of international education as part of public diplomacy.

“We are going to fight as hard as we can,” said Duckworth. “Diversity is critical. We can show the world what normal is. Everyone can contribute something. It is with this spirit that we must strive to make sure that disabled Americans have the same opportunities to participate in programs like Fulbright Scholarship. By striving to make international education programs like the Fulbright Scholarship welcome to the disabled, we will once again be showing that America is a leader in human rights.”

Representing Gallaudet on the panel was Dr. Steven D. Collins, coordinator of the University’s Fulbright Program and an assistant professor in the Department of Interpretation. The other panelists were Cerise Roth-Vinson, chief operating officer of Mobility International USA; Dr. Christie Gilson, FFSB’s first blind member and Fulbright alumna, who served as panel moderator; and Marcelo de Franca Moreira, a citizen of Brazil and the recipient of a Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship, a program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, which provides 10 months of non-degree academic study and related professional experiences in the United States for young and mid-career professionals.

Collins said he became a Fulbright scholar in 2000 at the encouragement of Dr. Ceil Lucas, a professor in the Department of Linguistics and former coordinator of the Gallaudet Fulbright Program. Collins, who in 1992 became the first deaf person to graduate from Gallaudet with a master’s degree in interpreting, spent five months in Italy advocating for increased accessibility for the deaf-blind community. “I wanted to be a Fulbright scholar so I can help deaf Italians with interpreting and help the deaf-blind community in Italy, leading and training them to become certified deaf interpreters (CDI) for the deaf-blind,” said Collins, himself a CDI. He learned Italian Sign Language prior to departing for Italy.

When Collins arrived, he was introduced to deaf-blind child who, at age seven, had grown up in isolation and had no social communication access. He taught the child Italian Sign Language. “It was over 10 years ago, and I’m still in touch with that family,” said Collins. They are still working with [him and he] has much more access.”

Collins noted that Italy does not have a law ensuring equal access to all citizens like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Collins credited the ADA for bringing about a heightened awareness in American society about disability issues and accessibility needs, and he commended the Fulbright Program for providing interpreters for his own communication needs both in Italy and the U.S.

Gallaudet students and alumni interested in applying to the Fulbright program may contact Collins at For more information about the program at Gallaudet, go to the link.

21 February 2013
By Megan Clancy


Recent Posts

Roberto E. Wirth, E-’74 & H-’09, passed away on June 5 in Rome, Italy. Mr. Wirth was owner and managing director of the Hotel Hassler in Rome, one of the most prestigious family-owned hotels in the world, and owned several other hotels and resorts throughout Italy. He was a strong advocate for deaf people in...

Alumnus Timel Benton has signed a contract with the Bay Area Panthers of the Indoor Football League (IFL). Benton, who graduated last month, is the first Gallaudet Bison to sign a professional football contract since Tony Tatum signed on with the Utah Blaze in the now-disbanded Arena Football League (AFL) in May 2013. Benton was...

James Caverly, ’11, who plays Theo Dimas in Hulu’s Only Murders in the Building, will play Professor Harold Hill in the Olney Theatre Center’s summer production of Meredith Willson’s Tony-winning musical The Music Man, which opens tonight and runs through July 23. The show’s official opening is on Thursday, June 23. Sandra Mae Frank, ’13,...

About the Author

Megan Clancy

Recent Posts
Deaf hotelier Roberto Wirth passes away
Alumnus Timel Benton to play professional football
Alumni, faculty featured in The Music Man at Olney Theatre Center
Related Categories
Media Inquiries

For any other media inquiry, please contact:

No media contact found!

Stay up to date on all the Gallaudet happenings, both stories and initiatives we are doing with our Signing community!​

Admissions Requirements

Hearing Undergraduate