Coming from a Pakistani business family that for generations built and fostered relationships worldwide, she was raised and educated to think globally and, from a young age, traveled frequently and extensively.
Now, Dr. Qaisar Sultana is headed to Azerbaijan with a Fulbright Scholar Award. The professor emerita of special education at Eastern Kentucky University will teach a special education course at a university in the capital city of Baku, provide professional development in pedagogy to faculty members at several universities and consult with officials in the country’s Ministry of Education.
Azerbaijan, a former Soviet republic at the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Western Asia, “is undergoing a major transformation in education from the Soviet era to a democracy,” Sultana noted. “I will be helping with this transformation.”
It is Sultana’s fourth award from J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board. She received a Fulbright Scholar Award in 2008 to go to Bangladesh. That was followed by Senior Fulbright Specialist Awards for Norway in 2013 and Sri Lanka in 2014.
Before receiving her doctoral degree from the University of Georgia, Sultana studied in her native Pakistan and then earned a master’s of education degree from the American University of Beirut (AUB) in Lebanon. During her two years at AUB, which she called “the most exciting time of my life,” Sultana studied and lived with students from more than 70 countries on a campus with a total of approximately 4,000 students.
“My background and experiences have made me very interested in cultures, languages, calligraphy, religions, architecture, cuisines and people,” she said. “I love the foreign sounds and smells on the streets. I feel happy, enthused, excited, energized and invigorated when I am surrounded by real diversity.
“For me, each international travel is a valuable learning opportunity,” added Sultana, who'll spend the Fall 2018 semester in Azerbaijan. “I enjoy learning the cultural nuances and sensitivities of a country and love to learn the vocabulary of a new language. In doing so, I have learned to understand the thinking of others in their context. I see problems, and I learn the unique ways people work to solve them.”
Sultana said her three prior Fulbright experiences made her “increasingly and acutely aware of how much there is to learn and how little I know, how much potential the world’s people hold, and how we fail to recognize it. I feel blessed to have opportunities to share what little knowledge, expertise and experiences I have and to learn from professional colleagues and others in the countries I have traveled. I think my Fulbright experiences have made me more sensitive, empathetic, reflective, humble and spiritual.”
She has served as a consultant to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and as a consultant to the Higher Education Commission in Pakistan on an ongoing basis. She played a pivotal role in the establishment of the Department of Special Education at the University of Karachi, Pakistan, continuing to serve as a consultant when needed and periodically provide professional development to its faculty.
Sultana served as president of Mid-South Educational Research Association (2002) and received the Harry Bowman Award for her visionary leadership. She served as president of the Teacher Education Division, Kentucky Federation of the Council for Exceptional Children, and coordinator of the Asian Caucus, International Council for Exceptional Children.
After 27 years at EKU, Sultana retired in 2006 but has remained professionally active, occasionally teaching part time in the department and frequently traveling overseas consulting, addressing international conferences, conducting professional development of teachers and teacher educators, assisting with curriculum development, designing evaluation systems, and writing public policy in education, among other responsibilities.
The Fulbright Program, which aims to increase mutual understanding of the people of the United States and the people of other countries, is the flagship educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government. Fulbright alumni have become heads of state, judges, ambassadors, cabinet ministers, CEOs and university presidents, as well as leading journalists, artists, scientists and teachers. They include 59 Nobel Laureates, 82 Pulitzer Prize winners, 71 MacArthur Fellows, 16 Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients, and thousands of leaders across the private, public and non-profit sectors.