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Bethlehem, Pa. March 13, 2012 -- Christie L. Gilson, assistant professor of education at Moravian College, is about to embark on a new adventure to add to her repertoire of exciting life experiences. Gilson has been appointed to the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board by President Barack Obama. She will begin her three-year term in June.
A professor at Moravian since 2008, Gilson has authored or co-authored numerous peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters in special education and disability studies. She was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to study higher education for students with disabilities in Hong Kong in 2006. Gilson, who is blind, teaches English to blind adults in China using Voice over IP (VOIP), and has mentored youth with disabilities in Germany, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Spain, Taiwan, and the United States. She received a B.S.W. from Illinois State University and an M.S.W. and Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
The J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board was established by Congress for the purpose of supervising the Fulbright Program and certain programs authorized by the Fulbright-Hays Act and for the purpose of selecting students, scholars, teachers, trainees, and other persons to participate in the educational exchange programs.
Appointed by the President of the United States, the 12-member Board meets quarterly in Washington, D.C. The Board establishes worldwide policies and procedures for the Program and issues an annual report on the state of the Program. The Board maintains a close relationship with both the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) and the executive directors of all the binational Fulbright Commissions.
Gilson explained how the confidential process unfolded. The first call came last May. She received a voice mail from someone who identified herself as a disability advocate, and said she was calling from the White House. After considering it was some sort of joke, Gilson spoke with this advocate who asked if she’d be interested in serving on the Fulbright Board. She spent many hours completing mountains of paperwork, background checks, personal interviews with a former FBI agent, and meeting other State Department protocols, not to mention months of excruciating secrecy.
“I was allowed to tell my family and a few close friends and advisors,” says Gilson, who finally received the final, customized forms in early March. “It’s been surreal, exchanging calls and emails with the White House. This has meant something so big. It’s humbling,” she says.
Gilson is not new to the Fulbright. She went to Hong Kong on a Fulbright scholarship in 2006 to work on her doctoral dissertation. Living in the country for 11 months, and interacting closely with locals, allowed her to immerse herself in her topic: how students with disabilities lived and learned in Hong Kong.
Gilson also has lived in Germany and has spent time in many countries where she’s mentored youth with disabilities, including in China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Spain and Taiwan, as well as here at home. Gilson also teaches English to blind adults in China using an Internet program similar to Skype.