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Dr. Qaisar Sultana, professor emeritus and former chair of the Department of Special Education in the College of Education, has enjoyed an incredible career. She became an authority and pioneer in the field of special education in her native Pakistan. She was instrumental in building EKU’s Department of Special Education into an exceptional program. Now, she has been selected as a Fulbright Specialist — the fifth Fulbright award of her career. 

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. As a Fulbright Scholar and Specialist, Sultana has taught courses in Bangladesh, Norway, Sri Lanka and Azerbaijan. She has high hopes for her next international endeavor.

“I want to work on an interesting, challenging and exciting project which will have a long-lasting impact in the host country,” said Sultana.  

Despite Sultana’s success, a career in special education was not always on her radar. Her father and grandfather, who were active in Pakistan’s independence movement from India, groomed her to enter public service from an early age. “‘Our responsibility is to build this newly created country.’ As a child, this is what I heard every day,” she said.

Sultana’s first undergraduate and graduate degrees were in world history, international relations, political science and international law. Shortly after graduation, however, Pakistan’s democratic government was overthrown and martial law was imposed. “My long, planned life crashed overnight,” she said. “ I had to find a new purpose.” 

That purpose became special education, then a newly emerging field. “Its newness and its novelty attracted me,” she said of the field. “ It was a natural choice for me.”

Time spent at the U.S.-Pakistan Cultural Center led Sultana to apply to the American University of Beirut, which allowed her to pursue her doctoral degree in special education in the United States, at the University of Georgia.

When Sultana came to EKU in 1980 as chair of the Department of Special Education, the department was on probation by the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). Sultana set to work developing new courses and overhauling curricula. By the next NCATE visit, the department exceeded standards and was cited as exemplary.

Sultana’s accomplishments have advanced the field of special education stateside, in her native Pakistan, and around the world. She has been a consultant for the United Nations and the World Health Organization, was appointed chair of the Kentucky Advisory Panel for Exceptional Children by the governor, and was appointed Due Process Hearing Officer of the panel by the attorney general. At EKU, she authored federal grants that provided a three-year, in-service training program to prepare teachers in EKU’s service region for mainstreaming (now called inclusion), and to fund a special certification program to prepare teachers of seriously emotionally disturbed learners. She has also provided numerous services at the Kentucky Department of Education and served as president of organizations such as Teacher Education Division of the Kentucky Federation of the Council for Exceptional Children, Mid-South Educational Research Association (MSERA), Future Site, and outstanding paper selection committees of MSERA.

In her native Pakistan, Sultana played a critical role in establishing the National Institute of Special Education in Islamabad and the University of Karachi’s Department of Special Education, the country’s first program of its kind. She has served as a consultant to the National Higher Education Commission in Islamabad, provided professional development to faculty members at universities all over Pakistan, and served as coordinator of the Asian Caucus of the International Council for Exceptional Children.

Sultana retired in 2006 after 27 years at EKU, but remains professionally active. Since retiring, she has taught part time at EKU and traveled abroad addressing conferences, conducting professional development, designing instructional systems, assisting with education policy and more. Sultana’s impressive career has made it clear that for her, teaching and learning are lifelong ventures.