First Deaf Person Named To White House Fellow

Dr. Khadijat “Kubby” Rashid, a member of the Gallaudet faculty since 1994 and chair of the Department of Business, is among the 13 outstanding men and women appointed to serve as White House Fellows for the upcoming academic year–specifically, September 1-August 30. She is the first deaf person to be named a White House Fellow.

According to a White House press release, the White House Fellows Program was created in 1964 by President Lyndon B. Johnson to give promising American leaders “first hand, high-level experience with the workings of the Federal government, and to increase their sense of participation in national affairs.” This unique position in the government encourages active citizenship and service to the nation. The fellows also take part in an education program designed to broaden their knowledge of leadership, policy formulation, military operations, and current affairs. Community service is another important component of the program, and fellows participate in service projects throughout the year in the Washington, D.C. area.

“This year’s White House Fellows are comprised of some of the best and brightest leaders in our country,” First Lady Michelle Obama is quoted as saying in the press release. “I applaud their unyielding commitment to public service and dedication to serving their community.”

Selection as a White House Fellow is highly competitive and based on a record of remarkable early career professional achievement, evidence of leadership potential, a proven commitment to public service, and the knowledge and skills necessary to contribute successfully at the highest levels of the federal government.

“I was flabbergasted,” Rashid said when she learned of her appointment. “I knew from meeting the other finalists what a great group it was and how talented everyone was, so to make the final cut, well, that was overwhelming! I felt grateful, too, for all the support I’ve had over the years that brought me here.”

Rashid applied for the fellows program, which she said typically attracts more than 1,000 applicants for the 11 to 19 positions available. Applicants are asked to list their life’s accomplishments, state why they believe they qualify for the position, and write an essay to the president on a policy issue of their choice. Approximately 150 finalists were then selected and interviewed by a panel of distinguished citizens.

The field was then narrowed to 30 candidates who were interviewed by the 28-member President’s Commission on White House Fellowships. “This time the selection process was three very intensive days [in June],” Rashid recalled. “We also had to do community service during that weekend, as well as meetings, a skit, etc. They try to get a 360-degree view of each individual.”

According to the White House webpage about the fellows program: “White House Fellows typically spend a year as full-time, paid assistants to senior White House staff, the vice president, cabinet secretaries, and other top-ranking government officials. Their assignments demand a capacity for quick learning and a willingness to work hard, often on issues outside of their area of expertise. Responsibilities range from chairing interagency meetings and designing and implementing federal policies, to drafting speeches for cabinet secretaries, to representing their agencies on Capitol Hill and in international treaty negotiations. … Fellows are expected to apply what they have learned by contributing to the nation as greater leaders in their respective communities, professions, and in public service. Fellows are expected to return to their former or new occupations more experienced in public policy decision-making and better prepared to contribute to national affairs, thereby fulfilling the mission of the program.”

Because Rashid’s field of expertise is international economic development, she feels it is likely her work assignment will be in that area. But she said she won’t know for sure until after “Placement Week,” July 19 -23, when she will interview with at least five White House offices and agencies.

“This is a wonderful accomplishment for Dr. Rashid,” said Gallaudet President T. Alan Hurwitz. “The Gallaudet community and deaf people throughout the country are proud that she was selected for this prestigious position. Her appointment as a White House Fellow is another example of what a deaf person can achieve when provided with equal opportunity and fair access.”

In addition to teaching, Rashid is active in faculty leadership and administration and is co-chair of a major initiative to reconfigure all academic programs at the University.

In 2008, Rashid was appointed by Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley to a six-year term on the board of the Maryland School for the Deaf. She also serves as a board member of Discovering Deaf Worlds, a non-governmental organization dedicated to helping deaf people in developing countries. Rashid served on the board of the World Deaf Leadership Program, guiding development projects for the deaf communities in South Africa and Thailand. She has also worked with deaf people from many developing countries, helping them develop leadership skills and advocate for themselves.

Rashid was involved with the National Deaf Business Institute (NBDI) and taught several years for NBDI and Merrill Lynch’s summer program for deaf business owners and would-be entrepreneurs. She was the first coordinator of the Burstein Leadership Institute’s Deaf Women’s Leadership Program (DWLP), and implemented the program and curriculum that form the core of the DWLP today.

The full announcement of the 13-member class of White House Fellows, including profiles of the other appointees, is available on the White House website. Rashid’s bio can be read at the Department of Business’ website.

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