President Cordano is in Europe through February 28, advancing the university’s global connections. She presented last Wednesday at the Zero Project Conference: Inclusive Education and ICT in Vienna, Austria. Her presentation was titled “Belonging and Bilingualism: Catalysts for Inclusive Education/Excellence in the 21st Century.” While in Vienna, she visited the United Nations, the United States Embassy, and a deaf school, and met with several distinguished members of the education and diplomatic communities. She also presented at the Austrian Parliament. 

A person,bald, with black and white beard, navy blue shirt with arms crossed, smiling.
Ashod Derandonyan is a Fulbright Scholar in Gallaudet’s Master of Public Administration program and chief operating officer of Deaf.BG.

After her trip to Viena, President Cordano went to Sofia, Bulgaria to meet deaf and governmental leaders and give an address, “Why Sign Language Makes Us Happy: The Importance of the ‘AND Sign Language’ Approach for Deaf People Worldwide.” This trip builds on the December 2023 signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Gallaudet and Deaf.BG, an association for the rights and development of deaf people in Bulgaria. The MOU will establish and facilitate activities of mutual benefit to the University and Deaf Bulgarians, including a master’s degree program for deaf leaders in Bulgaria.

Accompanying President Cordano at different times during her trip were Tawny Holmes Hlibok, ’05 & G-’10, associate professor of Deaf Studies and Language Planning and Policy Counsel in the Office of the Chief Bilingual Officer; Kenneth DeHaan, G-’15, associate professor in the American Sign Language Program; and Poorna Kushalnagar, ’93, Strategic Research Officer.

Cordano, Hlibok, and De Haan met with the country’s Deputy Prime Minister (soon to be Prime Minister), staff from the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, the Ministry of Innovation and Technology, and representatives of the Sofia municipality, including the Mayor. Said President Cordano, “We also had the opportunity to present to and meet with numerous local Deaf community members and leaders. As a result of our productive discussions, clear support was given for establishing programming to ensure that families of deaf children in Bulgaria receive early and immediate support in their children acquiring BGSL, in addition to creating a pipeline of Deaf BGSL teachers, leaders, and scholars. We extend our gratitude to the Fulbright Foundation via Angela Rodel for its steadfast support and look forward to working with the America for Bulgaria Foundation and others to ensure Deaf Bulgarian leaders receive the necessary support and educational training to provide enhanced and system-embedded sign language services and education for deaf children and adults including video relay services.”

President Cordano also expressed special thanks to the U.S. Ambassador to Bulgaria, Kenneth Merten; President of American University in Bulgaria Dr. Margie Ensin; President of the America for Bulgaria Foundation, Mrs. Nancy Schiller; head of the EC Representation in Bulgaria, Mr. Boyko Blagoev; and Kosta Karakashyan and Aleksander Yanev, the Bulgarian Youth Delegates to the United Nations, for their presence and support. “Through enhanced international cooperation and improved access to higher education and innovations, we shall enhance the language and cultural rights of Deaf people in Bulgaria, EU, and worldwide.”

Bulgarian Television reporter Kristina Gazieva conducted a far-ranging interview with President Cordano, and also appeared on another news program, proudly wearing a Gallaudet University scarf, to describe her experience.

Dr. Kathleen Wood, who helped coordinate the MOU, has spent the past seven years working with the all-deaf Deaf.BG team, which successfully advocated for the passage of the Bulgarian Sign Language (BGSL) Act of 2021 that legally recognizes BGSL. In the fall of 2022, Wood, a linguist and professor in the School of Language, Education, and Culture, received a Fulbright to spend six weeks in Sofia. She worked closely with the team, who welcomed her in meetings with national entities, on project and budget planning, and in BGSL classes — even meetings where the 2021 Sign Language Act was being amended.

During the time that Wood was working on her Fulbright project, the Deaf.BG team co-sponsored the 2022 Sign Language in Education and Research Conference in Sofia. Deaf.BG generously included in-person presentations by Wood and others from Gallaudet: Dr. Melissa Herzig, former assistant director of the Ph.D. in Educational Neuroscience program and scientific director of the Translation for the Science of Learning Lab; Dr. Tawny Hlibok, associate professor of Deaf Studies; and Dr. Ardavan Guity, who completed his Ph.D. degree at Gallaudet, and is currently a Sasakawa International Scholar from Iran and director of the Deaf Studies program at Ohlone College, Fremont, Calif.

A person with long wavy brown hair, navy blue shirt, smiling at camera.
Hristina Katsipidou, a Fulbright Civil Society Researcher from Sofia University at St. Kliment Ohridski, Bulgaria, and a member of Deaf.BG, was an international visiting scholar at Gallaudet in 2022 and 2023.

This work continued with Deaf.BG’s Hristina Katsipidou, a Fulbright Civil Society Researcher from Sofia University at St. Kliment Ohridski, Bulgaria, who was an international visiting scholar at Gallaudet for the 2022-2023 academic year. While at Gallaudet, Katsipidou worked on partnerships with University faculty and staff and gave lectures to the campus community and beyond, entitled “The Path of Deaf Empowerment in Bulgaria: How We Find the Way Through With International Exchange Work,” about deaf Bulgarians’ struggle for equality. The Fulbright Specialist website recently featured Wood and Katsipidou’s efforts in an article: How Two Fulbrighters Are Uniting to Advance Accessible Education in Bulgaria.

From this foundation, the Deaf.BG team and Wood developed plans for ratifying the MOU last fall, with help from Ashod Derandonyan, a Fulbright Scholar in Gallaudet’s Master of Public Administration program and chief operating officer of Deaf.BG, as well as assistant professor Kenneth DeHaan, of the School of Language Education and Culture. It was signed on Gallaudet’s behalf by Provost Khadijat K. Rashid, ’90; Director of the School of Language, Education, and Culture Helen Thumann, G-’91; and Office of International Affairs Executive Director Charles Reilly. 

A person with shoulder length blonde hair, black glasses, grey shirt and black jacket.
Dr. Kathleen Wood was a Fulbright Specialist in Sofia, Bulgaria, in 2022 and has worked with Bulgaria’s all-deaf Deaf.BG team for seven years

Deaf.BG is currently organizing a visit by deaf Bulgarians to the U.S. in the fall of 2024. The objective is to enhance its commitment to global deaf education and exchange programs. The visitors will include representatives from Sofia University and the Bulgarian Ministry of Education.

The overarching objective of President Cordano’s visits to Austria and Bulgaria is to enhance Gallaudet University’s global visibility by showcasing its expertise and contributions on the international stage, with the President playing an active role in global initiatives and collaborations. This might include recruiting international students to attend Gallaudet for their undergraduate and graduate studies,  creating and implementing summer abroad programs, exchange and training programs, educational and research partnerships, and internship and international study opportunities.

SIDEBAR: Fulbright opportunities for Gallaudet students and professionals

The Office of International Affairs Education Abroad and International Fellowships have exciting news about Fulbright opportunities! Whether you’re a student interested in teaching, researching, pursuing a graduate degree abroad, or a professional looking for a unique international experience, Fulbright has something for you.  

For Students:

·       Fulbright U.S. Student Program for teaching English, conducting research, or pursuing a graduate degree abroad. Grant lengths and dates vary by award. Consult the award description for details.

·       Eligible for students who have graduated or will graduate in Aug. ’24, Dec. ’24, or May ’25.

·       2025-2026 Award Application: Open in April 2024 

·       Explore more in this ASL video.

·       Fulbright in Bulgaria:

For Scholars:

·       Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program offers over 400 awards in more than 135 countries for U.S. citizens to teach, conduct research, and carry out professional projects around the world. Interested faculty and professionals are encouraged to consider the following types of awards.

·       The 2025-2026 competitions are now open. Register for competition updates.

·       Details in this ASL video.

Contact the Education Abroad and International Fellowships program at for more information or to help start your application. Don’t miss the chance to embark on a transformative journey!

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