Former VKC UCEDD trainee Samantha Goldman receives Fulbright Specialist Award

Samantha Goldman headshot

The U.S. Department of State and the Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board has announced that Samantha Goldman, Ph.D., associate professor of Special Education at Assumption University and a former trainee at the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (VKC UCEDD), has received a Fulbright Specialist Program award.

Goldman completed a project at Parents’ Association for Persons with Intellectual Disability (PAPID) in Taiwan in collaboration with another former VKC UCEDD trainee, associate professor at National Taiwan Normal University Chun-Yu Chiu. The Fulbright project aims to exchange knowledge and establish partnerships benefiting participants, institutions, and communities both in the U.S. and overseas through a variety of educational and training activities within the field of education. Goldman is one of over 400 U.S. citizens each year who share expertise with host institutions abroad through the Fulbright Specialist Program. Awardees are selected on the basis of academic and professional achievement, demonstrated leadership in their field, and their potential to foster long-term cooperation between institutions in the U.S. and abroad.

Goldman’s Fulbright Specialist award continues her long-time leadership in the disabilities field.  As a doctoral student, Goldman led several research projects that examined the Volunteer Advocacy Project (VAP), a 12-week, 36-hour workshop that the VKC UCEDD runs to train parents and other volunteer advocates about disabilities, SPED law, IEPs, rights, and procedures.  Herself a VAP graduate and a VAP program director (when a doctoral student at Vanderbilt University), Goldman was instrumental in examining the VAP’s short-term and long-term effects on participants. Studies included identifying which characteristics related to making it more (versus less) likely that VAP participants would continue advocating in the years after finishing the program and performing in-depth interviews with VAP graduates from minority and under-served groups.

“We are extremely pleased to learn that Samantha Goldman is a recipient of a Fulbright Specialist Award,” said Robert Hodapp, Ph.D., professor of Special Education and director of Research for the VKC UCEDD. “Samantha is accomplished in research, teaching, and service to students with disabilities and their families.  In every interaction, she shows herself to be dedicated, bright, hardworking, and inquisitive, always with the aim of improving the lives of children with disabilities and their families. We are proud of Samantha and want to congratulate her on this well-deserved honor.”

Dr. Goldman with classroom of students in TaiwanAs part of the project, completed in June and July 2023, Goldman, Chiu, and PAPID conducted school visits in different regions of the country and ran focus groups for parents and special educators. Goldman directed a week-long working group hosted by PAPID that explored the concept of special education advocacy in the Taiwanese educational system. In collaboration with community members, work was completed to determine adaptations needed to develop a version of the VAP that will be a good fit in Taiwan. At the conclusion of the project, Goldman presented about the VAP to members of the disability community in Taipei.

Staff at PAPID and participants were very satisfied with the project and its outcomes and expressed a hope to continue the collaboration. Some of the comments, which are translated from Mandarin, include:

  • “We look forward to Taiwan establishing a VAP program more systematically.”
  • “Looking forward to it. Welfare institutions for adults with intellectual disabilities are in great need of a program like the VAP. However, if the advocates come from within the institution, it will often be more difficult, and they will need more support from other advocates. We need more trained advocates!”
  • “I am optimistic about the success. In today’s seminar, the speaker and Professor Chiu studied the local regulations, organization, and culture before the seminar. This is a great start.”

Goldman, Chiu, and PAPID are currently exploring additional opportunities to continue collaborating on this project in the future.

“I learned so much through this project and am lucky to have had the opportunity to share my expertise related to educational advocacy and the VAP,” said Goldman. “It was fascinating to see and hear universal themes that are similar to what we have learned in research on advocacy in the US. At the same time, it is exciting to think about unique considerations for the VAP in Taiwan. We had many thought-provoking conversations about translation of the term advocacy and what exactly that means and looks like in Taiwan. I look forward to continuing to think about these concepts together as the program is piloted there.”

The Fulbright Program is designed to build lasting connections between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. The Fulbright Program is funded through an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State.

Fulbright scholars address critical global issues in all disciplines, while building relationships, knowledge, and leadership in support of the long-term interests of the United States. Fulbright alumni have achieved distinction in many fields, including 60 who have been awarded the Nobel Prize, 88 who have received Pulitzer Prizes, and 39 who have served as a head of state or government.

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