The Braille Monitor                                                                                               January, 2004

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NFB Research and Training Institute Director Named

by Barbara Pierce

Betsy Zaborowski
Betsy Zaborowski

Within days of the publication of this issue of the Braille Monitor, the Federation family will gather with members and leaders of Maryland and the city of Baltimore to celebrate the grand opening of the National Federation of the Blind Research and Training Institute. We broke ground for the Institute in October of 2001, and the facility will begin its life of service to the blindness community on January 30, 2004. When it opens, the Institute will be the nation's only center for innovations in education, employment, and adaptive technology services to be operated by an organization of blind people.

The challenge of raising the necessary $19.5 million and then supervising the construction of the actual building on our property at 1800 Johnson Street has placed extraordinary demands on the skills and capacity of the organization in the past three years. But even so we have increasingly recognized that what we have thus far accomplished has necessarily been only the first step in achieving our dream to make an entirely new and unique contribution to changing what it means to be blind. President Maurer and those assisting him must now staff the Institute and then devise the programs and projects that we will undertake.

Naming the right executive director became the first and most pressing step in this process. Ideally the director should be a blind person who has already embraced and personally practices the empowering philosophy of blindness espoused by members of the National Federation of the Blind. But, beyond that, the director must also be familiar with the resources available in our organization, the blindness community in general, the Greater Baltimore area, and the political world. He or she must be able to dream, to plan, to raise funds and to command respect within the NFB and among the powerful in Maryland and the nation.

For many months now President Maurer has been engaged in a careful search for the right person to supervise the staffing, equipping, and roll-out of programs in the new Institute as its executive director. During the annual meeting of the NFB board of directors at Thanksgiving he announced his appointment: Dr. Betsy Zaborowski.

As soon as the announcement was made, those in the room could appreciate the obvious fit between the job description and Dr. Z. Most recently she has been director of special programs for the NFB. She was responsible for program development and community outreach nationally, concentrating on technology, seniors, and educational initiatives. Along with developing key partnerships with businesses and universities, she established the NFB's annual celebration and fundraiser, the national Meet-the-Blind public awareness campaign; the Braille Is Beautiful curriculum for sighted children; and the NFB's annual Seniors' Low-Vision Resource Fair in Baltimore. But her highest priority during the past four years has been to assist with fundraising and preliminary planning for the Research and Training Institute. Working with the NFB membership throughout the country, she led the effort to secure a funding commitment of six million dollars from the state of Maryland in support of the Institute.

Dr. Zaborowski brings to this new job expertise and experience in education, psychology, program development, promotion, and resource management. For eight years previous to joining the NFB staff, Dr. Zaborowski was a clinical psychologist in Baltimore. Along with maintaining a successful private practice, Dr. Zaborowski taught in the Graduate School of Education at Johns Hopkins University (JHU) and lectured at the JHU Medical School and the Kennedy Krieger Institute. Previous to her move from Colorado to Baltimore in 1987, she practiced in the field of health psychology for Kaiser Permanente, served as a mental health and university-based counselor, and worked for six years as a grade-six-to-twelve school guidance counselor.

Dr. Zaborowski received her doctorate in psychology from the University of Denver and her bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Wisconsin, Menomonie. As a psychologist she served on and chaired the American Psychological Association's Committee on Disability Issues in Psychology, and for the Maryland Psychological Association (MPA) she served as chair of the Women's Committee and as delegate-at-large on the MPA executive council.

 Dr. Zaborowski was chosen as one of Maryland's top 100 women by the Daily Record in 1998 and 2000. In 2003 she was recognized again with this award and was inducted, along with a select group of previous top 100 honorees, into the Circle of Excellence of Maryland's Top 100 Women.

In 1997 the governor of Maryland appointed Dr. Zaborowski to the Maryland Information Technology Board. She was the first chair of the Mayor's Commission on Disabilities and was appointed to two terms on the Baltimore City Women's Commission. She also served for several years on the Governor's Advisory Board on People with Disabilities and has consulted for a number of organizations and companies in time management, stress management, sexual harassment, leadership skills, and disability issues. She recently completed a year in the Baltimore Leadership Program and serves on the board of the YMCA at Stadium Place.

Betsy Zaborowski has a long and active history as an NFB volunteer. She joined the organization in 1979 and has served as treasurer of the Colorado affiliate and president of the NFB Human Services Division. In 2001 we presented Dr. Zaborowski and her husband James Gashel the Jacobus tenBroek Award, our highest national recognition of exemplary service.

We can all be exceedingly proud of this appointment of our own Betsy Zaborowski as executive director of the NFB Research and Training Institute. She is taking on a tremendously challenging job. It will require all of her many talents and skills. She will also need every bit of commitment and dedication that the entire Federation family can provide to support this new endeavor.

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