This fall, four cadets at the University of North Georgia (UNG) are adding an extra year to their studies to participate in the capstone year for the university's Chinese Language Flagship Program. All agreed that putting off graduation and commissioning into the military is well worth the opportunity to return to China and feed their passion for learning Chinese language and culture.
"What makes a good leader is experience, and this is an experience that most people will not have had the opportunity to have," said Chasen Hughes of Lusby, Maryland. "I feel like that will benefit me, which will then benefit those in my chain of command."
The Chinese Language Flagship program at UNG was established in 2011 as one of only three pilot ROTC programs in the nation. It is funded by the Defense Language National Security Education Office (DLNSEO) and is designed to provide intensive Chinese language and culture education in conjunction with ROTC requirements.
"The ROTC Chinese Flagship Program is an exciting, rigorous, and rewarding program for our cadets," said Dr. Christopher Jespersen, dean of the College of Arts & Letters. "We’re proud to be a member of The Language Flagship and also of our partnership with DLNSEO. These relationships create tremendous opportunities for our ROTC students and we look forward to providing the same for our civilian students in the future."
Austin Holloway of Dallas, Texas, said elevating his proficiency in Chinese is his main goal, which also is the goal of the Chinese Flagship.
That mission meshes well with UNG's strategic vision – educating students to be leaders in a global community. Strategic languages identified by NSEP are Arabic, Chinese, Hindi, Urdu, Korean, Persian, Russian, and Swahili, four of which are taught at UNG. NSEP's ultimate goal is for Flagship Program graduates in all languages to contribute their skills to U.S. competitiveness and national security.
The Chinese Flagship is designed for undergraduate students who are highly interested in Chinese language and culture, like Charles "Chas" Millican of Chickamauga, Georgia, who started at UNG just weeks after graduating from high school because his academic course was clear – to study languages as a member of the Corps of Cadets at UNG.
"This prepares me to go out into the world and meet new people with different mindsets, different cultural ideals, different everything from what I'm used to, which is going to mean new perspectives and experience for me as a leader," Millican said.
During the first four years of the Chinese Flagship, students take courses both at UNG and in China. It was during one of his study abroad trips that Christopher Cantrell of Cartersville, Georgia, cemented his decision to major in Chinese.
"I've been abroad before but I've never been able to speak another language, and that made the experience so much better," Cantrell said. "You got to see the results of all the hard work you've put in, and when you said something and people understood it, that was great, but if they didn't understand it, it made you want to work harder to be understood and to understand others."
During the fifth, or capstone, year in China, students take classes the first semester and participate in an internship the second semester. After completing the fifth year, students receive their bachelor's degrees and cadets commission as second lieutenants.
For more information on UNG's Chinese Language Flagship program, please visit the Division of World Languages and Cultures website.