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University awarded nearly $2 million to expand language programs

Elizabeth Zhao, instructor in the Language Training Center on the University of North Georgia's Dahlonega campus, helps newly commissioned second lieutenants draw Chinese characters. The six officers are taking part in intensive language studies at UNG, while a second group of 21 officers is studying in the same UNG program on base at Fort Benning.

The University of North Georgia has signed contracts renewing nearly $2 million in Department of Defense grants to support three programs aimed at increasing knowledge in strategic languages and culture—a key university initiative.

The Institute for International Education has awarded UNG $258,015 to support the university's Language Training Center, $304,976 for Project Global Officers (GO), and $219,773 for the Chinese Language Flagship program. A fourth grant, the largest single grant at $1.2 million, comes from U.S. Army Cadet Command, which also awarded funds in 2012 to support all three programs.

"This is very exciting news for the University of North Georgia, and it will reap great rewards for our students as we continue providing opportunities for them to become globally prepared leaders," President Bonita C. Jacobs said. "Thanks to the hard work of our administrators, faculty and staff both here and in building partnerships around the world, our language and culture programs continue to grow and produce successful students. The federal government's support of our programs through these grants is evidence of North Georgia's emergence as one of the pre-eminent schools in the nation for strategic language instruction."

The Language Training Center, geared toward increasing the foreign language proficiency of current Army officers, started in 2011 on UNG's Dahlonega campus with 12 officers studying Russian. This year, UNG's program has more than two dozen officers studying Chinese, including a new cohort of 21 active duty officers at Fort Benning, Ga.

Chinese is the featured language in the flagship program, which started in fall 2011 when UNG, Arizona State University and Georgia Tech were designated as the program's first pilot universities in the nation. This year, UNG will send two cadets to Peking University, a new partner among many UNG has with colleges and universities around the world. Dr. Chris Jespersen, dean of UNG's College of Arts and Letters, expects the partnership with Peking University, which has a highly respected program in teaching Chinese as a second language, to grow to include more cadets.

Thanks to federal funding, Project GO, which funds scholarships for future military officers to study strategic language and culture at home and abroad, has been ongoing at UNG since 2008. At UNG, the scholarships fund cadet participation in the Summer Language Institute, a six-week program in which students earn nine academic hours in a foreign language through intensive study. Also, UNG cadets have received Project GO scholarships to study Arabic in Morocco, Chinese in mainland China and Korean in South Korea.

While the goal of the federal funding is to support cadets and military officers, Jespersen said the university's strong language programs benefit all students interested in international education and understanding.

"An added benefit, especially of the flagship program, is that we are going to be able to offer Chinese classes on the Gainesville campus this fall," he said. "The federal funding we receive helps us expand our language programs and offer them to more students."

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