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Four UNG students selected to complete degrees at Chinese university

Chinese Flagship Hutch
Hutch Crawford, a cadet from Dalton, Georgia, majoring in international affairs and Chinese, is one of four UNG seniors selected to participate in the capstone year for the university's ROTC Chinese Language Flagship Program.

This fall, four students at the University of North Georgia (UNG) will begin their final academic year by participating in the capstone year for the university's ROTC Chinese Language Flagship Program.

Hutch Crawford, a cadet from Dalton, Georgia, majoring in international affairs and Chinese, looks forward to being more adept at Chinese than in his previous trips abroad.

"I'm really excited [to go back to China] now that my proficiency is a lot better," Crawford said. "I'm looking forward to spending 10 months there and hope to become part of the community and meet other local students to get a Chinese experience."

Chinese Flagship Group
Capstone students, from left: David Hagler, Taylor Burgess, Jaz Bridgeman, and Hutch Crawford.

In addition to Crawford, the other UNG seniors chosen for the capstone year are:

  • Jaz Bridgeman, a cadet from Savannah, Georgia, majoring in Chinese with a minor in leadership
  • Taylor Burgess, a student from Adairsville, Georgia, majoring in Chinese with a minor in computer science
  • David Hagler, a student from Grayson, Georgia, majoring in Chinese with a minor in business

UNG's Chinese Flagship Program is funded by the Defense Language National Security Education Office (DLNSEO) and is administered by the Institute of International Education (IIE). UNG's program is designed to provide intensive Chinese language and culture education in conjunction with ROTC requirements and is the only ROTC-designated Flagship Program in the nation. These students mark the fifth cohort to attend the capstone program since the program's inception in 2011.

"The Flagship Program's distinctiveness is that students combine a major of their choice with intensive Chinese language training," said Dr. Sungshin Kim, professor of history and co-principal investigator of the grant. "Equipped with both Chinese language knowledge and the professional skills from their major, Flagship students are uniquely well-prepared for careers in federal government, global business, or nongovernmental organizations, in a world where China has come to play an important role."

Participation in the capstone year, while a requirement for successfully completing the program, is not a given, said Chi-Hsuan Catterson, academic director for the program.

"Students must apply and are selected based on their scores on a battery of Chinese language proficiency tests, as well as their academic performance and cultural preparedness," Catterson said.

 The certification goal is to get to a level 3 proficiency, which represents professional working proficiency, on the Interagency Language Roundtable scale in speaking, reading and listening.

Crawford initially came to UNG to study biology, but attending the Summer Language Institute at UNG the summer before his freshman year changed his mind.

" I was going to spend the summer learning Chinese for fun and then I'd start doing biology, but I picked up a love for the language and kept going," Crawford said, adding it is tough for the first two or three years. "You never feel like you're making any sense, and you're just memorizing stuff that doesn't have any meaning. Once you get over that hump and you can start forming sentences and really start expressing yourself, then that's when it becomes fun."

Hagler agreed learning a language can be tough at the beginning, but he feels that his hard work has been rewarded with the capstone opportunity.

"There were a lot of hard times, but under the teachers' suggestions to 'keep going,' I stayed in it and I'm glad that I did," Hager said. "It's one thing to learn it in a textbook, it's another thing to live it. And I think it will be an awesome experience for us all to be together – studying together, working together so that we can all come back Flagship certified."

Bridgeman and Crawford plan to commission into the U.S. Army when they finish the capstone year and graduate from UNG; both are interested in serving in military intelligence or cyber fields.

"Our Flagship Program is one of the best in the country because of the tutoring and all the scholarships that are available," said Bridgeman, who studied Chinese in high school. "I came to UNG because of the Flagship Program and because I wanted to be an officer in the military and both those programs are really good here."

For more information on UNG's Chinese Language Flagship program, please visit the Department of Modern and Classical Languages website.

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