DAHLONEGA - North Georgia College & State University has been awarded $720,000 in federal funds and designation as a "flagship" university for Chinese instruction for cadets.
The designation comes from the National Security Education Program (NSEP) at the Department of Defense. Two other schools, Arizona State University and the Georgia Institute of Technology, also were awarded 2011 grants and Chinese flagship status. Only a handful of schools, most research institutions and Division I universities, have been granted flagship status since the program's inception in 1991.
"This is very exciting news for North Georgia, and it will reap great rewards for our students as we continue providing opportunities for them to increase their global knowledge and understanding," President Bonita C. Jacobs said. "Thanks to the hard work of our administrators, faculty and staff both on campus and in building partnerships around the world, North Georgia's language programs continue to grow and produce successful students. The Department of Defense's monetary support of our program through this grant is evidence of North Georgia's emergence as one of the pre-eminent schools in the nation for strategic language instruction."
The mission of NSEP's Language Flagship program, to help students gain high-level proficiency in strategic foreign languages and culture, meshes well with North Georgia's strategic vision -- educating students for life and leadership 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 North Georgia.
Largely driven by student interest, North Georgia's Chinese program has grown swiftly since the university first began offering Chinese classes in 2006. Since then, a minor has been added and, last year, the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia (USG) approved a major in Chinese for North Georgia.
"We've come a long way in a short period of time," Dr. Chris Jespersen, dean of North Georgia's School of Arts & Letters, said. "Our program is being recognized specifically for our efforts with the cadets, and although our funding will be focused on the ROTC students, all students will benefit from this support for the Chinese program."
As the university's Chinese language program has grown, North Georgia also has forged a growing partnership with Liaocheng University in Liaocheng, China. In recent years, administrators, faculty and students from North Georgia have visited and studied at Liaocheng and their Chinese colleagues have done the same at North Georgia.
Ryan Cooke, a sophomore from Dacula, Ga., is a member of the university's Corps of Cadets majoring in Chinese and international affairs. In 2010, Cooke spent the summer before his freshman year at North Georgia studying Chinese in the university's intensive Summer Language Institute. After spending fall 2010 semester on campus, Cooke spent spring and summer semesters studying in China -- a total of six months. The experience gave him a deeper understanding of the Chinese language and culture.
"I realized just how similar Chinese college students are to American college students, mostly because it is a much more globalized world," Cooke said.
His studies in China sparked his decision to add Chinese to his international affairs major when he returned to North Georgia for fall semester. "Part of my heart's in China. I have so many great Chinese friends now, and from around the world."
Multiple critical languages are offered through North Georgia's Strategic Language Intensive Program. Students in the program dedicate two semesters to only intensive foreign language courses and spend a third semester abroad. The Flagship Program will require cadets pursuing Chinese to study for a year in China.
North Georgia also offers two summer language programs, the Federal Service Language Academy for high school students and the Summer Language Institute for college students. Each offers course credit in one of several languages.
North Georgia currently offers minors in Arabic, German, Korean and Russian and majors and minors in Chinese, French and Spanish.
Located in Dahlonega, Ga., North Georgia College & State University is a four-year liberal arts university with an enrollment of about 6,100 students. It is also one of only six senior military colleges in the nation and about 12 percent of its student body participates in the university's Army ROTC Corps of Cadets.