The University of Arizona has received a $500,000 grant to extend its Arabic language program for ROTC students for another year. The program is funded through Project Global Officer, known as Project GO, a Department of Defense initiative aimed at improving the language competency, regional expertise and intercultural communication skills of ROTC students.
The UA is the only institution in the country funded to offer Project GO Advanced Arabic language training.
Project GO at the UA is coordinated by the Center for Middle Eastern Studies (CMES) and draws on the knowledge and expertise of CMES and the School of Middle East and North African Studies (MENAS). CMES, which is a Title VI National Resource Center, works with the leaders of each ROTC service branch at the UA, which includes the Arrmy, Air Force, and Navy.
“Project GO is an outstanding program here at the University of Arizona,” said Col. Brian Donahoo, commander of the Air Force ROTC. “It provides our cadets with much-needed critical language skills, cultural immersion, and a chance to compete for study-abroad scholarships. This training and experience are invaluable and serve our cadets well when they commission as officers in the United States Air Force.”
With the Project GO Advanced designation, the UA has solidified its position as having one of the best Arabic programs in the country. The UA is also one of five universities selected to be an Arabic Flagship Program. The Arizona Arabic Flagship Program, which is directed by Sonia Shiri, prepares students to reach superior-level fluency in Arabic. MENAS is also currently developing a major in Arabic.
Anne Betteridge, director of CMES, says the UA has one of the most holistic Arabic programs in the country. For ROTC members, the program offers academic-year courses; 14 fully-funded scholarships for the UA's 8-week summer study abroad program in Jordan (three of which are for Project GO Advanced); 10 scholarships for the UA's summer program in Tucson; and two scholarships for semester-long advanced opportunities with the UA’s Moroccan partner, the Arab-American Language Institute in Morocco. The scholarships are available to ROTC students from any university in the country.
During the academic year, MENAS offer courses, language partners, tutoring and other assistance to make sure the ROTC students in the program succeed. This semester, 17 ROTC students are taking Arabic classes at the UA through the Project GO initiative. In addition to standard Arabic, the UA teaches three dialects: Levantine, Egyptian and Moroccan. The UA also offers various levels of Arabic each semester, which gives students the opportunity to start the program at any point.
To teach students about Middle Eastern culture, the Arabic programs offer a variety of activities throughout the year involving dance, music, food and film. Last year, they staged a mock Syrian wedding.
“When we have meals, it is not just about giving the students Middle Eastern food, but also about teaching them how to eat it, how to be polite,” said Christian Sinclair, assistant director of CMES and director of the Project GO program.
The training provided by Project GO makes ROTC students eligible for further scholarships and allows them to be commissioned as linguists, which gives them higher levels of pay.
“I applied to Project GO, because I wanted to learn a new and interesting language,” said Kaitlynn Williams, a UA political science major and a member of the Air Force ROTC. “The program has provided me the opportunity to learn a language I never planned on learning and the experience of traveling to a foreign country (Jordan) I never planned on visiting. It has allowed me to expand not only my language abilities, but my cultural understanding as well.”