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Last modified: Monday, May 7, 2007

IU wins grant to train future military officers in strategic languages and cultures

May 7, 2007

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University has been selected to receive a two-year federal grant for $481,630 to provide strategic language and culture training to undergraduate students in Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) programs.

The Institute of International Education (IIE), on behalf of the National Security Education Program of the U.S. Department of Defense, selected IU's ROTC Strategic Languages and Cultures Program to participate in this new initiative, which aims to improve the abilities of future military officers to speak and understand strategic languages and cultures. The languages covered by IU's program are Arabic, Russian, and the Central Asian languages Azerbaijani, Kazakh, Pashto, Tajik, Turkmen, Uyghur and Uzbek.

The co-principal investigators are Henry R. Cooper Jr., professor of Slavic languages and literatures, and Paul M. Foster Jr., director of the Center for Languages of the Central Asian Region and professor of Slavic languages and literatures.

"This grant allows IU to craft innovative approaches, including new curricula and enhanced use of distance learning technologies, that respond to needs the U.S. government recognizes as critical now and in the future," Foster said.

Under IU's program, up to 25 ROTC cadets enrolled at IU or other universities will receive scholarships to study a strategic language and culture at IU's intensive summer language workshop, during which the cadets will complete a year's worth of training in eight-to-nine weeks.

After the summer workshop, IU's program will provide the ROTC cadets with additional funding to continue language and culture training in the 2007-08 academic year, either at IU, in language programs at their home universities, or through distance education courses provided by IU faculty.

IU's program, which will be directed by Gene Coyle, adjunct professor at the School of Public and Environmental Affairs, provides innovative ways to help ROTC cadets shoulder the challenge of studying languages and cultures not typically taught in high schools. The program provides cadets with scholarships, intensive language training in small classes, individual tutoring, and activities designed to inform the cadets of the importance of strategic language and culture training for U.S. national security and foreign policy.

"The Department of Defense realizes that they need officers who are competent and fluent in these languages and cultures, and there are few places in the country other than IU that can teach them that," said Kirk R. White, IU's director of community relations and a National Guardsman who spent a year on active duty in Afghanistan. "This grant reinforces IU as a recognized, national resource for the strategic languages inside the Department of Defense."

Michael McRobbie

Print-Quality Photo

IU's new program was crafted by the Strategic Languages and Cultures Task Force, which President-elect Michael A. McRobbie created last fall to explore IU's opportunities to strengthen its connections with the U.S. Departments of State, Defense and Homeland Security on language and culture education, training and policy. As home to a record-10 international research centers that receive approximately $16 million in Title VI funding from the U.S. Department of Education, IU is well situated to partner with U.S. government agencies coping with challenges posed by strategic language and culture education.

"Our language and cultural studies programs have long been among our great strengths as a university," McRobbie said. "We wanted to find new ways to connect these academic assets with state and federal agencies that are finding an increased need for this type of knowledge."

Members of the IU Strategic Languages and Cultures Task Force in addition to Cooper, Foster and White are David P. Fidler, professor of law and director of the Center on American and Global Security, and William Fierman, professor of Central Eurasian studies and director of the Inner Asian and Uralic National Resource Center.

The Task Force received valuable support in the grant application process from IU's ROTC commanders, Lt. Col. Eric D. Arnold, professor of military science, and Lt. Col. Lori M. Bass, professor of aerospace studies, and from the Departments of Slavic Languages and Literatures, Central Eurasian Studies, Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, and the College of Arts and Sciences.