URI awarded $1 million federal grant for expanded Chinese language program

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KINGSTON, R.I. — September 4, 2008 – The University of Rhode Island has been awarded a $1 million grant to expand its Chinese language programs from the Language Flagship, a high profile initiative of the National Security Education Program within the U.S. Department of Defense.

“The Language Flagship is designed to prepare greater numbers of Americans to be highly proficient in languages that are critical to national defense and competitiveness,” explained John Grandin, URI professor of German and director of the International Engineering Program (IEP). “This grant will enable us to take a gigantic step forward in our Chinese language program and in our Chinese IEP.”

The three-year grant will provide funding for a new faculty member to teach Chinese language and culture courses. It will also fund a new position to coordinate Language Flagship activities, including articulation with curricula for Chinese language courses in Rhode Island high schools and the creation of a Chinese summer school at URI, modeled after the six-week residential German Summer School of the Atlantic, which URI has offered for 28 years.

In addition, the grant will provide scholarship support for students who have been identified as “Flagship Scholars.”

According to Grandin, students who pledge to reach a superior level of proficiency in the Chinese language and pass a proficiency test would qualify for the scholarships. “It’s a way of raising the bar for our students,” he said, “and it’s a way of providing financial support to those students who accept the challenge of achieving superior language proficiency.”

URI has 145 students enrolled in Chinese language classes for the fall 2008 school year – more than twice as many as two years ago – and 25 engineering students enrolled in the Chinese IEP.

Grandin said that engineering students will particularly benefit from the Language Flagship grant because it will provide them with more opportunities to do increasingly advanced engineering work abroad. It will also allow for development of courses at URI that incorporate Chinese language elements in traditional engineering classes.

The Language Flagship grant partners URI with the existing Chinese language flagship programs at the University of Oregon, Ohio State University, Arizona State University, Brigham Young University and the University of Mississippi. The URI Flagship will also work in collaboration with its Confucius Institute, one of 20 such institutes around the country designed to promote and strengthen educational and cultural ties between the United States and China.