Skip to main content

ASU Chinese Flagship program expands with ROTC focus

ASU student dancing in China
February 14, 2012

Arizona State University is one of three U.S. universities selected to develop a Chinese Language ROTC/Flagship program that will serve as a model to replicate nationwide.

The nearly $1 million three-year grant was awarded by the Institute of International Education, the administrative agent of the National Security Education Program. Its objective is to increase the number of ROTC students who achieve professional-level proficiency in a number of critical languages. Also receiving a grant were the Georgia Institute of Technology and North Georgia College and State University.

This pilot program, which will be based on the current Chinese Language Flagship program at ASU, is open to cadets and midshipmen in the university’s three ROTC programs (Army, Air Force and Navy).

The first cohort of students will begin in the fall; however, two Air Force ROTC students have started the program this semester, said Madeline Spring, a professor of Chinese and director of the Chinese Flagship Center at ASU and the new ROTC/Flagship Chinese pilot program. She also is the director of Chinese language programs in ASU’s School of International Letters and Cultures, and the Confucius Institute at ASU.

“Since 2007 ASU has had a Chinese Language Flagship program, a model that has proved successful at guiding students to superior levels of proficiency,” Spring said. “Having this new grant emphasizes that ASU is on the forefront of educating this generation of students, both ROTC and non-ROTC, to be competitive as global professionals.”

The Chinese Language ROTC/Flagship initiative at ASU offers a rigorous, content-based program of study in Chinese language and culture for highly-motivated ROTC undergraduate students of all majors to achieve superior level proficiency in Chinese, explained Spring.

“This program is highly flexible, given the rigorous demands of the three ROTC programs at ASU,” she noted.

“The curriculum is designed to provide students with maximum flexibility in meeting Flagship requirements while remaining engaged in ROTC training. Online course modules and other materials will supplement in-class instruction. Most students will spend additional time in China before their final capstone year in China,” she said.

In addition to meeting core course requirements, Chinese Flagship/ROTC students participate in extra-curricular activities on campus such as one-on-one tutoring, group activities, lectures, movie screenings and Chinese related events, according to Spring.

“China has emerged as a major player on the international stage,” said Joe Cutter, a professor of Chinese and founding director of the School of International Letters and Cultures, in ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

“China has always been important, but with the changes of the past few decades, contemporary China has become richer and more capable of influencing political and economic affairs. Yet, Chinese power isn’t the only reason to study Chinese,” Cutter said. “Chinese language and culture are intrinsically interesting.”

He noted that the two fastest growing languages nationally are Arabic and Chinese. “That said, enrollments in Chinese language courses significantly surpass Arabic. There are nationally over 60,000 students taking Chinese and over 35,000 taking Arabic in colleges and universities. Of course, these numbers are smaller than say, German (almost 100,000) and Spanish (almost 1 million).

“Here at ASU, Chinese enrollments have roughly doubled in the past 10 years,” Cutter said.

“ASU has one of the best Chinese programs in the country. It has been a good program for a long time, but the addition of new faculty members during the past five years, ASU’s partnership with Sichuan University in China, and especially our success in winning a significant grant competition that allowed us to establish a Chinese Language Flagship Center have really made a huge difference,” Cutter said.

“In terms of student proficiency in Chinese, the Chinese language program is accomplishing things that would have been unheard of just a few years ago,” Cutter said. “It is an exciting time to be studying Chinese at ASU.”

More information about the Chinese Language Flagship program at ASU is available at Information about the new ROTC program is available from program coordinator Mia Segura, or 480-965-9221. And, information about Chinese degree programs at ASU is online at

Written by Evan Lewis and Carol Hughes