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ASU to host national ROTC leadership conference

ROTC change of command ceremony
April 22, 2014

A 25-university coalition charged with training ROTC students in language skills critical to the nation’s defense is gathering this week at a conference hosted by Arizona State University. Called Project GO, the national ROTC language and culture project meets annually to evaluate its program and prepare for the coming academic year. For the second time in four years, it selected ASU as conference host.

“ASU’s sponsorship of the conference reinforces the special place of the Melikian Center’s Critical Languages Institute in the overall Project Go effort,” said Stephen K. Batalden, director of the Melikian Center for Russian, Eurasian, and East European Studies. “Not only do we house the national outreach coordinator for Project GO, but our sponsorship of two of the conferences reinforces our lead position among Project GO-funded universities.”

One of the largest summer training academies for less commonly taught East European and Eurasian languages, ASU’s Critical Languages Institute works with several federal agencies, including the Department of Defense. The institute is co-hosting the three-day Project GO conference with ASU’s Army ROTC program.

Bookending the conference, “Strengthening Language Learning through Collaboration,” will be opening remarks by Patrick Kenney, ASU social sciences dean, and a featured presentation by Lieutenant General Benjamin C. Freakley, special adviser to ASU President Michael Crow for leadership initiatives, serving at the McCain Institute for International Leadership. ASU Army ROTC students will join Freakley to share their ASU study-abroad experiences during the meeting’s closing dinner.

“Project GO has made my education at ASU one-of-a-kind,” said Chelsea Bejines, an ASU senior majoring in exercise and wellness in the School of Nutrition and Health Promotion and an Army ROTC cadet. “Not very many people get the privilege to participate in a program such as Project GO, and I was very lucky and honored to do so. It has given me the chance to expand my education further than just my area of study.”

Each of the 25 Project GO institutions specializes in teaching different languages, according to Kathleen Evans-Romaine, director of ASU’s Critical Languages Institute and Project GO national recruiting and outreach director. Project GO at ASU focuses on Persian, Russian, Turkish and Uzbek – one of the least common critical languages, she explained. In 2015, ASU plans to add Indonesian to its Project GO curriculum.

Evans-Romaine said Project GO is primarily a summer opportunity, with ROTC cadets from across the country applying for scholarships to study select languages offered by institutions that are Project GO members. ASU is known for Russian because it has the capacity to offer up to sixth-year instruction in that language, she added.

“Cadets come to ASU from everywhere, but it’s highly competitive,” Evans-Romaine said. “In 2014, the hardest course to get into was Elementary Russian, with only 17 percent of applicants selected.”

ASU is one of only two Project GO schools offering “hybrid” study, where students come to campus for two months of intensive language and culture training before traveling to their country of study for a month of immersion with a local host family. Additionally, ASU operates summer-long study-abroad programs for ROTC students at higher levels of proficiency in their language skills. It is the only Project GO school to offer study-abroad for the Persian language, and the only U.S. university taking cadets to Uzbekistan.

“As an ROTC cadet with no prior service, it can be difficult to grasp the concept of another culture such as the Middle East,” Bejines said. “We learn a bit about the culture of places we may be deployed to, but we never really have first-hand experiences.

“It was amazing to live in Uzbekistan for a month and immerse myself in their culture. I learned so much more than just the Uzbek language. My experience with adapting to a completely different surrounding will definitely help me in my future career as an Army officer.”

According to Evans-Romaine, hosting the national Project GO conference places ASU at the forefront of language teaching research and opens doors for more university opportunities to provide military and civilian training.

“ASU has been praised for its uniquely entrepreneurial approach to training, for its emphasis on accessibility and for the consistently high score of students exiting both its Project GO and Language Training Center programs,” she said. ASU was recently selected to provide the LTC programs to employees of U.S. agencies in the Washington, D.C., area.

Batalden said the Project GO conference shines a light not only on ASU’s ROTC language training, but also the strength of its overall ROTC program, which expanded to include a Naval ROTC unit in 2010.

“While our Critical Languages Institute welcomes ROTC Project GO candidates from across the country, we value the special place of our ASU ROTC programs in this effort,” he said. “Their presence at this national conference reinforces ASU’s national leadership in ROTC programming, and specifically in Project GO.”

The Project GO coalition is funded by the Defense Language National Security Education Office and coordinated by the Institute of International Education in Washington, D.C.