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Conference aims to boost military language training

March 04, 2010

Improving language and cultural awareness in the armed forces was the focus of a national conference conducted by Arizona State University March 4-5.

Sponsored by the National Security Education Program, the "Global Officer Leadership Conference" took place in Tempe, hosted by ASU's Melikian Center for Russian, Eurasian and East European Studies, and Critical Languages Institute in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. It was the second in a series of conferences aimed at improving cultural awareness and mastery of foreign languages in the armed forces.

Bringing together more than 100 representatives of select universities, private-sector military analysts, and representatives of the military, this year's conference foocused on infusing culture and language awareness into military and science curricula through innovative programming – teaching advanced mathematics in Chinese, for example – and through hands-on, service-oriented study-abroad programs.

These programs and others are being piloted at ASU and elsewhere as part of ROTC’s global officer program, or “Project GO.” The project is a joint effort of the Army, Air Force, Navy, National Security Education Program and a coalition of 24 select universities from across the United States.

ASU has been a member of the Project GO coalition since 2008, taking ROTC cadets abroad and training them in Persian, Russian, Tatar and Uzbek language and culture.

"This program is about crossing lines," said Kathleen Evans-Romaine, director of the Critical Languages Institute, which leads the global officer effort at ASU.

"It's about changing the way we engage with the world. Three years ago, you could count on one hand the number of ROTC cadets – our future officers – with experience in the languages and cultures of Central and South Asia, or of Sub-Saharan Africa. Today, almost 500 cadets and midshipmen have studied those languages, have visited those countries, and, most importantly, have learned to cross cultural boundaries. They have gained skills that will serve them well in their careers, no matter where they go,” she said.

"The ultimate goal of the project," according to Evans-Romaine, "is to find ways to bring that experience to the rest of the 31,000 cadets in the nation's ROTC programs, and ideally, to all students."

Additional information about the Melikian Center for Russian, Eurasian and East European is at Information about the Critical Languages Institute at ASU is at