By Nathan Warters
William & Mary has received a Project Global Officer grant that will allow it to build on its strengths as a leader in foreign language education and study abroad, while also helping the university advance its efforts to further establish itself as a military-friendly and veteran-friendly institution.
Project GO is a nationwide program open to all qualified ROTC students that offers fully-funded opportunities in critical language education, overseas study and cross-cultural experience. Through this program, future military officers develop linguistic and cross-cultural communication skills.
W&M is partnering with European Humanities University in Vilnius, Lithuania, and National Central University in Taoyuan, Taiwan, to offer summer study abroad Project GO programs in 2022 in Russian and Mandarin Chinese.
W&M’s Project GO program is open not only to William & Mary students, but also to students at universities throughout the country with at least second-year-level proficiency in Russian or Mandarin Chinese.
“William & Mary President Katherine A. Rowe and Provost Peggy Agouris have both emphasized the critical importance to our university of close collaboration with our military and federal partners,” said W&M Vice Provost for Academic and International Affairs (VPAIA) Stephen E. Hanson.
“They are also strongly supportive of our ongoing efforts to further expand our global reach through partnerships with foreign universities. Project GO thus dovetails closely with W&M’s emerging strategic priorities, giving us the opportunity simultaneously to strengthen our partnerships with military stakeholders as well as institutions of higher education in allied and friendly nations.”
W&M’s Project GO program will build effective military leaders in the Army, Navy and Air Force.
“While the Project Global Officer opportunity certainly helps our current students, I take the long view that we are helping to build a cohort of U.S. citizens who are committed to public service,” said Army Lt. Col. Jason C. Finch, chair of W&M’s Department of Military Science. “That service can be overseas but it also might be as a productive citizen in any hometown across the globe.”
The intensive eight-week programs will run from early June to mid-August and will follow the model for other William & Mary faculty-led study abroad programs. There will be daily language courses at the host universities, as well as field trips.
Bella Ginzbursky-Blum, senior lecturer in Russian language and culture, and Chun-Ying Lin, Chinese lecturer, will lead student groups to the host universities this summer.
“It really speaks to the quality of our teaching staff who are going to put together a wonderful experience for these students,” said Michael Hill, associate professor of Chinese studies for the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures (MLL). “And hopefully we’ll have some repeat customers because these students can apply and they can come back. It’s not limited to one year, so it would be great if we see some of them more than once.”
Students will participate in a one-credit introductory course in May where they will be instructed on the cultural and political context for each region.
“I think it’s a great investment in the students’ careers,” said Sasha Prokhorov, Russian studies program director at W&M. “It will provide them with opportunities in the future after they graduate with more career choices because they will have a unique expertise in the language and culture of the region.”
Valuable skills and experience
Susan Manion, W&M’s Project GO coordinator at the Reves Center’s Global Education Office, was a 20-year Army veteran and rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel in the position of deputy brigade commander before making her way to William & Mary. She can attest to the value of foreign language skills for those wanting to be military officers.
“There are so many different opportunities or missions that we had where we worked with foreign militaries, with partner nations, especially NATO nations,” said Manion, who was stationed in Germany twice.
“And yes, there were units that spoke English, but you always felt that there was a barrier there. I think that the language ae culture courses are so important, and I think that the Department of Defense has recognized that, and that’s part of why this program has come about. They want to make sure that their military officers are ready to step into this role and understand the countries that we’re dealing with and their cultures.”
William & Mary is one of 25 universities in the U.S. that offer Project GO programming.
The amount of W&M’s Project GO award for the academic year 2021-22 was $529,000. According to Hill, this is the first major federal teaching and training grant for MLL at W&M. Most previous funding received by the department was for faculty research.
“It’s a very generous scholarship for students,” Hill said. “It’s similar to the Critical Languages Scholarship because it provides airfare, lodging, tuition, meal stipend and other benefits.”
While Project GO programming is often offered at other universities during the fall and spring semesters, W&M will tap into its strengths as a leader in study abroad to offer its program in the summer.
William & Mary was the No. 4 public university in the U.S. for undergraduate study abroad participation for the 2019-20 academic year, according to an Open Doors report by the Institute of International Education and the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs.
Year after year, W&M is ranked a top leader in the nation for study abroad, with a commitment to international experiences and opportunities. Nearly 60% of all undergraduates study abroad in their W&M careers.
This program was made possible by W&M’s strong model for operating study abroad programs, as well as the support of the Global Education Office at The Reves Center for International Studies and the university’s Department of Military Science.
The Office of Sponsored Programs and the Whole of Government Center of Excellence were also instrumental in the proposal.
Since 2007, Project GO has provided approximately 6,500 students with opportunities to study culture and 19 languages, both domestically and abroad in 33 countries around the world.
“Once we’ve run the program for the first year, we can make adjustments and improve on student activities and excursions,” Hill said. “We’re hoping to successfully complete the three-year grant cycle and be able to renew that and pursue similar training and educational grants in other areas.”