Georgia is home to two of three universities chosen for a pilot program aimed at helping ROTC cadets learn Mandarin Chinese, one of a handful of languages the U.S. government has deemed strategic for national security.

North Georgia College and State University received $720,000 from the National Security Education Program, an initiative launched in 1991 by the Department of Defense to support language education in colleges. The Georgia Institute of Technology also received one of the grants, the amount of which couldn’t be verified by time of publication.  

Arizona State University was the only other school selected nationwide.

The pilot Chinese Flagship/ROTC program is coordinated by the NSEP’s Language Flagship, which supports a network of programs offered through 26 flagship centers at universities.

The program enables cadets to pursue intensive Chinese study while meeting their ROTC obligations and pursuing separate undergraduate degrees.

The goal is for students in a variety of fields to gain “professional-level proficiency” in the target language. If all goes well, the Chinese pilot will eventually be replicated in other critical languages, which include Arabic, Hindi, Urdu, Korean, Persian, Russian and Swahili.

In addition to completing relevant coursework and being tutored outside class, participants are required to spend a “capstone” year in studying China after graduation. 

On top of that, Georgia Tech requires an eight-week summer study abroad with courses in business Chinese, Chinese for current events and economic development and sustainabilit in China. The university’s capstone program will be operated through a partnership with Nanjing University.

For North Georgia College and State University in Dahlonega, the grant affirms both a rapidly developing Chinese program and the school’s key role in providing critical-language instruction for future military leaders, school officials said.

North Georgia began offering Chinese classes in 2006 and later added a minor. Last year, the University System of Georgia‘s Board of Regents approved its Chinese major.

North Georgia also has established an exchange partnership with Liaocheng University in China’s Shandong province.

“We’ve come a long way in a short period of time,” Chris Jespersen, dean of North Georgia’s School of Arts & Letters, said in a news release.

North Georgia offers minors in four critical languages – Arabic, Chinese, Korean and Russian – and is working on procuring funding to upgrade Arabic to a major.

The university also has intensive summer language programs, including the Federal Service Language Academy, a three-week, federally funded “language bootcamp” for high schoolers studying Arabic, Chinese and Russian. Read more: Language Boot Camp Draws High Schoolers to North Georgia

Visit for more information.

Click here to learn more about the program at Georgia Tech or click here to learn more about North Georgia’s Center for Language Education

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...