Ole Miss has been named a recipient of an Arabic Flagship Program, a prestigious language curriculum that will expand the previously established Arabic language program on campus.
The flagship programs are awarded by The Language Flagship, an organization established in 2002 that focuses on "designing, supporting and implementing a new paradigm for advanced language education," according to the organization's website.
Allen Clark, associate professor of Arabic and co-director of the university's Arabic Flagship Program, said the Arabic program on campus started in 2008 in hopes that it would one day be designated a Flagship Program.
The two-year grant that comes along with the program will allow the university to hire new faculty, add courses and increase funding for study-abroad opportunities, according to a University of Mississippi Communications press release.
The program will receive $274,999.41 for the first year and is expecting around $325,000 for the second year.
"The designation of our second Flagship language program is a testament to the University of Mississippi's sustained leadership in the field of international education," Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said in a press release. "It aligns perfectly with our goals as a flagship university and furthers our reputation as a hub for student international experience and language immersion."
The Chinese Language Flagship Program was established on campus in 2003, and it currently has around 60 students enrolled.
"We patterned the UM Intensive Arabic Program's curriculum after the UM Chinese Language Flagship Program and used the functional approach to language learning in and out of the classroom," Clark said.
According to Clark, a typical student who graduates from the UM Arabic Flagship program will have an 8 percent chance of reaching "superior" proficiency and a 69 percent chance of reaching "advanced" proficiency during their four-year tenure.
He said there are currently 75 students enrolled across all levels of Arabic classes — 28 at the 100 level, 15 at the 200 level and 32 at or above the 300 level.
Lauren Burns, a senior double-majoring in Arabic and International Studies, said she was shocked when she heard the university was granted a Flagship program but is grateful and excited to be a part of it before she graduates.
During her time at the university, she has studied abroad in Amman, Jordan, thrice as part of her degree requirements.
Burns said the biggest perk of being in the Flagship program is the Capstone project where students study abroad in Meknes, Morocco after their senior year. Scholarships that cover a majority of the trip's cost are available to students.
"Generally, a language learner's ultimate goal is to reach a 'superior' level of fluency, and nearly all Flagship alumni reach that level during Capstone (year)," Burns said. "Being able to obtain such a high level of fluency in the language through an esteemed program at a highly reduced cost is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."
She said that Flagship alumni can enter a wide array of fields ranging from intelligence and diplomacy to higher education, translation and politics.
"Since its beginnings, the Arabic program at Ole Miss has consistently produced students who rank with students of other Flagship programs, in terms of fluency," Burns said. "I'm so grateful for the staff here who have worked hard to get us to this status."
John Chappell, a senior double-majoring in Arabic and International Studies, said he is studying the language because he is interested in pursuing a career in which he can help direct U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and North Africa.
"Studying Arabic allows me to directly listen to voices from the Middle East and learn from the experiences of people who have been or could be impacted by U.S. policy," Chappell said. "Language and cultural awareness are required to build a more empathetic, informed U.S. foreign policy."
Chappell said the Flagship designation "presents a catalyst for us, as students, to strengthen our community of Arabic language learners to receive guidance from the program coordinator."
Being designated a Flagship Program will hopefully strengthen Ole Miss' pool of potential students interested in learning Arabic, Clark said.
"Diligent, hard-working students with an enthusiasm for learning Arabic create a positive ambiance and a shared sense of purpose," Clark said. "This type of synergy fosters friendly competition to see who can reach 'advanced-high' or 'superior' level in language proficiency, and it is those students who, in the end, become global citizens."