With eye on global study, ‘U’ growing flagship programs

BY CAITLIN HUSTON
Daily Staff Reporter
Published September 22, 2010

Students looking to study beyond Ann Arbor will soon have more opportunities to do so through the University.

The Arabic Language Flagship Partner Program, founded at the University in August 2008 to help students improve their Arabic writing and speaking skills, is increasing its course offerings for the winter semester and applying to become an independent Arabic Flagship Center at the University for the next academic year.

The ALFP is an intensive language program offered at multiple universities, in which undergraduate students work toward attaining superior language proficiency in Arabic, as rated by the American Council for the Teaching of Foreign Languages scale. The program kicked off in the 2009 winter semester.

In the program, students must take at least one modern standard Arabic course per semester and are eligible to receive financial support from the International Institute of Education, a part of the National Security Education Program, which funds the program at the University.

Since its creation in 2008, Sofia Rosenberg, coordinator of the ALFP, said the program has grown from having nine students to 49 from 16 different majors. She said enrollment in the program has been increasing exponentially every semester.

“It has really expanded and the interest is just great,” Rosenberg said. “For every application period we get more and more so that’s wonderful.”

As program enrollment increases, Raji Rammuny, director of the ALFP, said there will also be more course offerings available. Three new online courses for students who have reached an advanced language level will be offered in the winter semester.

As part of the program’s initial three-year grant, from 2008-2011, the University’s program operates in partnership with the University of Texas at Austin and Michigan State University.

However, Rammuny wrote in an e-mail interview that the program will apply to become an independent center for the next academic year.

Rammuny added that though the application process is “competitive,” he feels the large enrollment numbers in the program, as well as its development of creative research studies and language courses, will work in the program’s favor.

Rosenberg echoed Rammuny’s optimism, saying she is confident the program will become an independent center.

As the flagship program progresses, students are also strongly encouraged to spend a year or summer studying abroad at the flagship sites of Alexandria University in Egypt and the University of Damascus in Syria, Rosenberg said. Students with a high level of proficiency are able to attend the year-long curriculum, while those with lower proficiency levels can take part in the summer program.

Rosenberg said this is the first year that University students in the program traveled abroad for the summer program. Two students participated in the year-long program after completing courses in the program’s first year.

Students can also take part in an extracurricular Arabic cultural club, in which they can practice speaking or receive tutoring.

When students graduate from the program, they receive a certificate stating that they have reached an L3, or professional proficiency level. Rosenberg said this designation is an important resource when looking for a job, as a variety of employers want employees who can speak critical world languages.

Rosenberg added that because the flagship program is government-funded, many students are able to find jobs in the public sector.

LSA senior Valerie Montes, who is in her third year of the program, said she feels her experience in the program will make her a more employable job applicant.

“I think it will be pretty easy to find opportunities,” Montes said. “I just have to decide what direction I want to go in.”

Montes, who studied abroad in a year-long program, added that her experience overseas was invaluable to helping her achieve fluency in Arabic.

The University has also applied to the International Institute of Education to establish a Chinese Flagship Center, which will be housed in the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures. The status of the application will be determined in December, however department and University officials declined multiple requests for comment on the center, verifying only that an application has been submitted.