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June 13, 2016   Columns Articles | Inside UGA | Defense Department renews Portuguese Flagship Program

Defense Department renews Portuguese Flagship Program

Jessica Luton

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Franklin College of Arts and Sciences
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By Jessica Luton | June 13, 2016
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UGA's Portuguese Flagship Program, the first Portuguese program of its kind in the nation, has been renewed for an additional four years. The program, which began in 2011, will receive approximately $3 million in additional funding from the U.S. Department of Defense's National Security Education Program to continue its mission.

Students in the UGA Portuguese Flagship Program reach the highest levels of proficiency in Portuguese, a language growing in popularity and considered critical for U.S. interests. They then spend a year in Brazil, studying at the Federal University of Sao Joao del Rei and complete an internship related to their area of study.

Administered by the Institute of International Education in Washington, D.C., and unique in practice, flagship programs aim to help students enhance their current major with international and linguistic credentials. Flagship programs have been launched across the nation in Chinese, Russian, Arabic, Turkish and other languages considered vital to U.S. interests.

"The Flagship Program at UGA is the only one of its kind in Portuguese in the U.S., and it represents, arguably, one of the largest federal investments in Portuguese instruction in the history of higher education in this country," said Robert Moser, program director. "Study abroad is one of the truly transformative experiences that a student can have in college, and the Portuguese Flagship Program takes that experience to a new level."

Brazil, which will host the 2016 Summer Olympics, has experienced a rapidly growing economy, causing a surge in the demand for Portuguese speakers.

"The Flagship program, alongside our Latin American and Caribbean Studies Institute, provides UGA students with unprecedented opportunities and support, with approximately $500,000 annually in scholarship to study the language and pursue study abroad in Brazil," said Moser, who also is an associate professor of Portuguese in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.

Portuguese is the seventh most spoken language in the world, but very few U.S. high schools and only a select number of university programs offer instruction in the language.

"The U.S. trails far behind many other countries in its preparation of K-12 and college students' foreign language skills," Moser said. "The language flagship has never been about business as usual and offers students a learner-centered approach that tailors language acquisition to the student's particular interests."

Since the program began, nearly 100 UGA undergraduates have participated; more than 60 have studied abroad in Brazil. Students have interned in business, health, foreign affairs, science, agriculture, technology and the arts—and have held internships at companies including National Botanical Gardens, PricewaterhouseCoopers, the Portuguese Language Museum and Deutsche Bank. The program also has partnered with several public school systems to promote Portuguese instruction.

"The Portuguese Flagship Program is open to all students who are highly motivated language learners and want to engage the world on a global scale," said Moser. "It's like an honors program with a global twist and professional focus.

"The renewal of the grant and continuation of the program is made possible by the dedicated work of staff at LACSI, including Director Richard Gordon, and the support of the Portuguese faculty in the Romance languages department," he also said.

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