California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) recently received a one-year, $271,316 grant from the Defense Language National Security Education Office (DLNSEO) to support participation in a language training program to help meet the language and cultural needs of California’s military units.
The ultimate goal of the program is to increase knowledge and proficiency in critical and strategic languages and regional studies for Department of Defense (DoD) personnel by leveraging expertise at U.S. institutions of higher education to meet the existing needs of DoD units, offices or agencies.
The DLNSEO provides funding so that the California Army National Guard (CAARNG) and other military units can receive university-based hybrid language and culture coursework. Endorsed last year by CSULB President F. King Alexander and Maj. Gen. Scott Johnson, the 2012-13 program is offering three 15-day intensive language courses in Arabic, Persian Farsi and Mandarin Chinese for National Guard linguists.
Patrick O’Rourke, retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. and former director of CSULB’s Student Veterans program, is assisting in administering the grant and oversees the interaction with military units in the state. O’Rourke previously studied Mandarin Chinese at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center (DLI) in Monterey, Calif. He later served as an associate dean and vice president of operations at DLI.
O’Rourke believes the Language Training Center program has several benefits. “First and foremost, the CSU is playing an active role in educating our service members about the language and culture of geostrategic countries,” he noted. “At the same time, we in higher education are being funded for programs directed at global education and globalization.”
Thus far, the California Army National Guard has been extremely supportive of the program. “With waning resources and fast-paced commitments, it’s difficult to plan and implement new programs in both the Guard and the CSU,” O’Rourke pointed out. “By partnering on this initiative, we leverage the talent of the CSU while providing a needed service to the military.”
O’Rourke makes it clear that it is a challenging program for the students. The courses require 10-hour days in order to increase language proficiency. Those involved are military linguists and heritage students who have already been exposed to the language. Still, these talented students have to work hard to improve their proficiency.
O’Rourke believes programs like these are vital to our globalization efforts. “There is more at stake here than national security,” he explained. “Programs like these make our Californians more aware of the global community and our ties with other countries. Our presence in the world needs to be an educated one. That is the fundamental value of language and culture education.”
O’Rourke, who served in the Indiana National Guard for two years, acknowledged his interest in conjoining Guard members and CSU faculty. “It puts a smile on my face when I think of soldiers being educated and faculty being exposed to the unique lives of our Guardsmen. Understanding the commitment these men and women have volunteered for is inspiring; it’s really a relationship of mutual commitment and service.
“Relationships of mutual benefit are important to the viability of our state and federal institutions,” he added. “All leaders have a responsibility for opening doors of opportunity, employment and education. I may be biased, but I think the Language Training Center initiative is a win-win situation for California.”