California State University, Long Beach
Inside CSULB Logo

$250,000 DoD Grant To Create Pilot Language Training Program

Published: December 1, 2011

CSULB has received a $250,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Defense’s (DoD) National Security Education Program (NSEP) to create a pilot Language Training Program to help meet the language and cultural needs of military units in California.

This initiative will accelerate development of foundational or higher-level expertise in critical and strategic languages and regional studies for DoD personnel by leveraging U.S. institutions of higher education to meet the existing needs of DoD units, offices or agencies.

As a pilot program, the NSEP and the International Institute for Education (IIE) will provide funding so that California National Guard (CALGUARD) members can receive university-based hybrid language and culture coursework. Persian Farsi and Arabic instruction will be offered free to selected CALGUARD soldiers through the grant.

CSULB’s was one of just five awards given nationally by the NSEP. The other grants went to San Diego State University, the University of Montana, North Carolina State University and North Georgia College and State University. Establishing the language training centers was part of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2010, which instructed NSEP to create them.

“Cal State Long Beach will address the language and culture needs of the state’s military units, starting with the 40th Infantry Division (Mech), which is based at Los Alamitos Joint Forces Training Base,” explained Pat O’Rourke, CSULB’s former director of Veterans University. “The language and culture coursework will help the soldiers meet unit training and mission requirements and, at the same time, will serve their competitiveness in civilian life.”

O’Rourke will assist in administering of the grant, overseeing the interaction with military units in the state. O’Rourke is a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel who previously studied Mandarin Chinese while serving in the military. He also served as an associate dean and vice president of operations at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center in Monterey, Calif.

O’Rourke noted that CSULB President F. King Alexander and 40th Infantry Commander Maj. Gen. Scott Johnson both endorse this first-ever collaborative endeavor between the 40th and CSULB.

“One hopeful outcome of this educational initiative will be the development of a long-standing relationship between the California National Guard and CSULB,” he said.

NSEP logo

As proposed, two courses of Persian Farsi and two courses of Arabic will be offered starting in January. A large part of the instruction will be online with face-to-face sessions scheduled during weekend or annual training drill dates. The semester programs will support a minimum of 10 students per course of instruction but project administrators are prepared to serve as many as 20 students per course.

Grant managers at CSULB hope that expansion in the coming year will allow the team to address Civil Affairs and other units located in central and northern California.

Leadership for this grant is being provided by members of CSULB’s College of Liberals Arts. Jutta Birmele, professor emeritus and former chair of the Romance, German, Russian Languages and Literatures Department, and Frank Fata, professor emeritus and former associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts, will oversee much of the curricular and university-based support for the program.

“I’m a big believer in language training and in getting our people equipped with the ability not only to speak the language, but to understand the culture of the countries that we’re dealing with,” said U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. “And I say that not only because [it’s good] for each individual to be able to have that capability. But I have to tell you, it’s important to our national defense to have that capability.”

NSEP focuses on the critical languages and cultures of Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Latin America. Participants are involved in innovative, intensive and long-term programs designed to provide meaningful opportunities to gain significant competencies in these languages and cultures.

For more information about these programs, contact O’Rourke or Birmele.

–Rick Gloady