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STARTALK Grant Offers Scholarships for Arabic Program

Maj. Hicham Assaoui shares a light moment with students from Arabic language program.

Maj. Hicham Assaoui, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Modern Languages and Cultures, shares a light moment with students from the summer 2021 Arabic language program.—VMI Photo by Kelly Nye.

As part of its effort to teach languages that the U.S. Department of State has deemed “critically needed,” VMI’s Department of Modern Languages and Cultures has applied for and received a competitive $141,000 grant for a program called STARTALK for the 2023–24 academic year. The grant, which the National Security Agency funds, provides scholarships for six credit hours of Arabic study for 15 students.

According to Maj. Jason W. Schroepfer, Ph.D., assistant professor of modern languages and cultures, proficient Arabic speakers are in high demand for several reasons. “The United States is engaged politically, militarily, and economically in the Middle East and North Africa, and Arabic is the fifth most spoken language in the world. Any student who chooses to learn Arabic will have an advantage in acquiring a good-paying job,” said Schroepfer.

The program is called Exploring the Madina—madina being the Arabic word for city—and will take complete beginners to the intermediate level of Arabic. Students will gain cultural proficiency through guest lectures, performances of authentic Arab music, and an immersive experience of a “Mousem” festival. Each student will take an oral proficiency interview with the goal of reaching the speaking level of novice or better.

The program is open to current high school sophomores, juniors, seniors, and first-year college students in the 2022–23 school year. Applications are currently being accepted, and participants will be selected in February. The summer classroom lessons begin June 26 and run through July 23, 2023, meeting each day for five hours. During the following fall and spring semesters, classes will meet for 60–90 minutes per week. Cultural events will be held before, during, and at the conclusion of the program in May 2024.

For additional information and to apply, click here.

  • Marianne Hause VMI Communications & Marketing