Chinese, Arabic Students Achieve Capstone

16 UM Flagship students accepted for yearlong study abroad program

Students in the Chinese Language Flagship program going to Taiwan this fall for their capstone program year include (front, from left) Luke Jacobus, Susan Soh, Brigitte Reed, Sarah Hall and Bradley Brantley, and (back, from left) Daniel Ferro, Garrett Dunne, Christopher Buchan, James Christian and Cameron Bryan. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – A University of Mississippi record 16 Language Flagship seniors are headed abroad to hone their language skills after being accepted for the Chinese and Arabic capstone year programs.

The capstone is a final year of direct enrollment and study at a university in Taiwan or Morocco, followed by an internship.

The 12 Chinese Language Flagship students and four Arabic Language Flagship students accepted for the capstone year abroad are the most for each language the university has placed to date, said Donald Dyer, UM associate dean for faculty and academic affairs and distinguished professor of modern languages.

“No other Flagship university had as many students accepted to capstone this year,” Dyer said. “All in all, 16 UM students of the 16 who applied for capstone were accepted unconditionally, a remarkable achievement.”

Chinese Language Flagship students going to Taiwan this fall are:

  • Cameron Bryan, of Calvert City, Kentucky
  • Bradley Brantley, of Jackson
  • Christopher “CJ” Buchan, of Kennett Square, Pennsylvania
  • James “Aubrey” Christian, of Gulfport
  • Garrett Dunne, of Chicago
  • Samantha Fabian, of Omaha, Nebraska
  • Daniel Ferro, of Rockville Center, New York
  • Sarah Hall, of Madison
  • Luke Jacobus, of Birmingham, Alabama
  • Matthew Lafaver, of Manchester, Missouri
  • Brigitte Reed, of Lacey Springs, Alabama
  • Sarah Soh, of Houston, Texas

Arabic Language Flagship students headed to Morocco are:

  • Dana Arneal, of Yorba Linda, California
  • Taylor Northcutt, of Decatur, Alabama
  • Emily Stewart, of Columbia, Tennessee
  • Renee Summers, of Katy, Texas

The National Security Education Program’s Language Flagship began in 2002 and supports intensive programs in languages deemed critical for American government, business and military interests, including Arabic, Chinese, Korean and Russian.

Ole Miss is among 22 colleges and universities that house Flagship programs and was among the first to launch a Chinese Language Flagship Program in 2003. In 2018, the university was awarded an Arabic Flagship Program, putting it in elite company as one of only a handful with multiple Flagship programs.

Students in the university’s Arabic Language Flagship program selected for a capstone program year in Morocco are (from left) Renee Summers, Taylor Northcutt, Emily Stewart and Dana Arneal. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

“I am most looking forward to the many opportunities that living abroad will provide, both immediately and due to the experience it will give me, because I would like to use my time in Morocco as a jumping-off point for my career,” said Northcutt, a business major with minor in Arabic.

“I plan to study Arabic intensely, thoroughly immerse myself in the local culture and pursue internship and job opportunities in companies in the region, especially for those involved in agriculture, irrigation or renewable energy.”

For Hall, a Chinese major minoring in Korean and global security studies, this is an opportunity for her to return to Taiwan, having previously studied abroad in Tamsui.

“When leaving to return home to the U.S., I genuinely felt as though I was leaving a part of me behind in Taiwan, so being able to return and further explore the island brings me a lot of joy,” Hall said. “I also look forward to the night markets and street food, of course.”

Like Hall, Ferro, a Chinese and electrical engineering major, is anticipating his return to Taiwan, but for different reasons.

“I have been studying Chinese for eight years at this point, and this is the culmination of all that effort, to finally be able to interact with natives and to fully immerse myself in the culture,” he said.

During the selection process for the capstone program, students are ranked based on their application packages, which include a personal statement, a Chinese or Arabic writing sample, a Chinese or Arabic speech sample, transcripts, three recommendation letters, and a Chinese or Arabic resume. All admitted Ole Miss students were consistently highly ranked.

Sixty-seven students from 13 different Chinese Language Flagship programs applied for the 2023-24 overseas capstone program in Taiwan, said Rongrong Hao, lecturer of Chinese. Of those, 53 were admitted.

“UM’s program had 12 applicants, and all 12 were successfully admitted without needing a retest,” Hao said. “Impressively, UM’s applicants accounted for 23% of the total number of admitted students, demonstrating the exceptional quality of the UM Chinese Flagship program.

“With the highest number of both student applicants and successful applicants, UM’s program continues to provide top-tier language education to its students.”

One factor used by the NSEP to determine just how good a program is involves examining how many students it can send to the Flagship capstone. Ole Miss has a decadelong record of this kind of success, with more than 60 students accepted into the Chinese capstone and 25 into the Arabic capstone during that time.

“Completing capstone is a stepping stone for the Flagship students going on the careers in government, business and graduate education, where they will use their high-level linguistic and cultural skills,” Dyer said.

The students’ collective results illustrate their dedication to their chosen disciplines and provide a shining example of what anyone can achieve through hard work and an undying passion for honing their craft, said Allen Clark, co-director of the UM Arabic Flagship program and associate professor of modern languages.

“It is a given that everyone learns differently; it is our charge as instructors to unlock each person’s learning potential and provide them with the tools and guidance to realize their individual language goals,” Clark said.

“We couldn’t be prouder of each and every student who not only graduates from our program, but who has achieved a level of proficiency in a language most would consider quite difficult to master.”