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IU gains Russian Flagship, marking unprecedented number for U.S. institutions



With the addition of Russian to its lineup of intensive language studies this year, IU now has four language flagship programs – more than any other U.S. institution.  

Maria Shardakova, director of the IU Russian Flagship, said the program application was originally denied in 2009. Since then, IU has bolstered curriculum and used other flagships as models for what they would need the second time around.

“We are very excited that this time around we were finally able to pull it off,” Shardakova said.

IU’s other flagship programs include Arabic, Chinese and Turkish. The language flagships are intensive programs for critical languages designed to help students build fluency and become miniature experts in that field. Shardakova said many students later go on to do government work, so political speech in the language is important.

Timeline for IU Flagship programs. Vivek Rao Buy Photos

The language flagship programs are designed to increase fluency in the language and knowledge about the culture. The Department of Defense funds the program and typically awards one or two flagships per language available for application. Universities apply to be awarded the programs.

Jeff Holdeman, director of undergraduate studies for Slavic and East European languages and cultures, said the University of Wisconsin is one of the closest universities in terms of number of flagships, having one in Russian and another in Korean. The University of Wisconsin beat out IU for the Russian Flagship in 2009.

“We tied with Wisconsin, and there’s an interesting little story there about how they gave us Turkish and gave Wisconsin Russian,” Holdeman said. 

Holdeman said that Wisconsin and IU applied for the Turkish and Russian Flagship programs back in 2009. IU’s curriculum was stronger in Turkish studies, and Wisconsin had the upper hand in terms of Russian curriculum. 

Shardakova said she wants students to know they can start in their first semester of taking a Russian course, and students can get involved in the program as early as they want. 

IU was awarded the flagship due to the 129 students currently enrolled in Russian courses and the overlap of the current curriculum and the flagship curriculum. Holdeman helps fill in any gaps between the flagship program and IU’s current Russian curriculum.

“Most of the curriculum was already in place," Holdeman said. "We learned a lot from when we first applied for the flagship, so I think that made us a very strong candidate in the competition because we already had so many of our courses in place." 

Another facet of the program is the diversity of the fields in which a student can study, Holdeman said. While the program does offer many courses for undergraduates pursuing future government careers, the breadth and depth of the program allows for many professions to be represented.

“We try to offer courses with themes to them," Holdeman said. "We have a course in political Russian, we have another in business Russian.We have one that is Russian for the social sciences, Russian for the arts and humanities.” 

Holdeman said he believes the program will help students try out different subjects and broaden their academic interests.

“Students can come see if Russian is for you, in a very rich environment for students to study Russian,” Holdeman said.

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