UTA wins NSA Grant to Offer Free Critical Language Programs to DFW Students

Thursday, Feb 27, 2020


Arlington, Texas: On Monday, February 17 the National Security Agency and the National Foreign Language Center at the University of Maryland named Dr. Iya Price, Senior Lecturer and Coordinator of Russian at The University of Texas at Arlington, a recipient of the agency’s STARTALK grant. The $89,980 grant will fund STARTALK 2020: Let’s Go to Russia/the Middle East, an intensive critical language program open to undergraduates and upper-level high school students at no cost.

Under the direction of Dr. Price the program will offer two language tracks, Russian, led by Dr. Lonny Harrison and Arabic, led by Ms. Reem Shishakly. The National Security Agency and U.S. Department of State define Russian and Arabic as critical need languages - less commonly taught in U.S. schools, but essential to America’s positive engagement with the world. The federal government offers many funding and scholarship opportunities to strengthen critical-language proficiency in the United States. Programs like these play “an important role in preparing U.S. students for the 21st century globalized workforce, increasing American competitiveness, and contributing to national security,” according to the U.S. Department of State website.

“STARTALK funding gives students an opportunity to get their feet wet in studying a less commonly taught language at no expense. They can see if this is something they want to pursue further,” said Dr. Iya Price. “Studying critical languages can open doors to various jobs in intelligence and security.”

Upon successful completion of the program, students will achieve a high novice or low intermediate level of Russian or Arabic language proficiency and have a basic understanding of Russian or Arab culture. Students who wish to continue their language studies at UTA will be eligible to earn up to eight university credit hours at no expense.

“This program helps us to fulfill the mission of the university as a public-serving institution,” says Dr. Sonia Kania, Chair of the Department of Modern Languages.

“Students are given a unique opportunity to achieve novice to intermediate proficiency in a very short period of time, and our faculty are able to bring their expertise in Russian and Arabic language and culture to a group of students who may otherwise have never been exposed to the language. The impact is significant.”

This summer’s STARTALK course dates are June 2-27, Monday through Friday from 9am-3pm. All program activities including tuition, textbooks, learning materials, and lunches are free to students. Those who are interested must apply by May 1, 2020 and will be informed of their acceptance no later than May 15, 2020. The number of program participants is limited to 30 students per language. For more information and to apply visit here.

About STARTALK: STARTALK is a federal grant program funded by the National Security Agency and administered by the National Foreign Language Center at the University of Maryland. STARTALK grants fund summer world language learning programs as well as professional development programs for world language teachers. STARTALK grants support programs for students and teachers of eight critical need languages: Arabic, Chinese, Hindi, Korean, Persian, Russian, Turkish, and Urdu.

Through these programs, the STARTALK program seeks to achieve three goals:

  1. Increase the number of students enrolled in the study of critical languages
  2. Increase the number of highly effective critical-language teachers in the S.
  3. Increase the number of highly effective materials and curricula available to teachers and students of critical-need languages.

About UTA’s Department of Modern Languages: The Department of Modern Languages offers interdisciplinary language and culture classes in American Sign Language, Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Korean, Russian, and Spanish. Our students are multilingual, culturally-conscious scholars with interests in business, health services, education, government, translation and interpreting, cultural heritage and more. Our graduates enter the 21st-century global workforce as top candidates with a competitive edge due to their language and cultural skills.