First and only

The rapid growth of the Brazilian economy has caused demand for Portuguese speakers to surge, and a grant from the federal National Security Education Program will establish the nation’s first and only Undergraduate Flagship Program in Portuguese at the University of Georgia.

Congress established NSEP in 1991 to increase the ability of Americans to communicate and compete globally by knowing languages and cultures of other countries. The renewable grant brings more than $225,000 to UGA in the first year and is expected to provide more than $1 million, pending Congressional approval, during the first full grant cycle.

The Flagship Program, which is open to students from any major seeking to internationalize their education, will offer intensive language instruction that includes one-on-one tutorials and innovative curriculum, such as regular communication via Skype with partners in Brazil’s São Paulo State University. Flagship students also will spend a year in Brazil, where they will reach professional-level Portuguese proficiency through language and content courses as well as an internship.

“The Flagship program will create a unique opportunity for UGA students to not only reach a superior level of Portuguese, but also apply those language skills in rigorous academic and professional contexts,” said Flagship director Robert Moser, associate professor of Portuguese in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.

Brazil has the largest economy in Latin America, and just this year, it ranked as having the world’s fifth largest economy, putting it ahead of France and Britain, according to Goldman Sachs. Brazil also was recently selected to host the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Although Portuguese currently is the seventh most spoken language in the world, very few U.S. high schools and only a select number of university programs offer instruction in the language.

The Flagship Program, which builds on a Portuguese program at UGA that already is the fourth largest in the nation, will increase the number of UGA students who graduate with a high level of proficiency in the language. The Flagship Program is designed so that students from as many majors as possible will be able to complete their degree on time while also fulfilling the requirements of a Flagship certificate. Flagship Programs have been launched across the nation in Chinese, Russian, Swahili, Turkish and other languages considered vital to national security and to the challenges of a global society, such as environmental degradation, global disease and hunger, and economic pressures.

The first cohort of students will be admitted into the UGA program in January 2012. Successful applicants, for which scholarships may be available, will demonstrate a commitment to achieving a high level of proficiency in Portuguese and devoting a year to study abroad in Brazil. Student inquiries should be directed to Kathleen Schmaltz at or 706/583-0388.

Moser notes that acquiring the award, one of the largest federal grants ever given to Portuguese instruction, was a joint effort between the department of Romance languages and the university’s Latin American and Caribbean Studies Institute. Moser credits key individuals from the Portuguese program, including Susan Quinlan and Amélia Hutchinson; Romance languages faculty, including Margaret Quesada; LACSI staff; personnel from the Office of International Education; and Larry Morris, a professor from the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, with contributing to the success of the proposal.

“The need for more Portuguese speakers in the U.S. is greater than ever,” Moser said, “and we are fortunate to have such a broad interest in Portuguese and Brazilian studies here at UGA.”