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$1 million Department of Education grant supports African language and area studies

ATHENS, Ohio (May 25, 2006) ? A U.S. Department of Education grant totaling $1,050,000 will fund African language and area studies for more than 60 Ohio University graduate students over the next four years. Ohio University's African Studies Program was first awarded Title VI funding from the Department of Education for Foreign Language and Area Studies fellowships in 1994. Since then more than 100 Ohio University graduate students have been supported by these fellowships. 

"This award to the African Studies Program means that we can attract greater numbers of American students to learn about this important continent, the continent which is the most misunderstood and the most marginalized," said W. Stephen Howard, director of African Studies and the Institute for the African Child at Ohio University. "It really strengthens graduate education at Ohio University."

According to Howard, the students who receive FLAS funding include recent bachelor's degree graduates who wanted to continue their study after discovering an interest in Africa through a professor. Additionally, the funding supported older students who want academic training to support their practical experience after traveling and working in Africa through such programs as the Peace Corps.

"This is such an interesting group of people," Howard said. "We're particularly excited about students in the health fields who are being attracted to the study of Africa."

In the 2006-07 academic year Ohio University will offer instruction in ten languages: Akan, Amharic, Arabic, Gikuyu, Pulaar, Somali, Sudanese Arabic, Swahili, Tigrinya and Wolof. FLAS fellows are encouraged to take African studies related courses and to be involved in Africa- related programs. Languages offered are selected on the basis of student demand, an understanding of strategic languages, languages of Islamic Africa and languages that are in danger of being supplanted by other languages such as English. Each language is taught by a well-trained native speaker. Instructors have received training as linguists or language teachers in their home countries or through universities and programs in the United States and other countries.

Ohio University is one of only two universities in the state to award FLAS fellowships, but only Ohio University awards the fellowships for African language and area studies. FLAS funding supports the mission of the African Studies program at Ohio University, which is to provide students, scholars and community members opportunities to connect with African cultures through language, education and research. Fellowships carry a stipend of $15,000 for the academic year as well as a tuition and general fees scholarship. These awards not only support students in the African Studies Program but also support students in Biological Sciences, International Development Studies, Film, Communication and Development Studies, Business, Education, History, Public Administration, Anthropology, Environmental Studies, and Telecommunications, among others. Applicants must demonstrate superb academic achievement and a commitment to the study of African languages and area studies.

To be eligible for the FLAS award applicants must hold a bachelor's degree or its equivalent, be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, be enrolled in or admitted to an Ohio University graduate program, and be eligible for an Ohio University tuition scholarship. FLAS funding also supports summer language study for Ohio University students through the Summer Collaborative African Language Institute and language programs on the African continent.

According to Howard, the Department of Education support for National Resource Centers originated in the late 1950s when the U.S. government put new money into strengthening international studies in response to the Soviet launch of the Sputnik satellite. The department's National Resource Center Program provides grants to institutions of higher education to establish, strengthen, and operate comprehensive and undergraduate language and area/international studies centers that will be national resources for teaching of any modern foreign language; instruction in fields needed to provide full understanding of areas, regions or countries in which the language is commonly used; research and training in international studies; language aspects of professional and other fields of study; and instruction and research on issues in world affairs.

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Media Contact: Assistant director of African Studies Acacia Nikoi, (740) 597-1511 or Nikoi@ohio.edu, or Assistant Director for Communications for the Center for International Studies Jennifer Cochran, (740) 593-1842 or cochraj1@ohio.edu 

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