Flagship Benefits & Requirements
Flagship is a federally-funded, selective program with the goal of bringing students to a professional level of proficiency in Mandarin Chinese and the cultural competency to match. This funding will provide you with a long list of benefits otherwise unavailable to most college students studying a foreign language; however, there are a number of requirements associated with being a Flagship student–requirements that can sometimes seem extreme if you do not have a clear picture of the program’s goals.
Flagship provides funding so that its students can succeed, but on a meta level, its goal is to influence a paradigm shift in the way foreign languages are viewed, taught and assessed by the general American public. They are not requiring you, as an immediate beneficiary of their funds, to return the favor by working in the Department of Defense, or in any part of the federal government. They do, however, expect you to graduate from university as a prototypical “certified Flagship alum.” As public and private employers become familiar with what a certified Flagship alum can do, Flagship believes that expectations will rise to meet this new supply of highly capable employees. This in turn will eventually influence the entire American education system to mimic the Flagship approach and eventually lead to a much larger, more qualified pool of applicants to government posts that need their skills the most.
With that in mind, we strongly encourage you to look carefully over both the benefits and requirements of our Flagship program before committing.
Here is a list of the tangible, and some intangible, benefits you will receive as a Flagship student.
- Very small class sizes (usually 5-10 students per section)
- Scholarships toward our pre-freshman summer, two required summers abroad, and for Capstone year (see the “Program Costs and Scholarships” section below for details)
- Individual tutoring sessions every semester on campus
- A dedicated faculty with as much stake in your success as you have (as measured by proficiency outcomes and program completion)
- A sense of community fostered by
- the extensive amount of time you will spend with your classmates and teachers
- the continuity of teachers and classmates (You will go through each stage of the program as a single cohort and will have the same teacher, usually for an entire year. The resident director at the Shanghai summer program will also be one of your teachers.)
- the use of upperclassmen as tutors for underclassmen, including during the pre-freshman summer (older students are tutored by graduate students from China)
- program-organized cultural events, such as the Chinese Moon Festival and Chinese New Year, in which all Flagship students participate and are assigned roles
- Individual meetings with instructors that occur on a regular basis
- Advising sessions with the program director
- Frequent proficiency checks, often in the form of internationally-recognized exams, such as the OPI, which would otherwise cost students hundreds of dollars over the course of their college careers
- Integration into Chinese academic and professional life through Capstone (internships, for example, are a rare occurrence in China,
and most companies would not place a non-native speaker in a role that required their full involvement in daily operations, using Chinese most, or all, of the time)
- Unprecedented proficiency outcomes, largely due to
- Having exclusive courses with students equally willing to dedicate great amounts of time and energy to preparing for and performing in class
- Having a curriculum that fits 8 years’ worth of intensive curriculum into 5. By the time you finish your sophomore year, you will have covered as much coursework as most traditional programs can cover in 4. The fact that you are studying intensively means that your proficiency level will likely be higher as well (almost all of our sophomores score Advanced Low or Mid on their spring OPI’s)
- High cultural competence from years of exposure to a hierarchical Chinese organizational unit (namely, our program, where our program director is at the top, our instructors are in the middle, and you are at the bottom), and of course, to extensive time abroad.
Special Note for Students Interested in Intel / Government Agencies
Ole Miss is an especially good place to prepare for a career with a three-letter agency. Combinations like Chinese Flagship & ISS, and in many cases, Honors, Croft, Flagship, and ISS. Needless to say, these agencies see the value as well, and many students begin doing internships and talking to recruiters as early as freshman year.
With very few exceptions, Flagship makes you a much more sought-after candidate for these agencies, and your travel abroad is an added benefit to them and you.
HOWEVER, to have a successful career, keep your options open, and maintain your commitment to completing Flagship (including Capstone), as is required to stay in Flagship, you will need to preparing for future job applications, security checks, etc. Being a Flagship student will provide you with excellent opportunities in the long run, but you may have to make some short-term sacrifices. It will be harder to land an internship during college with a federal agency when you travel abroad so often (this extends the length of a security clearance). You can still find intel-related internships that will serve your resumé well, but they probably will not require a clearance. You will also need to plan on graduate school, while you await a clearance to go through after landing a highly coveted job. Yes, a number of our students have dropped out, usually as upper-classmen, because they received job offers in intel. We are happy for such students, although in most cases, we believe they would have more and more interesting opportunities in the long run if they were to complete Flagship and wait out the clearance. After all, language ability and overseas experiences are priceless. They are also much more difficult to come by one you enter the working world.
Here is a list of Flagship requirements, most of which are not typical for an independent college student studying a foreign language.
- Entering the program at the most appropriate level as determined by our director (beginners must start in the summer; if they cannot, they must take the first year of instruction during freshman year and re-apply to Flagship; those with experience must take a placement exam and begin where the director deems most suitable for them and for the program. Students have some say in this process, but far less than they might expect)
- Completing all stages of the curriculum, including summer programming overseas. These stages are designed to keep a student’s proficiency advancing at the pace necessary to keep up with the entire class and to insure that each student has the requisite course content and proficiency scores to apply successfully to Capstone.
Note: With approval from our director, students may replace the second summer abroad with a semester abroad. This may be advantageous or necessary for certain types of programs or majors. Army ROTC, for example, prefers that students not be abroad in the summer after sophomore year. Spending spring of sophomore year abroad can raise a student’s proficiency enough to skip the summer and still start fall of junior year on the same level as the cohort. Students who must complete an internship in the summer after sophomore year (sometimes required of Security Studies or CME students), may also want/need to spend spring of sophomore year abroad. For some students, it may be better/easier to spend fall of junior year abroad instead. Spring of junior year is by far the most popular time for college students to go abroad, but in Flagship, this only works if a student has already completed a second summer abroad (or if the student placed into a higher cohort when starting college). Any plans to deviate from the usual flagship curriculum and scheduling should be discussed with, and approved by, the director, ideally 12 or more months in advance.
- Commitment to Capstone
Some upperclassmen begin to realize how marketable they already are with their language skills and experience in China and start to wonder whether Capstone is worth the extra time and money. It is important that they remember that the Capstone experience is not necessarily designed to help them land their first job; it is far more beneficial in most cases, for career advancement when they reach a higher level of expertise in their fields, at which point they can interact with their Chinese counterparts in representing their company, agency, etc. Successful Flagship student must maintain a long-range view of their professional lives in order to remain excited about the amount of time and effort they must dedicate to their linguistic and cultural development.Note: a student must remain committed to attending Capstone in order to maintain Flagship standing. If a student opts not to complete a required phase in our curriculum (such as a summer abroad or an upper level course), the program will assume that the student will not advance enough linguistically to hit the next proficiency benchmark and will be barred from taking any Flagship courses. If a student indicates verbally or in writing that he/she does not intend to go to Capstone, he/she will likewise lose Flagship status and access to Flagship courses. On occasion, a student may be required by the director to move mid-semester from a Flagship course to a non-Flagship course. If at any time you begin to have questions about whether Capstone is a viable option for you (based on a change in your career plans, for example, it is best to come express your situation and concerns with program staff rather than to announce that you will not attend Capstone, OR to remain quiet about it until it’s too late. Some students have lost out on great opportunities or lost out on completing the Chinese major because they made a decision based on their own assumptions without consulting program staff who are far more knowledgeable on alternate pathways).
- Making room in each semester’s schedule for Chinese Flagship coursework. Most students are double-majors, and the program strongly encourages this, making special accommodations when possible to allow students to complete all requirements for each; however, if our director determines that a certain course is necessary for a student to hit our proficiency benchmarks, a student must adjust his/her schedule accordingly or risk removal from the program.
Note: students who fall significantly behind the proficiency benchmark for a given course may be denied access to the course, thereby losing their Flagship status until they catch up, which would probably require that they study abroad for a semester (assuming the program director believes that they can and that there is still time for them to get back on track for Capstone)
- Cooperating with course section assignments. This will be discussed in more detail elsewhere from a cultural standpoint. Students may be manually assigned to the Chinese Flagship course section that is most beneficial to the entire group. The program will avoid as much as possible any course conflicts with essential courses for their major(s), but students are NOT guaranteed to be in their preferred section if it is not necessary and not beneficial to the program.
- Abiding by a strict attendance and participation policy. Attendance is extremely important for the success of a language learner for obvious practical reasons. Beyond this, attending class and arriving on time are even more essential to a student who wishes to succeed in a Chinese cultural environment while in college and in the work force. We have an unforgiving attendance policy that automatically fails a student for missing more than the maximum number of class sessions. With or without doctor's notes or other documentation, a student can lose their Flagship standing, simply because they do not have the proficiency necessary to succeed in the course or to allow the class to move forward at full speed.Tardies, while a common occurrence amongst American college students, are considered highly inappropriate of Flagship students. Being late is considered extremely rude in Chinese culture and therefore will be viewed very unfavorably by our teaching staff. Students may not be removed from the program for this (at least during the regular semester) but if students need special consideration or recommendation from our teaching team, they probably will not get it. If students are late to organized events, especially those that involve travel, while at our Shanghai summer program, they can be sent home and lose their Flagship standing. Important advice: inform your teachers when you will be late or will miss class. This may seem impractical, especially when you are just a few minutes away, or when you are sick in bed. Culture does not always favor what is most practical, at least on the surface level. When a student misses class, Chinese teachers worry. They worry about the student's well-being and the loss of proficiency, but they also begin to doubt a student's dedication. When a student writes or texts them appropriately, these concerns are addressed. The teacher can stop worrying, and the student's reputation is left untarnished. One important additional level is that a teacher must always be ready to give an account of his/her students to the director. If the student leaves the teacher in the dark, that teacher risks a loss of face. Whether you realize how important it is or not, if you don't communicate, you not only stand to lose credibility with your teachers, but you also put their own credibility in jeopardy.
- Conveying a positive, fully-dedicated attitude toward Flagship and Flagship coursework. In Western culture, we tend to let results speak for themselves. If I am a student who consistently demonstrates a greater knowledge base command of target concepts than my classmates, and if I usually earn A's on tests, quizzes, and homework, I would normally assume that my teachers are happy with me. If I maintain strong grades but shift my focus to other courses, where I am less confident, or if I sign up for more classes to push myself, finish extra majors/minors, or finish college faster, my teachers should be respectful of me as an individual, trying to make the most of my life. In Chinese culture, however, the attitude I convey is often more important than my performance.There can often be a disparity between how a student feels and how the faculty assess his/her performance. Students must develop instincts for how they are viewed and how they can influence Chinese people's view of them. The goal is to eventually be able to anticipate how someone would view certain decisions/behaviors and adjust accordingly. This understandably takes several semesters or longer to develop. From the start, however, students must make sure that they are always giving them impression that they are fully prepared for class and fully engaged to learn. For some students, it seems unrealistic for their teachers to expect this of them, and it can even feel dishonest for them to have to act in ways they don't necessarily feel every single day. Simply put, this is Chinese culture. It's like asking, "how are you?" to someone, not because you want a literal answer but because you want to make sure that person knows that you care about them. You're being sincere, but not necessarily at the surface level. To show your teachers you value the hard work they put into each day's lesson, or more realistically, to make sure they do not assume that you don't value their efforts, you must actively manage the level of dedication and enthusiasm you convey through your preparation, your body language, your penmanship, your formulation of questions, comments, and requests, etc.
- Responding positively to setbacks and correction. Clearly, mastering the cultural expectations of the Flagship program is achieved through some trial and error. There will be tense, confusing, frustrating moments for almost every student. Most of the time, when students commits cultural errors, it is entirely unintentional. They are often taken aback by the reaction they get from their teachers or from the director. In the same way that Flagship classrooms are a linguistic immersion experience, where students are treated as if they speak Chinese, and very little English is ever spoken, teachers do not "break character" to address a cultural problem. Instead, students are treated in a very similar fashion to how native Chinese college students might be treated if they were to commit the same misstep. It is important for students to appreciate this sometimes harsh treatment and to adapt as quickly as possible.One common mistake is for American student to give a detailed, rational, objective explanation of their thought process and/or how the situation turned out the way it did. The reality is that, in a collective society like China's, the primary focus is on the group. Changing that focus to yourself, especially when the focus had to be unduly drawn to you when you disrupted the smooth forward progress of the class or inconvenience the teacher in some way, is like adding insult to injury. The best response is usually to apologize as sincerely as possible and then to wait for the next opportunity to prove your dedication and newfound cultural knowledge. This approach comes more easily to some students than others, but ultimately, to succeed in Chinese society, it is a universal requirement.
Is Flagship right for me?
The section above is not designed to scare students off and pare down our program size. We have plenty of capacity and would happily double our numbers if we could. We mainly want to provide you with the most thorough and realistic understanding of our program so that you will know what it means to be a Flagship student. If after reading both the benefits and requirements of a Flagship student you remain excited about what you will achieve, the answer is obvious. If you are concerned about the extra financial, practical, or cultural burdens inherent to being in the program, our advice to you would be to discuss it further. We are happy to answer any questions you have, but to get a sense of what it’s truly like to be a Flagship student, you should absolutely make sure you speak with multiple students. Our students are at the ready to talk to you about the things they love about Flagship, but also the things that might be seen as “necessary evils” (there are no shortcuts to true language mastery).
If you already know from prior experience that giving up your individualism, making sacrifices for the group, or just waking up early and/or being on time to class would be a major obstacle for you, then we hope this information will give you more confidence about walking away from what would otherwise be a great opportunity.
Financial considerations: We wish it were not so, but even with substantial program scholarships, many families may still find Flagship to be a costly investment. Each student/family will have to decide whether the program is feasible for them, with or without getting a part-time job or taking out loans, join a scholarship-granting program, like ROTC, etc. If you are eligible for federal financial aid based on financial need (i.e., a Pell grant), we are often able to provide enough financial assistance and/or help you locate the resources you need to afford our required study abroad.
Alternatives: What if I decide later to drop Flagship?
Some students rule themselves out too early, often thinking that, with the other majors and/or special programs they are pursuing, they won’t have time for Flagship. Sometimes they can join late, but they almost always wish they had given it a shot from the start. The inverse, of course, is also true, and it’s very hard to predict who might decide that Flagship no longer coincides with their long-term goals. Except in cases of gross misconduct, we remain supportive of all students, even if they switch to the non-Flagship Chinese track or even to an entirely different language or major.
It is important that you know from day 1, however, how you complete the major or minor, either as a Flagship or non-Flagship student.
You will find full details of the Chinese language major in the Course Catalog, and a detailed description of how to pursue that major in the “Chinese Major (non-Flagship)” section of our web page Majoring, Minoring, and Choosing Chinese Courses at UM.
The most important thing to note is that no Chinese courses count toward the major until the 300 level. Flagship classes are almost all 5 credits per semester, while non-Flagship courses are usually 3. This means that, without studying abroad, non-Flagship students only complete 12 to 15 credits toward the major or minor by the time they graduate (15 are required for the minor and 30 for the major). This means that, even if you are not in Flagship, you will need to study abroad to complete the major.
Also note that our non-Flagship courses move at a much slower pace than our Flagship courses. You should take into consideration both what you want to ultimately achieve by studying Chinese and also how important the major or minor are to you before making a final decision. If you find yourself uncertain about what to do, we can help you go over your options.