Mississippi Air Force ROTC student cadets complete prestigious development program

Published 8:48 pm Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Students in The University of Southern Mississippi’s (USM) Air Force ROTC program, Ashleigh Allen and Grant Matheny, were selected to participate in Project Global Officer (Project GO) — an intensive language instruction and cultural immersion program.

Project GO is a nationwide program offering fully funded scholarships for language education, domestic or study-abroad, and cross-cultural experiences to prepare cadets for effective leadership positions. This initiative is sponsored by the Defense Language and National Security Education Office and administered by the Institute of International Education.

Ashleigh Allen, a native of Sarasota, Fla. majoring in kinesiology with a minor in mathematics and aerospace studies, completed an intensive beginner training in Russian at the University of Pittsburgh’s Summer Language Institute (SLI). It was an eight-week intensive course that helped her gain one-year of proficiency in the Russian language.

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“I was very fortunate to be accepted into SLI at the University of Pittsburgh with Project GO because I not only had the opportunity to learn Russian, but I also had the chance to learn about many cultures and languages; I had friends learning all kinds of languages, such as Ukrainian, Turkish, and Polish,” said Allen.

Allen highlights that the Project GO program includes rigorous language instruction and cultural events that foster a vibrant multicultural community.

“Every week on Fridays, we would meet after class for cultural picnics, which gave students exposure to many cultures and people. Throughout the week, we spent seven hours Monday through Friday learning Russian, so having cultural, language-based events made the program enjoyable,” Allen continued.

Allen emphasizes the dedication required for success, yet highlights the remarkable progress achieved in just eight weeks. Beyond the academic growth, Project GO offers a unique opportunity to form lasting friendships and create cherished memories.

“This was a very intensive program and involved a lot of dedication. However, it was so rewarding to see the progress I made in eight weeks. Additionally, I met wonderful friends and made the best memories in Pittsburgh. Hands-down, I recommend this program to anyone who is interested in learning a different language and about other cultures.”

This opportunity will benefit Allen’s future career endeavors, as she aspires to become a physical therapist in the U.S. Air Force.

“Since I want to be a physical therapist in the U.S. Air Force, I will be working domestically, and even internationally, with patients. Being able to communicate with a variety of people will make it easier for me to perform my job.”

Grant Matheny, a native of Columbia, Miss. and a student at Pearl River Community College (PRCC) majoring in the arts and humanities pathway with a concentration on mass communication, completed an intensive beginner training in Mandarin at The Citadel in Charleston, S.C. Matheny plans to transfer from PRCC to USM, and will pursue a major in digital journalism with a minor in aerospace studies.

“Learning Mandarin was challenging at times, but it is a beautiful language and definitely worth it,” said Matheny. “Participating in this program has broadened my knowledge of other cultures, helping me to be a more diverse leader and better understand the people I work alongside with.”

As an aspiring officer and pilot in the U.S. Air Force, Matheny recognizes the significant advantages and benefits that being proficient in Mandarin can bring to his future military career.

“My career goal is to become a pilot in the U.S. Air Force. There are many ways that I will benefit from this program as an officer, aside from being able to communicate with others that speak Mandarin,” Matheny continued.

“I recommend this program to other cadets who wish to seek opportunities for personal and professional growth.”

The cadets found out about this immersion program through an information session hosted by USM’s Air Force ROTC and its director Lt Col Sheena Puleali’i. At the info session, they learned all about the application process, the languages they could study, and the benefits of pursuing language learning.