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AddRan College of Liberal Arts


A TCU student practices Chinese script

TCU’s Department of Modern Language Studies received a six-figure grant from the National Security Agency’s (NSA) STARTALK program.   

The STARTALK grant will fund “Pathways to Success: Careers in the Chinese-speaking World.” "Pathways to Success" is a creation of Muriel Cormican, Ph.D., department chair and professor of German, and Guangyan Chen, Ph.D., associate professor of Chinese.

The “Pathways to Success” Chinese program at TCU will be open to TCU first-years and sophomores, as well as secondary school juniors and seniors. Planning and recruiting will begin in the fall of 2021, and the immersion program itself will take place in June of 2022 on the TCU campus.

Muriel Cormican, Ph.D.
Muriel Cormican, Ph.D., chair of Department of Modern Language Studies and professor of German.

“I am elated that Drs. Cormican and Chen won this prestigious grant to increase the number of students enrolled in critical languages. It will go a long way to support the study of Chinese language and culture through immersion,” said Sonja Watson, Ph.D., Dean of the AddRan College of Liberal Arts.

“Moreover, as the program supports Chinese language learning of high school students (juniors and seniors) and first/second-year students at TCU, it will enable faculty experts to enhance the study of Chinese at the secondary level as well,” Watson added.

Reflecting on the success of their submission to the NSA, Cormican said, “I am delighted that the NSA saw our proposal as a promising one. We will be focusing on the practical uses of Chinese in various careers and emphasizing the kind of cultural knowledge that makes non-native speakers effective communicators in the language as it exists in the real world, namely embedded in a culture upon which it depends.”

Guangyan Chen, Ph.D.
Guangyan Chen, Ph.D., associate professor of Chinese

“As a TCU faculty member who teaches Chinese language and culture, I am grateful that we can use this prestigious grant to promote the learning of Chinese language and culture at the kind of advanced levels that cultivate deep cross-cultural understanding,” said Chen.

Funded by the NSA and administered by the National Foreign Language Center at the University of Maryland, the purpose of the STARTALK program is to:

  • Increase the number of students enrolled in the study of critical languages
  • Increase the number of effective critical-language teachers in the U.S.
  • Increase the number of effective materials and curricula available to teachers and students of critical-need languages

Languages identified by STARTALK as critical include Chinese, Arabic, Hindi, Persian, Korean, Russian and Turkish. More information about STARTALK can be found at

Information about the Department of Modern Language Studies can be found at