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Russian Flagship Program

About: Overview, The Language Flagship, People

The Russian Flagship Program at Virginia Tech is designed to provide students with the linguistic and cultural tools to achieve professional-level proficiency in Russian and a high degree of cultural competence. Through a combination of coursework, tutoring, co-curricular activities, and study abroad, students develop skills that prepare them for a wide variety of careers in public service and the private sector. Students from all majors are encouraged to apply to the program.

The Russian Flagship Program is funded through a federal grant awarded by The Language Flagship, a component of the National Security Education Program (NSEP) at the U.S. Department of Defense. 

The Language Flagship was formed in 2002, in order to meet the federal government’s needs of creating a pool of highly proficient speakers of critical languages. This initiative now includes 31 Flagship programs at 21 different institutions, providing opportunities for students to study Arabic, Chinese, Korean, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, and Turkish. The Flagship model concentrates on developing students’ language skills and cultural awareness, through rigorous coursework at home and study abroad. Successful graduates are positioned to become global professionals, possessing linguistic skills and cultural proficiency that allow them to meet the challenges of a shifting global economic and political landscape.  


Program: Requirements, Coursework, Scholarships, Tutoring, Study Abroad, Project GO, Co-Curricular Activities, Russian at VT

All Flagship students work with an adviser to plan an individualized course of study that meets the requirements of domestic and overseas study. The curriculum is both rigorous and flexible, incorporating high standards for all students within a framework that allows students from any major to meet course requirements and achieve progressively higher proficiency levels. Some of the fundamental elements of the curriculum are as follows: a learner-centered and proficiency-oriented approach to instruction, carefully designed communicative activities that elicit meaningful language production, incorporation of authentic materials beginning in the elementary classes, and extensive use of appropriate educational technology.

The goal of achieving Advanced proficiency (ILR Level 2) prior to the Capstone year positions students to reach professional-level proficiency by the end of the Capstone (ACTFL Superior/ILR Level 3). 

It is expected that most students will begin the Flagship curriculum with no prior knowledge of Russian, although alternative pathways will be available to heritage learners and students with significant prior academic exposure to Russian. If you fall into either of the latter categories, please contact the Flagship administrators for a diagnostic assessment.

The Flagship curriculum consists of the following courses:

RUS 1114* Accelerated Elementary Russian or RUS 1105-1106 Elementary Russian I and II

RUS 2114* Accelerated Intermediate Russian or RUS 2105-2106 Intermediate Russian I and II

RUS 3105-3106 Russian Grammar/Composition/Conversation I and II

RUS 3124 Russian for Oral Proficiency

RUS 4204** Topics in Russian Culture

RUS 4304** Studies in Russian Literature

Pre-Capstone Seminar

*All Flagship students will be encouraged to take the accelerated elementary and intermediate courses.

**Variable content. May be repeated for credit.

Students should also enroll in at least ONE of the following courses taught in English:

RUS 2734 Introduction to Russian Civilization

RUS 3304 Survey of Nineteenth-Century Russian Literature

RUS 3314 Survey of Twentieth-Century Russian Literature

RUS 3424  Russian Literature in English

In preparation for the Capstone year, all Flagship students will take a course in Kazakh language and culture.

The Language Flagship offers limited funding for summer domestic and overseas study, as well as for the Capstone year. An individual student may receive up to $3500 for summer study in the U.S., $7000 for summer overseas study, and $15,000 for the Capstone year, not to exceed a maximum amount of $20,000 for all scholarship money awarded.

Additional funding is available for ROTC students. The Air Force Foreign Language Flagship Scholarship Program and the Army Foreign Language Flagship Scholarship Program award scholarships to eligible students. The Defense Language and National Security Education Office (DLNSEO) supplements these scholarships with funding for summer intensive language study and the Capstone year.

The tutoring program is an integral element of the Flagship curriculum. At the elementary and intermediate levels, mandatory tutoring groups meet once or twice each week. Flagship students participate in groups with classmates who function at the same proficiency levels. Tutors reinforce the material covered during classroom instruction, in close collaboration with the teaching faculty, through directed exercises and focused support. Tutors also organize language workshops, in which a particular grammar topic (e.g., verbal aspect or verbs of motion) or modality (listening, reading, speaking, writing) is emphasized.

As students draw closer to the Capstone year, mandatory tutoring is intensified. A rigorous schedule of one-on-one tutoring sessions will be introduced, with Flagship students participating up to three hours each week. 

Pre-Capstone study abroad

In order to develop their Russian language proficiency and cultural competence, Flagship students should participate in a summer study abroad program, preferably after completing the 2000-level Russian language coursework.

One option for study abroad is the VT in Latvia program in Daugavpils, Latvia.

This program dovetails closely with Flagship goals and methodologies. Students attend language classes 4-5 hours each day, taught by experienced professionals. They work in small groups of 6-8 students, allowing for considerable individual attention from the instructors and interactions in the target language. VT in Latvia provides a comprehensive cultural program which complements formal language instruction and assists in developing students’ cultural competencies. All students live with Russian-speaking host families, affording them the invaluable experience of communicating in Russian on a daily basis in an informal context. A language pledge requires students to speak Russian at all times during their participation in the program. The total immersion experience of studying abroad supports the academic program and reinforces the language skills acquired in the classroom.

Flagship participants may be assigned to their own academic group, specifically designed to meet their individual needs, with a strong emphasis on improving oral proficiency. In addition, Flagship students may participate in short-term internships in local businesses, educational institutions, and other organizations in Daugavpils. These experiences enhance students’ linguistic and cultural competencies, as well as preparing them for longer, professionally oriented internships during the Capstone year.

VT in Latvia is open to all students who have completed at least one year of Russian language study. ROTC participants are also eligible to apply for Project GO scholarships. Approximately fifteen students annually receive Project GO scholarships to study in Daugavpils.

Other options for summer study abroad include programs administered by American Councils for International Education  and the Council on International Educational Exchange

Russian Overseas Flagship Capstone Year Abroad

Russian Flagship students spend their Capstone year at the Overseas Center in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Depending on a variety of factors, students may choose to participate in the Capstone in their fourth year or elect to take a fifth year to complete this requirement. The Capstone experience includes intensive Russian language study with highly trained teachers and tutors, as well as direct enrollment in courses at Al-Farabi Kazakh National University. In addition, students participate in professional internships related to their interests and career goals. 

Project Global Officer awards scholarships to ROTC students with the goal of improving critical language proficiency, cultural awareness, and regional knowledge among the next generation of military leaders. Project GO and the Language Flagship share similar commitments to proficiency-oriented teaching, maximum exposure to the target language, and the goal of achieving high-level language skills and cultural competence among students who plan careers in public service. All Virginia Tech Flagship students who are eligible to participate in Project GO will be encouraged to do so, either through the VT in Latvia program or another Project GO location.

Please visit the Virtual Study Abroad Booth that introduces our program and Daugavpils in a compact and entertaining way featuring videos, narrated presentations, maps, student testimonials, and downloadable materials.

Virtual Study Abroad Booth Link:

Co-curricular activities form a significant element of the Flagship program. The experiential learning involved both supplements and complements the formal academic curriculum, as students apply their linguistic and cultural competencies in a context beyond the classroom, as well as absorbing new substantive material. Activities include immersion events, guest lectures, film series, and a scholar/artist-in-residence program. Flagship students are encouraged to participate in as many co-curricular events as possible.

The Russian major or minor focuses on the history, culture, politics, and language of one of the world’s largest countries. The program offers winter and summer opportunities to study in Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russia. 

Prospective Students: Admissions, Request Information


For further information, please feel free to contact Dr. Robert Efird ( or Dr. Kirsten Rutsala (

Current Students: Advising, Proficiency Assessments, Important Dates and Deadlines


Flagship students are expected to undergo regular assessments of their oral proficiency, through a combination of in-person oral proficiency interviews (OPIs) with trained members of the faculty and a computer-based OPI model. The skills of listening, reading, and writing are also assessed on a regular basis. Students must meet specific benchmarks to remain in the Flagship program.


News and Events: News, Calendar of Events