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Western Kentucky University

STEM + Critical Languages

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2014/2015 CALENDAR 


Oct. 31-Nov. 2, 2014
Closed Weekend

Nov. 26-Dec. 2, 2014
Thanksgiving Break

December 8-12, 2014
Finals Week

Dec. 12, 2014 – Jan. 5, 2015
Winter Break

January 24, 2015
Final Preview Day

February 1, 2015
Application Due Date

February 28, 2015
Interview Day

STEM + Critical Languages

STEM + Chinese and STEM + Arabic

Our Program

The Gatton Academy introduced its STEM + Critical Language track in fall 2012 with STEM + Chinese.  As WKU's offerings in Arabic grew, the Academy added a STEM + Arabic track in fall 2013.  Critical languages are those recognized by the U.S. Department of State as being not commonly taught in the USA, but of vital importance for national economic and security interests.  The Gatton Academy strives to prepare each of our students with a strong science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) background, fields that themselves are also of vital importance for technological and economic development.  By coupling STEM study with a critical language, we believe that we can educate a generation of students to accelerate towards internationally-focused careers that of in high demand. 

During the academic year, STEM + students' classroom learning is supplemented with monthly STEM + Talks, a gathering of students in a seminar-style setting.  Topics rotate around scholarship and travel opportunities, as well as cultural activities.  For students in the STEM + tracks, the Academy encourages applications to the National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) scholarship program for summer experiential learning.  Other study abroad opportunities are also encouraged. 

While the emphasis of STEM + Critical Language students' curriculum remains within the same STEM-areas the Gatton Academy requires for all students, STEM + students are offered leeway on only needing one STEM elective (rather than the usual three); the third and fourth level language courses that a STEM + Critical Language student takes replaces their other two STEM electives.

Students who do a STEM + Critical Language track are not allowed to do research their first semester.  However, afterwards, they are invited to do research and STEM + simultaneously if they wish.  The main goal is not to overload students during their first semester, since the language learning is seen as a heavy addition to our already rigorous courses and the students' adjustment process to Academy life.  Being in our STEM + program is recognized by the Gatton Academy as an equivalent academic additive as our research program.  Therefore, students who are in one of the STEM + Critical Language tracks do not have to do research or have a research outcome to qualify for Honors or Honors with Distinction designations at Gatton Academy graduation.


Getting Admitted

After admission to the Gatton Academy, our new students are offered the chance to apply separately to one of the language-learning tracks.  The online application is open for a few weeks in March and April each spring.  STEM + students in both language tracks then supplement their STEM-learning by studying either Chinese or Arabic.  They take a language course of increasing rigor each semester for a total of at least four levels by the time of their Gatton Academy graduation.  Students begin at the university's Modern Language department 101: Honors level (or at appropriate placement levels for students who have previously studied in their language track).  See below for sample language progression pathways.


Sample Language Tracks for Beginners

STEM + Chinese


  • Semester 1:  Honors Elementary Chinese I (CHIN 101)
  • Semester 2:  Honors Elementary Chinese II (CHIN 102)
  • Semester 3:  Intermediate Chinese I (CHIN 201)
  • Semester 4:  Intermediate Chinese II (CHNF 202)

Option 2 (for language learners who want to accelerate their language acquisition):

Students in the STEM + Chinese track have the option to switch to more demanding WKU Chinese Flagship (a program sponsored by the National Security Education Program) courses after their first year of study.  Students in this track are invited to apply for continued study in WKU Chinese Flagship if they wish to continue studies at WKU and become Superior-level speakers.

  • Semester 1:  Honors Elementary Chinese I (CHIN 101)
  • Semester 2:  Honors Elementary Chinese II (CHIN 102)
  • Semester 3:  Honors: Intensive Elementary Chinese II (CHNF 102)
  • Semester 4:  Honors: Intensive Elementary Chinese I (CHNF 201)


STEM + Arabic

  • Semester 1:  Honors Elementary Arabic I (ARBC 101)
  • Semester 2:  Honors Elementary Arabic II (ARBC 102) 
  • Semester 3:  Intermediate Arabic I (ARBC 201)
  • Semester 4:  Intermediate Arabic II (ARBC 202)

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 Last Modified 10/15/14