How Georgia Tech Foreign Language Education Helped a Georgia Tech Student on the Road to Officership

Posted May 13, 2024

Lt. Joseph Fajloun’s career will be in the air, helping control the flow of battle for the U.S. Air Force. But he knows the power of the humanities will help make him a well-rounded leader. 

 “The humanities are called that for a reason, they make us human,” said Fajloun, who minored in Japanese while completing his mechanical engineering degree ahead of graduating, and being commissioned as an Air Force lieutenant, in May. 

He will work as an air battle manager, an officer tasked with providing U.S. and allied forces with tactical command and control and providing surveillance information about ground and airborne targets. Some also work at the North American Aerospace Defense Command, helping provide homeland air defense. 

While Fajloun values his Georgia Tech engineering education, he credits the language and humanities courses he took in the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts, especially in Japanese, for helping complete him as a whole person. 

“You can be talented in the sciences and engineering, but if you are fulfilled by the arts and humanities, it provides a different level of creativity and makes you a better scientist or engineer,” he said. 

In his case, his experience in the immersive Project GO program for ROTC cadets, a U.S. Department of Defense initiative managed at Georgia Tech by the School of Modern Languages, opened his eyes culturally in ways that even his early years living in his native Lebanon had not. 

“It was the most meaningful and impactful experience. It changed my worldview and gave me a sense of the interconnectivity of cultures, of common humanity, that I hadn’t had before,” he said. 

Additionally, based on his Japanese proficiency, the Air Force selected him for a language-learning program called LEAP designed to “develop cross-culturally competent leaders who can meet Air Force global mission requirements.” 

“The confidence and skill I will gain through this program will undoubtedly help me better support joint operations by bridging cultural and linguistic differences between U.S. and Japanese forces,” Fajloun said. “I’m grateful to the Air Force for the opportunity, and to the School of Modern Languages for helping set the table.” 

Similarly, he credits his training in ROTC — which is hosted at Georgia Tech by the Ivan Allen College — for helping transform himself from a shy, insecure child into a confident, well-prepared future leader. 

“I’ve become more confident, more prepared, and while I still feel fear in some situations, I’ve learned the value of making a decision and committing to it, just pushing forward,” he said. 

In all, he says, it’s a confluence of forces that came from combining his top-notch Georgia engineering education, his ROTC training, and his exposure to the humanities that’s made him into the prepared future leader that he is today. 

“It’s like three legs of a stool. Remove any one and the structure is less sound,” he said.  

Fajloun will soon report to training at Tyndall AFB, Florida. 

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U.S. Air Force Lt. Joseph Fajloun, pictured while still a Georgia Tech ROTC cadet, says his humanities education, especially his studies in Japanese, helped open his eyes to the importance of cultural competency, skills he says will help him in his military career.

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Michael Pearson
Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts