The School of International Letters and Cultures welcomes new faculty members



August 16, 2021

Five new faculty members joined the School of Letters and International Cultures this fall, bringing their expertise on a range of topics including Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese and American Sign Language.

Meet the new faculty members of the school:

An Nguyen Sakach, speaker, Vietnamese
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An Nguyen Sakach, speaker

Sakach joins the school as a Vietnamese teacher. Prior to joining the School of International Letters and Cultures, Sakach was an instructor at the University of Northern Arizona in the Intensive English Program and Target Language Examiner (Vietnamese) at the University of Maryland in the National Foreign Language Center. Sakach’s training is in linguistics and applied linguistics. She received a BA in Linguistics in Vietnam and an MA in Applied Linguistics from Ohio University.

“My research has focused on second-language speaking, ancestral language learners, bilingualism and the development of Vietnamese curricula. I am also a learner of several Southeast Asian languages ​​and have a passion for tonal languages, ”said Sakach.

“One of my favorite memories from my college career was when a classmate in a graduate program and I was discussing our pronunciation research projects. We were in a study room on Level 1 of the Ohio University Library, where we could find a wonderful collection of Southeast Asian studies. We both had the same interest in Southeast Asian languages, especially learning and teaching pronunciation. The discussion continued with a lot of “I don’t know” and we had no idea we would become life partners a year later. “

She loves how the warmth and beauty of the valley makes her appreciate the water, trees and shadows of the Sonoran Desert.

American Sign Language (ASL)

Austin Cary, Instructor, American Sign Language (ASL)

Austin Cary, Instructor, American Sign Language

Austin Cary, instructor

Cary joins the school as an American Sign Language instructor. Prior to coming to ASU, Cary was an elementary school teacher for the California School for the Deaf in Riverside, California, and a part-time ASL instructor for Santa Ana College and San Bernardino Valley College. He holds a BA in Liberal Studies and an MA in Leadership in Higher Education and Student Development from California Baptist University, with research focused on deaf and hard of hearing students.

During his college career, Cary went above and beyond for his students, incorporating several ASL activities and games to keep students engaged and have the most fun in the classroom.

“I like to use a series of images of well-known characters and have a student come to the foreground to do their best to play that character without using words and have the audience guess who the character is,” said Cary.

Currently, his hobby is cycling, and he completed a 70 mile race in Paso Robles, Calif., This year. He also enjoys scuba diving, spearfishing and hiking: “One of my best trips was when I climbed to the top of White Mountain Peak.”

Ronda Moriarty, trainer, American Sign Language (ASL)

Ronda Moriarty, teacher, American Sign Language

Ronda Moriarty, instructor

Moriarty joins the school as an American Sign Language instructor. She holds a doctorate in physiotherapy and has been teaching ASL and deaf culture for over 10 years. She was an Assistant Professor at ASU for several years and taught all levels of ASL at Mesa Community College, Phoenix College, Estrella Mountain Community College, and Glendale Community College.

“I love volunteering because I have volunteered for Ahwatukee Children’s Theater every year to teach children aged 5-18 years old ASL songs so that they can use sign language in their lessons. stage performance, ”said Moriarty. “I run seminars for parents of deaf children to educate them on what they can do to improve their children’s future, and I volunteer with the Community Health Mentorship Program for NAU, ASU and the University of Arizona for a group of interprofessional health care students Teaching is my passion Every year I have the chance to meet so many wonderful students from all walks of life I hope to make an impact and inspire them to be the best at whatever they choose to do. Each of these students brings joy to my classroom, and these are my favorite memories. “

Moriarty’s experience goes beyond the classroom. She worked as an ASL master for a Netflix series to improve understanding of deaf culture and etiquette, working with actors, writers and producers, teaching them sign language.

Outside of work, Moriarty enjoys spending time with his wife and three dogs and enjoys traveling. “I love to travel to Europe, but my next big trip is to South Africa,” she said.


Sean McKinnon, instructor, Spanish

Sean McKinnon, instructor, Spanish

Sean McKinnon, instructor

McKinnon joins the school as a Spanish teacher. Prior to ASU, McKinnon was a guest lecturer in the Spanish and Portuguese Department at Indiana University at Bloomington.

McKinnon holds a BA in Psychology and Spanish from Ohio State University, an MA in Theoretical and Applied Linguistics from Pompeu Fabra University (Barcelona, ​​Spain), and a PhD in Hispanic Linguistics from the Indiana University.

His research focuses on linguistic variation and change in bilingual communities across the Spanish-speaking world, specifically examining how bilingualism influences the grammar and pronunciation of both languages, and how different social factors are involved in these linguistic changes. He has carried out research on Spanish in contact with Catalan in Spain and Spanish in contact with English in the United States, but his main research focus is on Spanish in contact with Kaqchikel Maya in Guatemala.

One of his favorite memories is when he did his doctoral thesis in Guatemala.

“In order to study bilingual grammar and pronunciation, I recorded sample speeches from my participants, so I asked them about their lives. I was touched by the very personal stories they would share with me and by everything I learned about how their individual experiences fit into the history, customs and traditions of Guatemala ”, a McKinnon said.

Beyond the classroom, McKinnon enjoys cooking new recipes, improving lifts at the gym, and spending time with his dog, Dexter.

“We can’t wait to be more outdoors and explore all of the hikes, trails and parks Arizona has to offer,” he said.


Nicholas Williams, Associate Professor, Chinese

Nicholas Williams, Associate Professor, Chinese

Nicholas Williams, Associate Professor

Williams joins the school as an associate professor of Chinese. Prior to joining ASU, Williams was an Associate Professor at the University of Hong Kong in the School of Chinese.

Williams was a college math student when his interest in Chinese literature was first sparked.

“Over the years my interests have changed somewhat, but the theme has always been how Chinese literary forms, especially poetry, are used to represent different sensibilities and worldviews. Recently, I spent quite a bit of time working on the anthology called “Chuci” or “Elegies of Chu,” which highlights the magical and mystical side of ancient China, ”said Williams.

He eventually obtained a doctorate from the Department of Asian Languages ​​and Literatures at the University of Washington.

“Most of my research is on literary works that aren’t exactly recent – the ‘Chuci’ poems are mostly over 2,000 years old,” Williams said. “But because Chinese writers have continued to reuse literary forms, devices, and images, even new 21st century poems can be written in the same tradition. Although I study classical Chinese literature, I also have translated a volume of poetry in the classical style by a great thinker named Jao Tsung-i, who died only in 2018. Meeting him in person while I was translating his very archaic -the pretend poems were an unforeseen delight of my career so far.

Outside of the classroom, Williams enjoys jogging outside, even in the Arizona summer.


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