School of International Letters and Cultures welcomes new faculty members

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

Meet the school's new faculty members:

Vietnamese

An Nguyen Sakach, lecturer

Sakach joins the school as a lecturer of Vietnamese. Prior to joining the School of International Letters and Cultures, Sakach was an instructor at Northern Arizona University in the Program of Intensive English, and target language reviewer (Vietnamese) at the University of Maryland in the National Foreign Language Center. Sakach's educational background is in linguistics and applied linguistics. She received a bachelor’s degree in linguistics in Vietnam and a master’s degree in applied linguistics from Ohio University. 

“My research has been on second language speech, heritage language learners, bilingualism and Vietnamese curriculum development. I am also a learner of several Southeast Asian languages and have a passion for tonal languages,” Sakach said. 

“One of my favorite memories of my academic career was the time a classmate in a graduate program and I were discussing our research projects on pronunciation. We were in a study room on Level 1 of the library of Ohio University, where we could find a wonderful collection of Southeast Asian studies. We both had the same interest in Southeast Asian languages, especially pronunciation learning and teaching. The discussion went on with a lot of ‘I don't know’ and we didn't know that we would become life partners a year later.”

She enjoys how the warmth and beauty of the Valley makes her appreciate the water, trees and shades 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 instructor of American Sign Language. Before coming to ASU, Cary was an elementary school teacher for California School for the Deaf in Riverside, California, and a part-time ASL instructor for Santa Ana College and San Bernardino Valley College. He has a bachelor's degree in liberal studies and a master's degree in higher education leadership and student development from California Baptist University, with a research focus on deaf and hard-of-hearing students.

In his academic career, Cary has gone above and beyond for his students, incorporating several ASL activities and games to keep students engaged and have the most fun possible in the classroom.

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

Currently, his hobby is cycling, and he finished a 70-mile ride in Paso Robles, California, this year. He also enjoys scuba diving, spearfishing and hiking: “One of my best trips was when I hiked to the top of White Mountain Peak.”

Ronda Moriarty, ​​instructor, American Sign Language (ASL)

Ronda Moriarty, instructor, American Sign Language

Ronda Moriarty, ​​instructor

Moriarty joins the school as an instructor of American Sign Language. She has a doctorate degree in physical therapy and has been teaching ASL and deaf culture for over 10 years. She was an adjunct 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 like to volunteer, as I have volunteered for Ahwatukee Children’s Theater yearly to teach children ages 5 to 18 ASL songs so they can use sign language in their performances on stage," Moriarty said. "I offer seminars for parents of deaf children to educate them on what they can do to better their children’s future, and I volunteer with the Community Health Mentor Program for NAU, ASU and the University of Arizona for a group of interprofessional health care students. Teaching is my passion. Each year I am blessed 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. Every one of those students brings joy to my classroom, and those are my favorite memories.”

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

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

Spanish

Sean McKinnon, Instructor, Spanish

Sean McKinnon, instructor, Spanish

Sean McKinnon, instructor

McKinnon joins the school as an instructor of Spanish. Prior to ASU, McKinnon was a visiting lecturer in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at Indiana University Bloomington. 

McKinnon graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and Spanish from Ohio State University, a master's degree in theoretical and applied linguistics from Universitat Pompeu Fabra (Barcelona, Spain) and a PhD in Hispanic linguistics from Indiana University.

His research focuses on language variation and change in bilingual communities throughout the Spanish-speaking world, specifically looking at how bilingualism influences the grammar and pronunciation of both languages, and how different social factors mediate those linguistic changes. He conducted research on Spanish in contact with Catalán in Spain and Spanish in contact with English in the United States, but his principal line of research examines Spanish in contact with Kaqchikel Maya in Guatemala.

One of his favorite memories is when he conducted his dissertation research in Guatamala.

“In order to investigate bilingual grammar and pronunciation, I recorded speech samples from my participants, so I interviewed them about their life. I was humbled by the very personal stories they would share with me and how much I learned about how their individual experiences fit into the history, customs and traditions of Guatemala,” McKinnon said.

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

"We’re looking forward to being outdoors more and exploring all the hikes, trails and parks that Arizona has to offer,” he said.

Chinese

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 math major in college when his interest in Chinese literature was first sparked.

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

He ended up receiving a PhD from the Department of Asian Languages and Literatures at the University of Washington.

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

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

Enrique Martin-Bonneville
emartinp@asu.edu