The U.S. Department of State announced the selection of Pasadena resident Mary Shepard Wong, Ph.D., interim associate dean of Azusa Pacific University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and professor in the Department of Global Studies, Sociology, and TESOL, for a four-month English Language Specialist assignment. Her project will focus on the pedagogical use of Vietnamese in English language classrooms in Vietnam.

“My teaching and research have taken me to Southeast Asia each year for the past 20 years where I have worked on improving education, but this is my first project in Vietnam,” said Wong. “The collaborative nature of this project is appealing as I not only get to work with educators from the Ministry of Education and Training in Vietnam, but also another specialist, Dr. Dongping Zheng from the University of Hawaii, Manoa. I look forward to researching how to improve student learning and support social justice goals that value students’ identity.”

Wong is a two-time Fulbright scholar (2011-12 Hong Kong and 2015-16 Myanmar) and is 1 of 16 APU faculty and 40 students to have received Fulbright Awards since 2003, positioning Azusa Pacific University scholars among the world’s elite. Wong is also the principal investigator of two grants funded by the Hong Kong Educational Bureau evaluating English Language teaching in primary and secondary schools. Her project duties include providing a keynote address (via Zoom) at the VietTESOL International convention on October 16, 2020, to 700 participants and working with Vietnamese experts from the Ministry of Education and select universities to design a research plan to survey current classroom language practices in Vietnam. She will assist with the analysis of the data and advise the team on writing a guidebook.

The English Language Specialist Program is the premier opportunity for leaders in the field of teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL) to enact meaningful and sustainable changes in the way that English is taught abroad. Through projects developed by U.S. Embassies in more than 80 countries, EL Specialists work directly with local teacher trainers, educational leaders, and ministry of education officials to exchange knowledge, build capacity, and establish partnerships benefiting participants, institutions, and communities in the United States and overseas.

Since 1991, the English Language Specialist Program has sent hundreds of TESOL scholars and educators abroad to promote English language learning, enhance English teaching capacity, and foster mutual understanding between the U.S. and other countries through cultural exchange. On assignment, EL Specialists may conduct intensive teacher training, advise ministries of education or participate in high-level educational consultations, and offer plenary presentations at regional, national or international TESOL conferences.These projects are challenging and those selected represent the best of the U.S. TESOL community. In return, the program provides professional development opportunities to help participants experience different cultures and build skills that can greatly enhance their TESOL careers back home.

English Language Specialists are counted among the more than 50,000 individuals participating in U.S. Department of State exchange programs each year. The Specialist Program is administered by the Center for Intercultural Education and Development at Georgetown University.


Rachel White
Associate Director of Public Relations
Phone: (626) 815-4502

Azusa Pacific University is an evangelical, Christian university committed to God First and excellence in higher education. With 68 bachelor’s degrees, 48 master’s degrees, 18 certificates, 10 credentials, and 9 doctoral programs, the university offers its more than 10,000 students a quality education on campus, online, and at seven regional locations throughout Southern California.