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Washington State University Graduate School

From WSU to Hong Kong

By Yue Huang

Xue Zhang is preparing for her new job as a researcher at the Center of Applied English Studies in Hong Kong, starting April, 2019. She graduated in December 2018 with a Ph.D. from the Language, Literacy, and Technology (LLT) program at WSU.

“The knowledge and honor I have gained from WSU will inspire me to continue my pursuit of teaching and research,” says Xue, when looking back her time at WSU.

Coming to WSU

With a B.A. in English and a M.A. in Comparative Literature, Xue taught English language at a Chinese college for about 12 years. However, after years of teaching, she was gradually aware of some problems related to teaching and learning in her classrooms, one of which later became the focus of her dissertation at WSU.

“I noticed that some of my students with satisfactory English-speaking skills performed unsatisfactorily in delivering English speeches in public, while some students whose English language skills were not that competitive would usually outperform [in public]. I was surprised and wondered why,” says Xue.

These inquires and her interests in the application of technology in language teaching, along with reflections upon her service in Thailand, drove Xue to consider pursuing a Ph.D. degree. Her friends who had experience learning and working in the U.S. suggested that she should try to apply to a U.S. university.

“The Language, Literacy, and Technology (LLT) program at WSU meets exactly my learning needs as the courses cover most of topics that I am interested in. The CALL [computer-assisted language learning] courses, in particular, which explore and discuss the implementation of technology in language education, inform the new trend in education,” says Xue.

So in fall 2015, Xue started her academic journey in the LLT doctoral program at WSU.

Being Passionate

To describe her life at WSU, Xue uses one keyword: passion.

“Xue is amazing—pure unstoppable energy and a pure pleasure to work with,” says Dr. Yuliya Ardasheva, Xue’s dissertation committee co-chair and research advisor.

Xue regards being passionate as the fuel for her learning and research. “Doing research is time- and energy-consuming and sometimes boring; however, when you are passionate about what you are doing, you will find that everything becomes interesting,” says Xue.

Xue recalls why she chose to research the relations between Chinese college students’ self-efficacy and English public speaking performance as the focus of her dissertation.

“It is my passion for helping my students improve their English language skills that drove me to study at WSU,” says Xue. “Self-efficacy could be one potential variable that substantially influences not only Chinese students’ public speaking performance, but also their learning English as a foreign language. This requires educational researchers, especially those having Chinese students, to explore more.”

In 2017, Xue was awarded the Arnold and Julia Greenwell Memorial Scholarship for Social Science and Humanities by the Graduate School. This award is granted to doctoral students who demonstrate leadership in their field of study, outreach in their project, and contribute their project to improving the human condition.

“Provided an ever-increasing interest in English language education worldwide, Xue’s work is timely and is destined to make a great contribution,” says Dr. Ardasheva about Xue’s research.

Contributing to the Community

In addition to her research, Xue was dedicated  volunteer work during her four years at WSU. She was a volunteer coordinator at a local elementary school, tutoring K-5 students in the morning, and a volunteer ESL instructor at a local church, teaching migrant adults from diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds English language.

The volunteer work connected Xue more closely to the community. She talks about one of her volunteering experiences, helping a Chinese mother. Due to the limited English language proficiency, the mother felt very upset when she was required to attend the parental conference at her daughter’s school. Xue shouldered the translation work for the mother and the school, and since then, has been with the mother in every parental conference. Xue believes this helped the school better understand the Chinese family’s needs and also helped the Chinese family better engage in the child’s schooling.

“I feel very happy to work as a bridge between the Chinese family and the school,” says Xue.

In 2018, Xue was awarded the Deborah T. Killinger Scholarship by the College of Education, a scholarship designed for students who are single parents and contribute largely to community service or volunteer work.

“I was a single mother and understood the difficulties that single parent could suffer. In my culture, single mothers are usually the group in need of hope and help,” says Xue. “Receiving care and concern from others is warm; however, I cannot totally rely on them and should rebuild my life on my own. I think everyone, regardless of his or her identity, can contribute to the community because he/she is not isolated. For me, I feel happier when I find what I do makes sense to others and to the society.”

The Language, Literacy, and Technology program

The Language, Literacy, and Technology graduate program is valued by potential students, graduates, and institutions as rigorous, relevant, and innovative, offering superior quality professional preparation that produces exceptional and creative researchers and teachers with a focus on improving the lives of students, teachers, and schools. The Ph.D. in Language, Literacy, and Technology emphasizes the generation, application, and translation of research that will enhance the field of education through the exploration of language, literacy, and technology.