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Sister Dung Trang

How the Augustinian approach transformed this PhD candidate’s experience of learning

Sister Dung Trang, a nun dressed in traditional religious habit, smiling

As a young student in Vietnam, Sister Dung Trang was expected to listen obediently to her teacher and quietly absorb the lessons. Her education in Villanova’s PhD in Theology program has been about just the opposite: finding her voice, thinking critically and engaging with her professors and fellow students as they pursue knowledge together.

It’s an educational approach that is distinctly Augustinian, and one that Sister Dung says has had an enormous impact on her personal growth. But her purpose goes far beyond her own enrichment—her ultimate goal is to take what she’s learned at Villanova back to Vietnam. She hopes to develop a spiritual formation program for teachers, who will in turn provide women with an education that is rooted in faith and engages their minds and hearts.

“I believe in the power of education. When you see change happening from the inside out—from the heart and the mind—everything changes for a person,” Sister Dung says.

A member of the order Lovers of the Holy Cross Khiet Tam, Sister Dung sought out the religious life because she wanted to live in community and grow in her spiritual life. She came to Villanova for many of the same reasons. The PhD program offers an Augustinian focus, connecting faith to contemporary life, and the connected feeling carries from her coursework to the relationships she’s built with students and faculty.

“We’re learning in community, and I feel supported in so many ways. I will never be alone in my journey,” Sister Dung says. “Coming from a different culture, as an international student and a religious sister, I have found a community that has helped me to believe in myself, and to believe that I can be that change for other people in their lives.”

Get to Know Sister Dung

Sister Dung (on the right) with another member of her religious order walking through a stone courtyard wearing their religious habit


Graduate Liberal Arts and Sciences


PhD in Theology

Outside Activities

Formation Support for Vietnam


Dalat, Vietnam

Words from a Villanova Mentor:

“Sister Dung comes with a unique set of life experiences, and consequently with different insights and questions. This perspective is very enriching for our discussions, especially given the focus of our program on the interaction between faith and theology and cultural contexts.”

—Stefanie Knauss, ThD, associate professor, Theology and Religious Studies, and co-director, PhD Program Programming and Advising