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.”