ESP Project Leader Profile: Pam Dzunu

Hello, ESPers worldwide!

In this ESP Project Leader Profile, we visit Washington University in St. Louis in the United States to meet Pam Dzunu.

Below is Pam’s bio:

Pamela Guntharp Dzunu grew up in rural northeast Mississippi and graduated with an English major from William Carey University (Hattiesburg, MS). She completed a Master of Arts in Intercultural Studies at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary and an MA-TESOL degree at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. Her research interests are intercultural communication, socio-cultural anthropology, and ethnic studies.

Pamela has extensive travel experience, including living two years in Ethiopia (East Africa) and two years in Azerbaijan (Central Asia). In both countries, she taught English as a Second or Foreign Language among high school or university students. Pamela’s wide-ranging travel experience has given her a broad worldview and appreciation for all cultures. She has been teaching in the English Language Program at Washington University since 2003 where she specializes in legal English.

Pam is also a representative for English in academic settings (EAS) for the TESOL English for Specific Purposes Interest Section and a colleague of Karen Schwelle, another ESP project leader. I was able to talk with Pam at TESOL 2017 together with another ESP project leader in the legal English field, Stephen Horowitz. We learn more about the legal English training provided at Washington University in Pam’s responses to the interview questions about leadership.

Pam Dzunu
Legal English Specialist
Washington University in St. Louis
Co-founder, Baobab People

Define leadership in your own words.

Leadership is the ability to recognize the strengths and talents in others, and then to engage those people in using their talents to accomplish a mutual goal. A good leader does not necessarily have all the answers but knows how either to find the needed answers or to work around the lack of information while continuing to seek the answers. This is a continuous process of leading and learning, just as John F. Kennedy said, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”

Tell me an ESP project success story. Focus on your communication as a leader in the project. How did you communicate with stakeholders to make that project successful?

In the English language programs (ELP) at Washington University, we have a summer intensive English program called English Advantage (EA), in which we train incoming graduate students in business and law. Due to a strengthened partnership with the School of Law and some minor tweaking of our schedule, 2016 saw record enrollment in our program for masters of law (LLM) students. The two courses in the program, Intensive Listening/Speaking for International LLMs, and Intensive Reading/Writing for International LLMs, increased from one to four sections, and student enrollment increased from 16 to 54. Consequently, the ELP recruited six additional instructors who had strong backgrounds teaching ESL and English for academic purposes (EAP), but none of them had a law background. To help the instructors prepare to teach legal English for the first time, we held an instructor training workshop about a month before the program began, and we held regular meetings throughout the term. In the end, the feedback from the instructors regarding their experience was very positive. One listening/speaking instructor commented that it was the best course she had ever taught.

One of the components of the EA-LLM program of which I am very proud is the program-wide Moot Court Competition, which was our culminating activity. As the lead listening/speaking instructor, I worked closely with the lead reading/writing instructor to create the assignment, which included a hypothetical case about a lesbian couple who brought suit against a florist for refusing to provide flowers for their wedding on religious grounds. We researched and provided real cases that students read and used to make legal arguments. We chose this topic because of its relevancy in current American culture at the time, and because it is a Constitutional issue. In English Advantage, we are not only preparing LLM students for law school but also helping them better understand American culture, so this project gave us multiple opportunities to discuss various American viewpoints. Students conducted community surveys, so they could get a more accurate idea of local Americans’ attitudes.

The two courses were interwoven for this project: In the reading/writing course, students wrote a mini trial brief, in multiple drafts. They then used the legal argument that they had written to make an oral presentation. Students wrote their arguments and then competed in giving oral arguments as either plaintiffs or defendants. First, they competed against the students in their own sections. Then, finalists from all four sections competed against one another. Winners were recognized at an awards ceremony on the last day.

This project gave us an integrated way to measure students’ attainment of the goals for each of the courses. Students gave very positive feedback, even though it was extremely challenging for them to complete it in such a limited time. The project certainly was not without mistakes, and we learned from this first attempt. Overall, we considered it so successful that we are repeating it this year, with a new hypothetical, with two additional sections and over 80 students.

When I read Pam’s definition of leadership, I was very pleased to see that she had drawn upon John F. Kennedy in connecting learning and leadership. In addition, as Pam writes above: “A good leader does not necessarily have all the answers, but knows how either to find the needed answers or to work around the lack of information while continuing to seek the answers.” From my perspective, the leader is focused on creating and achieving visions, and learning is a part of that.

I could also see connections in her program development and a TED Talk by Adam Grant titled The Surprising Habits of Original Thinkers (filmed in 2016).

It’s much easier to improve on somebody else’s idea than it is to create something new from scratch. So the lesson I learned is that to be original you don’t have to be first. You just have to be different and better.

I was already familiar with moot court and mock trial. Pam has improved on this idea to meet the needs of her students. Similarly, I have adapted how I teach business case studies in view of my students needs to develop their communication skills. As David Kertzner has written in ESP News, “[the] wheel does not need to get reinvented every time.” We can all learn from this.

If you have questions or comments for Pam, please feel free to contact her directly!

All the best,



About Kevin Knight

Kevin Knight
Kevin Knight (PhD in Linguistics, MBA, MPIA) is an associate professor in the Department of International Communication (International Business Career major) and has also been working in the Career Education Center of Kanda University of International Studies in Chiba, Japan. In the TESOL ESP Interest Section (ESPIS), he has served as chair and English in occupational settings (EOS) representative, and he is currently the ESPIS community manager. He was also a member of the Governance Review Task Force (GRTF) appointed by the board of directors. In addition, he has been a TESOL blogger in the area of English for Specific Purposes (ESP). He has more than 30 years of professional experience working for private, public, and academic sector institutions including Sony and the Japan Patent Office. His doctoral research on leadership communication (i.e., discourse) as a basis for leadership development was under the supervision of Emeritus Professor Christopher Candlin and Dr. Alan Jones.
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