Meet the Team

Dr. Laura Franklin
Program Director

Laura FranklinDr. Laura L. Franklin is a Professor of French at Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) in Alexandria, Virginia. She teaches face-to-face and hybrid courses and online language classes at all levels at NOVA’s Extended Learning Institute. In 2007, she was the recipient of the ACTFL Houghton Mifflin Teaching Foreign Languages with Technology award with IALLT. She is the founding co-Editor of the World Languages collection of the Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching (MERLOT) and its founding World Languages portal editor. She has designed and implemented many faculty development workshops and courses, including the grant-supported STARTALK workshop “Power Up Your Chinese and Arabic Classes with Technology.”
Dr. Shaoyu Chi
Lead Chinese Instructor and Instructional Designer

Northern Virginia Community College, Extended Learning Institute
shaoy chiDr. Shaoyu Chi has more than 15 years of professional experience in instructional design, development, and delivery. As an Instructional Designer at the ELI-Distance Learning Center at Northern Virginia Community College, Dr. Chi has been helping faculty design and deliver distance-learning courses while helping administering the learning management system for the college’s online courses. An avid user of instructional technology in language courses, she has extensive experience in assisting faculty designing language online courses—both synchronous and asynchronous.  She has been working closely with faculty and providing pedagogical consultation, instructional design support, and software instruction. She has also trained faculty on how to develop and deliver successful and effective online, hybrid, and technology-enhanced courses. Dr. Chi has presented at many national and local conferences in instructional design. She received her Ed. D. in Instructional Technology from Northern Illinois University.
Dr. Mohamed Esa
Lead Arabic Instructor

Mohamed EsaDr. Mohamed Esa earned his doctorate in German Studies at the University of Heidelberg. He is a full professor and chairman of the foreign language department at McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. In addition to teaching German language, literature and culture classes, he also offers courses on the Arab world and Islam. Each year he hosts a full day of educational workshops for 1,000 middle and high school German students, and a very popular dinner during the Muslim fasting month. Esa lectures on Islam and the contributions of Arabs and Muslims to Western civilization. He also offers workshops and seminars all over the United States and Europe on the use of music and technology in foreign language classrooms. He has been the lead Arabic consultant for the NOVA STARTALK workshops since its inception in 2007.
Takako ShigehisaTakako Shigehisa
Director of Technology Applications
Assistant Dean, World Languages, Northern Virginia Community College
Prof. Takako Shigehisa, a native of Fukushima, Japan, holds a Master’s Degree in East Asian Studies from Indiana University.   She teaches Japanese at NOVA, including face-to-face classes at all levels and Beginning Japanese I online, which she developed in 2008.   Prof. Shigehisa also writes reviews of Japanese online instructional materials as a peer reviewer for MERLOT and was recognized with the Peer Review Extraordinaire Award in 2009.   She is a frequent presenter at workshops and sessions at local, regional, and national conferences where she emphasizes the empowerment of every teacher through instructional technology, regardless of resources and comfort levels.   Prof. Shigehisa’s involvement in the STARTALK workshop started as an instructor in 2008 and has grown to include Instructional Technology Coordinator as well as Instructor in 2009.
Angela Gunder
Director of Web Applications and Technical Lead

With over 14 years of experience as a web and print designer, Angela brings to this project a focus on clean and usable design within the medium of web design for education and professional development.  She has worked as a designer for the State Department and Foreign Service Institute, and her work has been shown on both CNN and Nightline. She is enthused to be involved with this project that embraces her favorite ideal that strength in visual communication is a limitless tool and shouldn’t ever come at a hefty cost or learning curve.   Angela currently serves as Senior Instructional Designer for The University of Arizona.   In her spare time, she eeks out a post or two detailing her work – photographic, culinary and design alike – on her blog, Adesina Media (


  • Tony Vu, Webmaster for Northern Virginia Community College
  • Patrick Lower
  • Tjaša Žurga, Illustrator