The Doctor of Intercultural Studies Degree Program


Program Overview

The purpose of the Doctor of Intercultural Studies (DIS) program is to develop theologically competent leadership in an intercultural context by equipping students with advanced knowledge and skill sets that integrate the study of theology with a variety of cognate disciplines that enhance ministerial practice. The program is an advanced professional degree intended for those who face the challenge of a pluralistic society and who work within an intercultural, global context. Mature church leaders from Asia, Africa, and Latin America who participate in the program ensure cross-fertilization of perspectives and spiritual insights with those from North America and Europe. The program serves persons engaged in vocational Christian leadership roles such as denominational and mission agency leaders, educators, church planters, and gospel messengers in various forms of service in global ministry.

The Doctor of Intercultural Studies is an in-service program introducing the student to the literature and resources of missiology, with special emphasis in the area relevant to the student’s on-going ministry. The program is not separate from the student’s ministry but intends to integrate higher learning with practical relevance. Time invested in doctoral studies should result in personal enrichment and ministry improvement. Faculty members serve as consultants to assist students to be more fruitful in their ministry context.

Program Learning Outcomes

Program learning outcomes:

  • Students demonstrate a theological understanding of the issues and practices of educational ministry.
  • Students demonstrate doctoral-level research, communicating effectively in both written and oral forms.
  • Students demonstrate competence in the understanding of local and global leadership.
  • Students demonstrate the ability to engage in gospel-centered cross-culural leadership.
  • Students carry out the pedagogical task of teaching and training others for local and global leadership.

Admission Requirements

Applicants for the Doctor of Intercultural Studies program must possess an Association of Theological Schools’ (ATS) accredited MDiv or a comparable two-year master’s degree in appropriate missiological and theological disciplines with a GPA of 3.0 or higher and present at least two years of effective intercultural ministry experience relevant to the proposed DIS program focus.

Doctoral applicants who are otherwise qualified but whose graduate degree is not an MDiv or other specified master’s degree may seek admission by establishing the educational equivalence of the admission requirement. Interested parties are invited to contact the Director of Admissions or the Director of the DIS program for further information.

Since English is the contemporary language of international scholarship, doctoral students must have the written and oral skills in English appropriate for research and dialogue at the post-graduate level. Applicants for whom English is not their first language must pass an entry written and oral English examination (TOEFL) with a minimum score of 25 on each of the four section tests of the TOEFL-IBT of 7.0 or above in each area with a 7.0 overall score on the IELTS. If the DIS student intends to enter the United States on a student visa, at least three months are necessary to secure admission approval and visa documentation.

Transfer Credit and Residence Requirements

Upon approval by the student’s doctoral committee, program director, and registrar, transfer of up to 6 credit hours is allowed toward the DIS program from doctoral-level programs accredited by the Association of Theological Schools or regional accrediting associations. Students must have earned a grade of "B" or better for a course to be considered for transfer and coursework should normally have been completed no more than five years prior to matriculation to Western Seminary. Students may request to be assessed by exam for currency on courses to be transferred that are more than five years old. Transfer of credit is not automatic. The student must show that the work to be transferred is relevant to the doctoral program and was completed at a comparable advanced level. Requests for acceptance of credit from other seminaries should be made at the time of admission to the program. A later transfer will only be done by prior approval through the program director and Registrar’s Office. Transferability of credits earned at Western and transferred to another institution is at the discretion of the receiving institution. Consult the registrar’s office for information on eligibility of transfer credit.

Of the 36 credits required for the DIS, a minimum of 30 must be completed through coursework completed at Western Seminary, with a minimum of 18 credits taken in residence study at Western’s Portland campus through intensive modules. DIS studies must be completed within seven years from the time of matriculation to the doctoral program. Permission to extend the seven-year statute of limitation must be granted through an academic petition and a proposed revision of the Learning Contract to the Doctoral Standards Committee. Reinstatement to the program after withdrawal or an absence of one year or longer requires re-admission and may subject student to additional studies to demonstrate currency. All credits leading to the DIS should normally be completed within ten years from the time of matriculation, including work completed at another institution and accepted in transfer to the DIS. Alternatively, new or re-entering students whose prior coursework exceeds the ten-year limit may request to demonstrate current competency by examination up to the advanced standing credit limitations for each degree program as specified elsewhere in this catalog.

Degree Requirements

The DIS program includes a total of 36 credits and consists of gateway courses (6 credits), core required courses (18 credits), intercultural studies electives (6 credits), dissertation coursework (6 credits), and comprehensive examination (no credits).

The doctoral program is completed through a series of short periods of intensive study and interaction, followed by longer periods of reflection and application to ministry in the field. On a full-time study basis, the equivalent of a two-year period is necessary to complete the doctorate. It is understandable to spread this over a longer period-of-time to ensure excellence in scholarship and integration with ministry. Much flexibility in scheduling is possible, with periods in residence at the Portland campus possible from one week to one year. Two of the doctoral courses are online; the remainder are one-week residential seminars.

Four components are included in the program: program focus, competency modules, comprehensive examination, and dissertation.

Program Focus: The program focus expresses the student’s opportunities or concerns in ministry. For example, it may be a fundamental question of understanding the group being reached, or identifying ministry opportunity and formulating a strategy for evangelism and church-building among that group, or development of a leadership training program appropriate for a particular group.

Competency Modules: Competency modules include lectures, seminars, practical assignments, and fieldwork intended to introduce the student to a specific area and through student-faculty interaction to chart the applications to the individual student’s educational and intercultural ministry. These modules are comparable to what is often called “courses” in post-graduate studies.

Comprehensive Examination: The written comprehensive examination is an opportunity for students to demonstrate their understanding and application of intercultural and practical insights into the program focus of their choice.

Dissertation: The DIS dissertation is the result of research, reading, reflection and fieldwork centered around the program focus. It contains recognition and clarification of a major topic in mission and a process to research the topic at hand, leading to implementation in ministry or career advancement. The dissertation brings together work done in the competency modules and the refining of thought through interaction with faculty and field research.

Doctor of Intercultural Studies Curriculum Plan

Gateway Courses: 6 credits
IS702 Cultural Anthropology 3
IS703 Proposal and Research Design 3
Required Courses: 18 credits
IS701 Intercultural Education 3
IS704 Intercultural Leadership and Mentorship 3
IS706 Foundations and History of Missions 3
IS707 Theology of Missions 3
IS709 Contextualization and Leadership 3
IS710 Integrated Research Methodology 3
Elective Courses: 6 credits
Students will choose electives in an area of specialization in consultation with the program director. (6)
Dissertation and Comprehensive Exam: 6+ credits
IS790 Proposal and Comprehensive Exam 1
IS791 Dissertation Research and Writing  5+
Total: 36+ credits