The Doctor of Intercultural Studies Degree Program


Program Overview & Requirements

The Doctor of Intercultural Studies (D.Int.St.) is an advanced professional degree intended to aid in the development of leadership for the worldwide church. The program is designed specifically for those who are faced with the challenge of a pluralistic society and who work within an intercultural 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 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 is intended 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 ministry.

Program Schedule & Components

The doctoral program is usually undertaken as 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.

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. 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 field work 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 are 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 of the program focus of their choice.


The Doctor of Intercultural Studies 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.

The Doctor of Intercultural Studies and Doctor of Ministry programs at Western Seminary are two professional degrees with significant compatibility: a non-residence module format, field research, and the dissertation. Students enrolled in the Doctor of Intercultural Studies program may cross-register for up to two electives (six credit hours) in the Doctor of Ministry with the approval of the dissertation committee. The module format of both programs is designed to make doctoral level training programs accessible to active practitioners in ministry and missions.

Program Outcomes

The Doctor of Intercultural Studies program seeks to equip people for ministry in an intercultural context in order to:

  • Spiritually: Be an agent of spiritual transformation through modeling and ministry;
  • Attitudinally: Be passionate for the reconciliation of man to God vertically, then with others horizontally;
  • Competently: Be able to engage in intercultural studies by integrating theology, anthropology and related disciplines for Kingdom service.

Admission Requirements

In addition to the Seminary’s general requirements for admission an applicant for the Doctor of Intercultural Studies program shall hold either a Master of Divinity degree or a two-year master’s degree in appropriate theological and missiological disciplines from an institution accredited regionally and/or by the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) in the United States and Canada. A cumulative grade point of at least 3.0 (on a 4.0 point scale) in graduate studies is required. Additionally, the applicant's graduate program must meet the following criteria:

  • Program length must be a minimum of 48 graduate credit hours
  • Program content:
    • 14 credits of biblical studies of breadth and depth
    • 10 credits of theological studies of breadth and depth
    • 16 credits of intercultural/missiological studies of breath and depth

Doctoral applicants who are otherwise qualified but whose graduate degree is not a M.Div. or other specified master’s degree may seek admission by establishing the educational equivalence of the admission requirement. Interested parties are encouraged to contact the Director of Admissions or the Director of the Doctor of Intercultural Studies program for further information.

An applicant with a degree from an institution not regionally or ATS accredited may seek admission by special review. A copy of the institution’s catalog, setting forth faculty credentials, curriculum, facilities and learning resources, shall be submitted at the time of application. Any additional documentation the applicant wishes to submit to assist the admissions committee in its decision is welcome. If the review is favorable, the student will be admitted on academic probation. Probationary status will be reviewed upon the satisfactory completion (3.0 average or greater) of three modules. Applicants are expected to have at least two years or more of effective ministry, preferably with an orientation to intercultural ministry.

A set of admission materials must be completed and filed in the Admissions Office before action can be taken. These materials include an admission essay; experience statement (or professional vita); a statement of supportive endorsement from the church or agency with which the applicant serves; four professional and personal references; and official transcripts of all college, graduate-level, and seminary education (English translation required, if necessary). In addition, doctoral applicants must provide a sample of writing and research skills. This commonly takes the form of a seminary research paper, articles for publication or distribution, or materials produced for use in one’s ministry. The sample selected should reflect the applicant’s writing skills in form, style, and content.

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 20 on each of the four section tests of the TOEFL-IBT.

If the Doctor of Intercultural Studies 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

Upon approval by the student’s doctoral committee, Program Director, and Registrar, transfer of up to 6 hours credit is allowed toward the Doctor of Intercultural Studies 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 must have completed no more than five years prior to matriculation to Western Seminary. 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. 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.

Residence Requirements

Of the 36 credit hours required for the Doctor of Intercultural Studies program, a minimum of 30 credit hours must be completed through coursework completed at Western Seminary, with a minimum of 18 credit hours taken in resident study at Western Seminary’s Portland Campus. All work leading to the Doctor of Intercultural Studies must be completed within seven years from the time of matriculation. Permission to extend the seven year statute of limitation must be granted through submission of an academic petition must include an updated Learning Contract. Reinstatement to the program after withdrawal requires Admissions Committee action and may subject the student to additional requirements for the degree. All credits applied toward degree requirements must be earned within ten years of the awarding of the degree.

Degree Requirements

The Doctor of Intercultural Studies at Western Seminary is a post-graduate professional program of study. This program includes the integration of academic courses, personal growth and professional performance. Consequently, the professional assessment of students involves not only an evaluation of academic competence but also an assessment of ministerial competence and overall professional development. Assessment meetings are held by the Doctoral Standards Committee. The purpose of the assessment is to review each student’s progress in meeting academic, integrative and professional expectations.

Gateway Courses

During the two gateway courses (DIS701 and DIS702) the student will complete a concise statement of the program focus of his/her work; begin development of bibliographies and identify potential resources pertaining to the program focus; develop and gain preliminary approval of the “learning contract”; and form the Doctoral Committee to guide the program and approve the dissertation.

Learning Contract

Each student’s program is based on a learning contract that includes: statement of the program focus; preliminary timetable for completion of each program requirement; and formation of the Doctoral Committee.

Satisfactory Academic Progress

To maintain satisfactory academic progress, students must earn grades of B or higher and maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher. One grade of B- or below immediately places the doctoral student on Academic Warning. A second course with a grade of B- or below immediately places the doctoral student on Academic Probation and subject to review by the Doctoral Standards Committee for dismissal from the program.

A minimum grade point average of 3.0 must be maintained throughout the program. If a student receives a grade for any course below a “B,” he or she will receive an academic warning and is required to submit a plan to raise the level of studies. A second grade below “B” will place a student on academic probation and subject to review by the Doctoral Standards Committee for continuance in the program. A doctoral student may graduate with up to two grades of B-, as long as the cumulative GPA is above 3.0. A grade below B- may not be counted toward degree requirements.

Doctoral Standards Committee

If the Doctoral Standards Committee dismisses the student from the doctoral program, the student may appeal to the Doctoral Standards Committee for re-admission. The student must show that there were exceptional circumstances involved and provide evidence indicating that they can remove the grade point deficiency within one semester. Appeals for re-admission will be considered for the next semester.

Competency Modules

Students develop theoretical understanding and ministerial competence in ten areas. Students must take the eight required courses plus two electives. (Students may elect to substitute courses from the D.Min. program with the approval of the program director.)

Each competency module consists of a one-week residential seminar focused on knowledge and understanding, followed by a guided field research project focused on the student’s own ministry context.

Comprehensive Exam

The comprehensive exam for advancement to candidacy for the degree will be taken after all competency modules have been satisfactorily completed. Prior to scheduling the examination, a formal dissertation proposal will be submitted and approved by the Doctoral Committee chair. A candidate who does not pass the initial examination may request a subsequent examination, to be administered after a minimum of six months have elapsed.


The Doctor of Intercultural Studies Dissertation will be initially proposed during the two gateway courses (DIS701 & DIS702). All studies completed in and through the competency modules shall be designed to build toward the dissertation. It will not only reflect personal study and practical experience; but shall make a meaningful contribution to intercultural ministry and the field of missiology. It must also evidence substantial biblical and theological foundations. A minimum of one credit each semester is required from commencing the dissertation until final approval. When the dissertation draft has been approved by the Doctoral Committee, a hearing of the dissertation is required to cover the purpose, methodology, and content of the dissertation.

All credits applied toward degree requirements must be earned within ten years of the awarding of the degree. The Doctor of Intercultural Studies degree is conferred upon the attainment of certain personal and academic requirements. In addition to the general seminary requirements, degree candidates must (1) give evidence of a genuine Christian character, orthodox belief, and conduct consistent with a God-given call to a position of leadership; (2) complete all degree requirements of the program, accumulating at least 36 hours of credit as described below.

Doctor of Intercultural Studies Curriculum Plan

Gateway Courses: 6 credits
DIS701 Cultural Anthropology 3
DIS702 Research Design and Methodology 3
Required Courses: 18 credits
DIS711 Foundations of Missiology and History of Mission 3
DIS715 Theology of Christian Mission 3
DIS725 Integrated Research Methodologies 3
DIS742 Contextualization and Leadership 3
DIS747 Intercultural Education 3
DIS749 Intercultural Leadership and Mentorship 3
Elective Courses: 6 credits
Select six credits from the following options or other coursework approved by the program director:
DIS721 Principles of Intercultural Communication 3
DIS732 Educational Theory and Pedagogical Methodology 3
DIS751K D.Int.St. Seminar: Diaspora Missiology 3
DIS751 Doctor of Intercultural Studies Seminar 3
DIS780 Individualized Study 3
Dissertation and Comprehensive Exam: 6+ credits
DIS790A Proposal and Comprehensive Exam 1
DIS790B Dissertation: Field Research Integration 2+
DIS791 Dissertation: Research Report 3+
Total: 36+ credits

2016-2017 Academic Catalog