The Doctor of Intercultural Studies Degree Program


Program Overview

The purpose of the Doctor of Intercultural Studies (DIS) program is to develop theologically competent ministry in an intercultural context by equipping students with advanced knowledge and skillsets 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 “Global South”—the regions of Asia, Africa, and Central/South America — countries 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 ministry roles, such as denominational and mission agency leaders, church planters, and gospel messengers in various forms of service in global ministry.

The Doctoral of Intercultural Studies is an in-service program introducing the student to the literature and resources of intercultural ministry. The program emphasizes the integration of the relational interactionist paradigm with theoretical formulation and intercultural ministerial application. All of this is applied by the students to their ministry context. 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. The DIS program is research-based and includes two research courses: one covers the proposal draft and the other research design.

Program Learning Outcomes

Program learning outcomes:

  • Students demonstrate a theological understanding of the issues and practices of intercultural ministry.
  • Students demonstrate doctoral-level research, communicating effectively in both written and oral forms.
  • Students engage in academics as a whole person in character formation, embracing the synergy between scholarship and piety, without which credibility and viability are compromised.
  • Students demonstrate competence in the understanding of local and global ministry.

Admission Requirements

Applicants for the DIS program must possess an Association of Theological Schools’ (ATS) accredited MDiv or a comparable two-year master’s degree in appropriate intercultural, biblical, 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 admissions requirements. Interested parties are invited to contact the Director of Admissions or the Director f the DIS program for further information.

Doctoral students must have 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 or 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.

If the applicant has completed a higher education degree in English from an accredited institution, they may apply for a TOEFL/IELTS waiver.

Residence Requirements

Of the 36 credits required for the DIS, a minimum of 6 credits should be taken in residence study at Western’s Portland campus through intensive modules. (Exceptions are made for international students and internationally-located students.)

Degree Requirements

The DIS program includes a total of 36 credits and consists of core required courses (24 credits), intercultural studies electives (6 credits), dissertation coursework (6 credits), including a comprehensive examination.

The doctoral program is completed through one-week 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 to three years necessary to complete the doctorate. It is understandable to spread this over a longer period to ensure excellence in scholarship and integration with ministry. Much flexibility in scheduling is possible.

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, 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, 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.

General Education and Specialization Studies:  All students are required to receive general education in intercultural education by earning 24 credits. Each student will be guided by his/her program focus throughout the DIS program. Development in an area of specialization is facilitated by six credits of electives, six credits of research methodology, and six credits of dissertation research.

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

Required Courses: 24 credits
IS701 Intercultural Education 3
IS702 Cultural Anthropology 3
IS703 Proposal and Research Design 3
IS704 Intercultural Leadership and Mentorship 3
IS706 Foundations and History of Missions 3
IS707 Theology of Missions 3
IS709 Contextualization 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