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 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 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. The DIS program is research-based and includes two research courses: one covers the proposal draft and the other on research design.

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-cultural 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.

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. (Possible exceptions might be made for international students and internationally-located students.)

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 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