PhD in Intercultural Studies

Graduates from the PhD in Intercultural Studies should:

  • provide an original contribution to theory and knowledge
  • make a practical contribution to the mission of the church
  • master one or more principal disciplines that contribute to missiology
  • demonstrate an ability to do effective academic research
  • demonstrate personal ability to think and write missiologically

In keeping with the Learning Outcomes of the SIS PhD program and in support of SIS and Seminary goals, the SIS PhD Portfolio consists of the learning outcomes and includes three additional requirements:

  • supervised experience teaching at graduate level
  • significant engagement in activities of the CMR community of scholars
  • attention to integrating spiritual formation and academic life

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The Doctor of Philosophy in Intercultural Studies (PhD ICS) degree, offered through Fuller's Center for Missiological Research (CMR), represents the highest academic credential in the study of global Christian mission at one of the most well-known and respected missiological training institutions in the world. It is designed to provide exceptional candidates the opportunity to design, develop and complete a customized research plan in consultation with faculty advisors through a customizable tutorial-driven process that integrates a wide range of missiological disciplines.

Degree Description

64 Quarter Units


Students are required to spend at least the first year in residency at the Pasadena campus. Fulfillment of at least the second year can be done at the Pasadena campus or, as approved by the mentor, at relevant field work sites; via formally assigned teaching, research, or instructional training assistantships; periodic visits to the Pasadena campus for research or other events related to various requirements for the degree; or by other arrangements related to the research and approved by the program executive committee.

Length of the Program

The PhD in Intercultural Studies is 64 units and is designed to be completed in 4-5 years.


At the time of admission each student is assigned to a mentor whose expertise is relevant to the student's area of research interest. The mentor then becomes the primary consultant to help the student ensure the feasibility and scholarly credibility of their project. Students eventually also work with other scholars as well, and are required to invite one or two other professors to serve on their formal advisory committee. Furthermore, while a student's mentor must be a Fuller faculty member, the SIS PhD program is flexible enough to allow students to work with any appropriately-trained scholar in the world on different aspects of their research. In fact, most students choose to work with at least one outside tutor in this way during the course of their programs.


The King Fellowship is a merit-based scholarship offered to one or two incoming PhD Intercultural Studies students each year on the basis of an outstanding application. The King Fellowship covers over 90% of the cost of tuition for up to three years of the PhD ICS program, so long as the recipient attends full-time and remains in excellent academic standing. Students are automatically considered for the King Fellowship when their application is reviewed. Besides the King Fellowship, incoming PhD Intercultural Studies students are eligible for the Charles E. Fuller Annual Scholarship, which is awarded based on financial need and covers up to 15% of the cost of tuition. In addition to these scholarships, special scholarships have been established to provide financial aid to returning students at Fuller.


Students should expect to enroll in 16-20 units per year. See our Tuition and Fees page for more information .


The curriculum of the PhD is comprised of 3 first-year seminars, 5 tutorials, 3 methods classes, 4 comprehensive exams and a dissertation (64 units total). Each of these components is customizable to meet the specific research interests of the students under the guidance of their faculty mentor and guidance committee. With relatively little classroom-based instruction in this program, a much higher premium is placed on rigorous faculty-supervised academic reading and writing.

Program Design

PhD Process PhD 1st Year PhD Portfolio


First-Year Seminars: The first year of the program includes three seminar-style courses, with critical peer and faculty interaction: Advanced Missiological Research I and II and Missiology as a Discipline. The Advanced Missiological Research seminars are focused on research design, culminating in the creation of a Research Proposal. Missiology as a Discipline provides a strong theological and historical foundation for doing missiology, and requires students to identify missiological issues directly related to her or his research interests

Methods: The purpose of the three methods courses is to learn about and refine data collection and analysis methodologies within a subset of missiological disciplines. This focused course work gives students training in the skills necessary to use refined methods that are specific to their research interests.

Tutorials: Five tutorials represent the bulk of the coursework in the PhD in Intercultural Studies. The first tutorial, the Initial Literature Review, is completed in the first year of the program. Each tutorial provides a supervised opportunity for a student to use the research methods they have learned in order to collect, analyze, and present data relevant to their research proposal, portfolio plan, and any related and approved human subject research protocols.

Important Steps in the PhD Process

Initial Research Proposal Evaluation: In order to advance beyond the first year, each student must present a proposal of their intended research to their mentor and two other faculty members. While not as formal as the Research Proposal Defense, a student's proposal must demonstrate adequate feasibility and scholarly rigor.

Research Proposal Defense: This defense is the opportunity for a student's mentor and advisory committee to formally review and approve their final proposal which should represent a significant refinement of their previous version(s). There is greater flexibility for when this defense can take place, but students who do not satisfactorily complete this defense are not permitted to continue in the program.

Comprehensive Exams: Students take 4 exams and have the option of replacing exam 4 with an article published in a peer-reviewed journal. This step must be completed before beginning the dissertation writing process.

Dissertation Defense: Students must subject their completed dissertation to a rigorous review by their advisory committee and an outside reader as a final check on the quality of their work.

Core Areas

  • Anthropology
  • Children at Risk
  • Communication
  • International Development
  • Islamic Studies
  • Leadership
  • History of Christianity
  • Mission Theology
  • Missional Church/Church and Society


PhD in Intercultural Studies Faculty

    Keon Sang An
    Missiology, missional hermeneutics, contextual theology, vocation and formation, daily and workplace spirituality, Ethiopian Orthodox Church
  • Bolger
    Ryan Bolger
    Faith and technology, emerging church, missional church, church growth, contemporary culture, contextualization, local theology, Jesus and mission
  • McConnell
    Doug McConnell
    Interfaith dialogue, leadership and missiological integration in a global context, children at risk
  • Myers
    Bryant Myers
    Development theory and practice in Christian perspective; the intersection between development, the local church, and Christian witness; globalization and the poor
  • PhD-Intercultural-Studies-Professor-Diane-Obenchain-Fuller-Theological-Seminary
    Diane Obenchain
    Comparative history of global religion, methods in the study of religion, Asian traditions of religion (Confucianism, Daoism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam), Christian engagement with people of other faiths, introduction to mission, world Christianity, Christianity in China
  • PhD-Intercurltural-Studies-professor-Timothy-Kiho-Park
    Timothy Kiho Park
    Cross-cultural church planting, discipleship in mission, Korean mission history, crucial issues in mission
  • PhD-Intercultural-Studies-Professor-Johnny-Ramirez-Johnson-Fuller-Theological-Seminary
    Johnny Ramirez-Johnson
    Practical theology research methods applied to mission studies (i.e. qualitative and mixed approaches), mission with sex workers (female heterosexual), Latino church in the USA, race relations, cultural identity, approaches to diversity in the postmodern world
  • Reisacher
    Evelyne Reisacher
    Islamic studies, intercultural relations, attachment theory, world religions, gender studies, affect regulation, conflict resolution
  • Scott
    Dave Scott
    Mission with children at risk, cognitive anthropology, cognitive research methods, child participation and human rights for children, motivation and retention among children and youth workers, theology of children
  • Sunquist
    Scott Sunquist
    Asian Christianity, historiography, missiology, Christianity in the non-Western world
  • PhD-Intercultural-Studies-Professor-Amos-Yong-Fuller-Theological-Seminary
    Amos Yong
    Global Pentecostalism, political theology, disability and mission, interfaith encounter, Buddhist-Christian dialogue, Asian American Christianity

Community of Scholars

The CMR Community of Scholars is made up of our PhD and ThM students, visiting scholars and School of Intercultural Studies faculty. We live out this community emphasis in these important ways:

CMR Colloquia & Salon Missiologique

Colloquia are events in which our community gathers to engage in dialogue based around a presentation made by either a student or faculty member. These required seminars offer the chance to present an article prepared for publication and can provide some highly engaging debates and collegial critique. Furthermore, these colloquia also present the opportunity for students to be exposed to domains of missiology that are outside the scope of their own research, and which they would probably not encounter otherwise. Once per quarter this takes place as a less formal discussion and fellowship time, a "Salon Missiologique," held in a Fuller faculty member's home.

Spiritual Formation Events

The CMR hosts two annual spiritual formation events during the academic year: our Community Convocation & Breakfast (in the Fall) and an afternoon colloquium focusing on spiritual formation in the Winter. Both of these events serve as opportunities for members of our community to break from their studies and spend some time in communal fellowship and prayer. Our hope is that these will be highlights of spiritual reflection and renewal, providing an opportunity to unite our community and assist students in connecting their spiritual formation more intentionally with their academic pursuits.

Missiology Lectures

Each year the School of Intercultural Studies hosts a series of Missiology Lectures during Fall quarter.

Student Reflections

David Leong - Class of 2010

Assistant Professor of Missional Theology, Seattle Pacific University

Seattle has been my home, parish (of sorts), and research context for almost 15 years. Prior to entering the SIS PhD program, I was working as a community groups pastor at an urban, multiethnic church plant while contemplating (often with some frustration) why my theological education up to that point seemed to be missing some fairly important questions. So I began the program with a set of particular questions, mostly centered on the city as an important cultural and theological context. The focus was not merely "urban ministry," or even urban missiology, important as both of those fields are. Rather, I wanted to understand the city as a kind of theological text, and approach its cultural complexities with a robust, missional theology.

Several factors drew me to Fuller's program- first, the reputation of its faculty, and in particular, the significant missiological resources available in the School of Intercultural Studies. Second, I knew that I would encounter and interact with students from diverse backgrounds, and with diverse research interests. Lastly, I appreciated the interdisciplinary focus of ICS, and the flexibility of adapting my research to various academic disciplines.

My experience in the program was both wonderful and challenging, with most of the difficulties rooted in the fact that I was doing my research in Seattle, and thus more disconnected, both geographically and relationally, than I wanted to be from the Pasadena campus. My committee was very accommodating, and the last year wrapped up very well as my research became much more cohesive, thanks to their wisdom and gentle guidance. I particularly enjoyed the annual doctoral seminars, and the collaborative environment of peer review across a wide array of disciplines and research topics. That exposure to other students' research was one of the highlights for me personally as it reminded me of the common ground that all ICS students share, despite significant differences or subtle nuances of culture, language, geography, and Christian tradition.

As for the impact my research will have on mission, my hope is to illuminate the city as a meaningful theological context in consideration of both the missio Dei and the cultural realities of density, diversity, and disparity in today's global cities. In short, I hope my research will help to equip the church with a robust (to quote the subtitle of my forthcoming book, Street Signs) "missional theology of urban cultural engagement."

Carol Christopher - Class of 2011

Adjunct Professor of Missiology, Fuller Theological Seminary

Research Coordinator for Belief in Enterprise, University of Cambridge

I am originally from Atlanta, GA, but spent the last 20+ years in Silicon Valley (northern California), primarily working at increasingly entrepreneurial biotech ventures, including two start-ups that became public companies. In 2004, I decided to take a break from the 24/7 job of start-ups and went to Regent College in Vancouver, Canada, for my Masters degree before coming to Fuller in the fall of 2007.

My research interests were likely an anomaly at Fuller: I'm not a traditional 'missionary', but rather am called to work with God in the context of entrepreneurial business in a variety of cultural settings. As such, my doctoral research was focused on understanding the differences between Hindu and Christian Indian CEOs of entrepreneurial ventures in the Indian context. (Also, I have been teaching and mentoring entrepreneurs in the Philippines, Malaysia, India, and China as well as the U.S. while working on my PhD.) I loved working with the two faculty members on my committee: Dr. Sherwood Lingenfelter and Dr. Dan Shaw. Though quite different, their styles and interests were complementary and I particularly enjoyed the way both treated me as a colleague rather than a student.

Completing my PhD has reinforced for me the ability to and appropriateness of integrating my business and spiritual life. Moreover, the doctoral experience corroborated that the rigorous scientific approach applied to qualitative social science issues can reveal new insights and understanding of others and of how God is working in the world.