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PhD in Intercultural Studies

School of Mission and Theology

The Doctor of Philosophy in Intercultural Studies (PhD ICS) degree represents the highest academic credential in the study of Christian mission. It is offered through Fuller’s Center for Missiological Research (CMR), a world-renowned institution for missiology, intercultural studies, and world Christianity. The PhD ICS program at Fuller provides exceptional candidates with the opportunity to design, develop, and complete a customized research plan in consultation with faculty advisors through a tutorial-driven process that integrates a wide range of academic disciplines. PhD ICS graduates make an original contribution to missiology. They are well-trained scholars prepared to teach at the university and seminary level and with the standing to provide global leadership.


8–15 new students per year

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Study with faculty like these:

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To be considered for a PhD in Intercultural Studies, applicants will have achieved a master’s degree and have completed graduate-level coursework of a theological nature that includes some missiology.

Application is through an online form, including transcripts and references, together with a statement of the proposed area of research for the dissertation. The PhD program starts for new students in the fall quarter (late September).

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"I serve as a pastor in a second generation Singaporean immigrant church in Toronto. The PhD ICS allowed me to join my passion for mission in this context with rigorous scholarship and research. The program gave me the opportunity to step back from frontline ministry and reflect on my context with other ministry-minded scholars who shared a passion for mission. I also leave Fuller with a greater capacity for theologically reflective practice, as well as skills for teaching at the graduate level."
– Ryan Seow, PhD ICS, 2022

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Merit-based scholarships are available to eligible incoming PhD Intercultural Studies students each year on the basis of an outstanding application. Upon application each student is automatically considered for a King and Crowell Fellowship, which covers over 90 percent of the cost of tuition for up to three years of the program. Incoming PhD Intercultural Studies students are also eligible for the Charles E. Fuller Annual Scholarship, which is awarded based on financial need and covers up to 15 percent of the cost of tuition. In addition, special scholarships have been established to provide financial aid to returning students at Fuller.

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At the time of admission each student is assigned to a mentor whose expertise is relevant to the student’s main research interest. This mentor becomes the primary consultant who helps the student determine the feasibility and scholarly credibility of their project. Further, students work with other scholars in tutorials and courses, and are required to invite one or two additional professors to serve on their advisory committee. While a student’s mentor must be a Fuller faculty member, the PhD ICS program is flexible enough to allow students to work with any appropriately trained scholars on various aspects of their research.

In addition to providing mentorship by a faculty advisor, CMR promotes academic relationships between cohorts through a semistructured mentoring program connecting first-year students with those already in the program.

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Residence and Study Process

The PhD in Intercultural Studies program is designed to be completed in 4–5 years. Students complete the first year of the program by studying together as a cohort. After that, students customize their own program including tutorials, courses, library research, and in most cases, fieldwork.

The PhD program requires some residence on campus. Students may relocate to the Pasadena campus, or they may fulfill the residence requirement by periodic visits to campus while remaining in their mission context. Classes are held in person on campus and are also accessible for students online.

Regular colloquia are arranged through the Center for Missiological Research. The student’s program may also include formally assigned teaching, research, or instructional training assistantships at Fuller.

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Fuller's annual Missiology Lectures bring in the top scholars from around the world to interact with the Fuller academic community.

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The curriculum of the PhD in Intercultural Studies is comprised of four first-year seminars, five tutorials, three methods classes, four comprehensive exams and a dissertation of around 75,000 words (58 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.

Through a carefully designed process, students will develop their own research project. Core areas in which current students and mentors focus include the following: Children at Risk, Decolonizing Mission, Cultural Anthropology, Development Studies, Evangelism, Global Pentecostalism, Islamic Studies, Public Theology, Technology in Mission, Theology of Mission, Theology of Religions and Comparative Theology, Urban Mission, World Christianity. However, research topics will vary depending on student preference and faculty expertise.

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FULLER dialogues: Migration in Missiological Perspective

Leading scholars scholars take a deep dive into Los Angeles’s unique history and culture to explore wider issues of migration, transnationalism, and interfaith engagement through a missiological perspective.

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Students admitted to the PhD in Intercultural Studies join a cohort of PhD and ThM students learning together in a diverse community of scholars. This collegiality is lived in important ways through the Center for Missiological Research (CMR), which is made up of PhD and ThM students in all years of the program (totaling more than 50), plus faculty, and visiting scholars through the Global Research Institute. As befits missiology, PhD ICS students come from all continents, and students and faculty share intercultural and transnational research interests. The CMR administers the PhD program, connects students together across different year groups through an informal mentoring program, and arranges shared activities for all members of CMR. The center’s activities include regular academic colloquia, informal fellowship, spiritual formation events, and special lectures, such as the annual Missiology Lectures.

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Get to know your admissions counselor | Joel Short

I came to study at Fuller in 2004 and have worked on Fuller’s admissions team since I graduated in 2007. I am inspired by the many people I meet who are seeking to change the world by changing hearts and minds. I am privileged to listen to so many wonderful stories and to help pour light on the path. I love history and enjoy books, podcasts, museums, maps, antiques and anything else that helps me understand how the past relates to the present and the future.

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