As an Asian-American Christian higher education institution, GCU has been serving Korean pastors, missionaries, and Christian leaders in North America and from other parts of the globe and other non-Korean students, through various academic and professional degree programs, since 1993. The PhD supports GCU’s vision and mission by promoting rigorous scholarship committed to proclaiming and embodying the gospel of God’s Kingdom in various intercultural contexts, advancing theological and missiological research from non-Western Christian perspectives, and bringing Western and non-Western Christian heritages together to meet the various challenges and needs in the missional or ministerial endeavors in a largely post-Christendom era.

The PhD is intended to equip students for vocations of teaching and research in theological schools, colleges, and universities or for the academic study of missional and ministerial practice.


The PhD offers courses primarily in the following three emphasis areas of Intercultural Studies: (1) historical-theological studies; (2) global/contextual studies; (3) ministerial development & leadership studies.


The PhD is purported to prepare students to be interdisciplinary scholars who are sensitive to all three areas of emphasis in the field of intercultural studies.
Having completed the PhD program, students will have demonstrated:

  1. advanced knowledge of the discipline of intercultural studies and research methodologies appropriate to do advanced interdisciplinary research in its emphasis areas,
  2. deeper understanding and application of relevant theoretical missiological knowledge and critical examinations of mission theologies and practices with both Western and non-Western Christian perspectives,
  3. an ability to analyze contemporary challenges and needs in various intercultural contexts,
  4. an advanced ability to engage in learning, research, and teaching in academic and professional settings,
  5. integration of the comprehensive interdisciplinary knowledge of scholarly literature and effective intercultural practices, and
  6. organization of an interdisciplinary scholarly qualitative research work in the discipline of intercultural studies.


Admission Requirements


  • Applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree.
  • Applicants must hold a Master of Divinity degree, Master of Arts in Missiology or Intercultural Studies, or equivalent from a fully accredited institution. Those who do not hold a Master’s degree relating to theological studies must take additional/approved elective courses.
  • Applicants must have a grade point average (GPA) of 3.3 or higher on the standard four-point scale.
  • Official transcript(s) from all previous degree-awarding institutions must be submitted in English or in a notarized translation.


Applicants must have at least three years of cross-cultural or intercultural work experience (e.g., mission agencies, mission fields, or Christian ministries in an intercultural context). Applicants who have teaching experience in a multicultural or intercultural setting will also be considered. Applicants must submit a certification of their field experience.


Applicants must submit two letters of recommendation: one from a colleague or mentor in the field of cross-cultural or intercultural work and one from an academic advisor, such as a former professor. The recommendation forms may be obtained from the GCU Office of Admissions.


Applicants must submit a two-page statement including (1) their specific goals in pursuing a PhD degree; (2) their prospective research topics and areas of interest; and (3) their expectations for achieving their academic goals at GCU.


Applicants must present evidence of potential for original academic research at the doctoral level by submitting a sample of unpublished writing or a recent academic research paper if nothing has been published. This writing sample should be written in one of the applicant’s contemporary research languages (preferably Korean or English) and an academic writing format and should be 20-25 pages in length.


PhD Application form (available at the GCU website)

  1. Official Transcripts
  2. Sample research paper
  3. Certification of field experience
  4. Two recommendation letters
  5. Academic purpose statement


  1. Applications for admission to the PhD program must be approved by the PhD Program Committee as well as the Office of Admissions. As noted above, applicants must submit the Admission Documents.
  2. Each applicant must submit all necessary documents to the Office of Admissions, accompanied by a non-refundable application fee of 100 USD. All the original application documents must be received no later than 30 days prior to the beginning of the semester in which the student seeks enrollment.
    Applicants who have submitted all the required documents will be contacted for an interview with the PhD Program Committee.
  3. It takes approximately 30 days to process the application. After their portfolios are reviewed, applicants will be notified as to approval or disapproval of their applications.
  4. Leveling Evaluations: Each applicant’s portfolio will be evaluated by the PhD Program Committee, and applicants who do not have sufficient field experience in cross-cultural, biblical, theological, and/or historical foundation, or who do not meet the language competency requirement, can satisfy these prerequisites by taking additional/approved courses prior to matriculation in the program. Some students may be admitted on condition of completion of leveling work prior to matriculation in the program. As noted above, if applicants have taken courses in biblical languages for their MDiv, these requirements can be waived; however, those who have not taken courses in biblical languages must take additional courses to fulfill the biblical language requirement. These courses are offered at GCU. Also, applicants who do not have sufficient GRE or MAT scores must take the GCU Barrier Exam (GBE); finally, those who lack coursework in mission studies can take additional courses provided by GCU.


International applicants who come with I-20 (F-1, J-1) VISAs and DS-2019 should follow the general admission requirements of GCU’s admission policies as described in the Catalog.



Students are expected to take coursework seminars and courses offered on the main campus to meet the residency requirement. During the residency period, students will be able to have regular face-to-face interactions with faculty and their colleagues, make full use of various other educational opportunities available on the main campus, and utilize the facilities and resources of GCU and other Universities in the greater Atlanta area.


The Ph.D. requires 60 credit hours, including 42 credit hours for coursework, 6 credits for comprehensive exams and dissertation proposals, and 12 credit hours for dissertation research. In addition, the Institutional Requirement must be met, with a passing grade for each semester. Students must also maintain a grade point average (GPA) of 3.3 or above. Detailed components of courses are listed in the curriculum for the program at the end of this bulletin. Students are required to take three courses each semester to maintain full-time status. Coursework generally comprises four or five semesters.


At the end of each semester, the Ph.D. Program Committee will review students for their Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP). The Director of the Ph.D. monitors each student’s academic status and progress. The purpose of the SAP review is to provide information to the Office of Academic Affairs to determine students’ academic standing and financial aid eligibility and to help students critically self-assess their progress toward their degree each year. The minimal requirements for SAP include a minimum grade point average (GPA) of 3.3 plus timely completion of the program requirements. The Ph.D. Program Committee is responsible for maintaining each student’s SAP review reports, signed by the student, his/her advisor, and the Director. Reports will be placed in the student’s file in the Office of Academic Affairs.


Upon completion of required coursework and SAP reviews, the Chair of the Ph.D. Program Committee will send an official letter to the student outlining the procedures for taking comprehensive examinations. Qualified students must register for the comprehensive exams during the regular registration period and complete the comprehensive exams within one year after finishing their coursework. Comprehensive exams are normally scheduled for the Fall semester during the first week of October and the Spring semester during the last week of March. The exams are entirely guided and controlled by the PhD Program Committee and are composed of 8 questions covering the four different areas in the Intercultural Studies program. Exams will continue for two consecutive days. The four distinct areas are 1) Mission Theologies, 2) Ecclesiology, 3) Globalization, Anthropology, and Contemporary Culture, and 4) Ministry Development and Leadership. Students will take exams in two areas each day.

The Ph.D. Program Committee will assess the comprehensive examinations as being either passed with distinction, passed, failed with possible re-examination, or failed terminally. A terminal failure ends a student’s program at GCU. Two losses of the comprehensive exams complete a student’s program at the GCU.
Record of Results: The Program Committee will inform the student and his/her advisor via an official letter of the results as soon as the examiners return them. The results are recorded in the student's file and the Office of Academic Affairs.


Students will advance to doctoral candidacy after passing the comprehensive exams. Once granted, candidacy is valid only until the program deadline unless otherwise decided by the Ph.D. Program Committee. Therefore, students are strongly encouraged to plan research that can be completed and integrated into their dissertation during their candidacy period. Leaves of absence do not extend the candidacy period. An extension of candidacy is granted only with a valid academic reason that the dissertation advisor can support. To make a petition for an extension of candidacy, students must apply for Extension of Candidacy, which includes a detailed work plan, and is signed by the student, the student’s advisor, and the Director of the Ph.D. Program. The Ph.D. Program Committee reviews applications for a candidacy extension.


After passing comprehensive examinations and advancing to candidacy, the student develops a dissertation proposal with the guidance of his or her dissertation committee, which consists of two faculty members: the First Reader and the Second Reader. The first Reader will be the primary advisor for the dissertation proposal. Upon recommendation of the dissertation committee, an oral defense of the proposal will be held. Final approval comes from the Ph.D. Program Committee.

Proposal Overview and Format:

Students will need to begin thinking about a dissertation topic early in their program, although they will concentrate on preparing a dissertation proposal after the comprehensive exams. Students are encouraged to work closely with her/his faculty advisor or dissertation advisor (if one is selected) in choosing a topic for the dissertation. The dissertation proposal is a comprehensive statement on the extent and nature of the student's dissertation research interests. Students submit a draft of the proposal to their dissertation advisor. The student must provide a written copy of the proposal to the Program Committee no later than two weeks before the proposal defense date.
The major components of the proposal are as follows, with some variations across Areas and disciplines:
  • A detailed statement of the problem to be studied and the context within which it is to be seen. This should include a justification of the importance of the problem on both theoretical and educational grounds.
  • A thorough review of the literature pertinent to the research problem. This review should prove that the field's relevant literature has been thoroughly researched. Good research is cumulative; it builds on the thoughts, findings, and mistakes of others.
  • A statement on the overall design of the proposed study, which includes:
    • its general explanatory interest
    • the comprehensive theoretical framework within which this interest is to be pursued.
    • the model or hypotheses to be tested or the research questions to be answered.
    • a discussion of the conceptual and operational properties of the variables
    • an overview of strategies for collecting appropriate evidence (sampling, instrumentation, data collection, data reduction, and data analysis)
    • a discussion of how the evidence is to be interpreted.

Proposal Defense:

The student and his/her dissertation advisor are responsible for scheduling a formal meeting to defend the proposal before the Program Committee. At the end of this meeting, the dissertation committee members will sign the Cover Sheet for the Dissertation Proposal and indicate their approval or rejection of the proposal. This signed form is then submitted to the Director of the Ph.D. Program. If a student is required to make revisions, an addendum is required with each member of the committee's written approval stating that the proposal has been revised to their satisfaction.


A dissertation should

  • clearly state its thesis and significance
  • delineate a coherent scope and appropriate boundaries for a well-defined project.
  • locate its project in appropriate scholarly literature.
  • demonstrate intellectually and methodologically rigorous scholarship.
  • support the stated purposes of the project with sound research method.
  • analyze its material critically.
  • use language which demonstrates command of the discipline but is sufficiently jargon-free to be accessible to a broad range of theological scholars.
  • include a bibliography that opens the project to perspectives beyond the author's denominational and scholarly tradition.
  • successfully employ the linguistic skills appropriate to the project

The Dissertation Committee:

When a student passes the comprehensive exams, the Ph.D. Program Committee will form a dissertation committee for him or her in consultation with his/her dissertation advisor. A dissertation committee comprises at the minimum of two faculty members (First Reader and Second Reader), who will guide the student in preparing a dissertation proposal, writing a dissertation, and preparing for an oral defense. The dissertation advisor (First Reader) will serve as the chairperson of this dissertation committee.

Writing Dissertation:

Upon approval of the dissertation proposal by the Ph.D. Program Committee, the student can proceed to the dissertation writing stage. The dissertation committee, primarily the First Reader, supervises his/her dissertation writing process. The length of a completed dissertation must be at least 250 pages (not including BIBLIOGRAPHY and APPENDICES). See further GCU Doctoral Dissertation Writing Guidelines.

Dissertation Examination:

The dissertation committee also reads and examines the student’s dissertation and guides him or her for an oral defense. After completing dissertation writing, the dissertation committee will recommend an external examiner from another research university or institution specializing in the relevant field of study. The CV of the proposed external examiner will be submitted to the Ph.D. Program Committee for approval. After completing internal and external examinations of the dissertation, the dissertation committee will submit a consolidated written evaluation to the Ph.D. Program Committee.

Oral Defense:

The student must submit one copy of the complete dissertation, with an abstract, no less than two weeks before the oral defense. The monograph for oral defense should be 1,000 to 1,500 words, or approximately six pages in length, and should include the following:

  • a summary of the problem
  • the primary research questions or hypotheses
  • the methods used to conduct the study.
  • the most important findings and conclusions.

Dissertation Format:

Students should follow the Georgia Central University Doctoral Dissertation Guidelines to produce the final dissertation draft. The GCU dissertation guidelines are available on the GCU website.

Filing the Dissertation:

Students are required to file with the Office of Academic Affairs two approved copies of the dissertation, in separate packets, on archival paper, typographically perfect and bearing the original signatures of the committee. Prospective graduates should consult the GCU Calendar for fall and spring semester filing deadlines. Note that prospective graduates are also required to pay a dissertation filing fee.


When it is certified that the candidate has completed all required work and met all financial obligations, the degree will be recommended by a vote of the Ph.D. Program Committee. Upon approval of the GCU Board of Trustees, a Doctor of Philosophy degree will be conferred on the candidate, normally in May.


The coursework seminars will be offered on the main campus. However, instructors are strongly encouraged to use GCU’s online learning management system (EEAA Communication) to enhance student learning in their geophysical classes.

16-week format: students may take 16-week courses on the main campus during a given semester.

Intensive format: students may take two or three intensive courses offered on the main campus during the intensive course offering weeks in Spring, Summer, and Fall semesters every year.


The Ph.D. requires 60 credits for the degree and takes from five to (a maximum of) seven years of study. A petition for an extension beyond the seven-year program deadline may be considered case-by-case. Students are strongly encouraged to be enrolled full-time throughout their coursework stage. While remaining in the program, they must maintain their enrolled student status every semester (at least one enrollment activity per semester). (Note: an international student with a valid I-20 must retain a full-time student status [9 or more credits enrolled per semester] or its equivalency while remaining in the program.) A request for a leave of absence may also be considered on a case-by-case basis. Students who fail to retain their enrolled status any semester without an approved leave of absence may be terminated from the program. See the Registration and Student Statuses section of this Handbook.


Steps Requirements Timelines Evidence for Certification
1 Course Work
(42 credits)
During the first four or five semesters (2-2.5 years) Enrolling course work seminars and research methodologies courses
Typically, 9-12 credits (three to four courses) enrolled per semester.
Review of student’s satisfactory academic progress at the end of each semester
2 Comprehensive
(3 credits)
In the fifth or sixth semester (2.5-3 years) Enrolling Comprehensive Exams Preparation
8 questions covering the five different areas, answered over two consecutive days.
Comprehensive exams are implemented and overseen by the Ph.D. Program Committee
Candidacy status will be given to students who pass comprehensive exams
3 Dissertation
Proposal/ Oral
(3 credits)
In the sixth or seventh semester (3-3.5 years) Enrolling Dissertation Proposal Preparation
The first reader of the dissertation committee will be appointed to advise and guide the dissertation proposal.
The dissertation proposal will be evaluated by the dissertation committee and approved by the PhD Program Committee
4 Dissertation
Research & Writing
(12 credits)
In the seventh or eighth semester (3.5-4 years) Enrolling Dissertation Research and Writing
The dissertation committee (the first and second readers) guides the dissertation writing.
The dissertation will be evaluated by the dissertation committee and an external reader and approved by the PhD Program Committee
5 Dissertation
Oral Defense
Three months before the end of each semester (4.5-5 years) All members of the dissertation committee and the Ph.D. Program Committee may participate in the oral defense.
The dissertation committee submits a final report, and the Ph.D. Program Committee makes a final decision


Eun Moo Lee, PhD
Associate Professor of Intercultural Studies


The Ph.D. in Intercultural Studies is designed as a five-year program, requiring a minimum of two years (four semesters) of coursework seminars followed by two to three years of comprehensive examinations and dissertation writing and defense. The minimum number of required credits for the degree is 60. And the length of the program may vary depending on the total number of credits attempted each semester and/or on the number of additional required credits (e.g., language requirements). The program operates year-round, with full-load enrollment available in the fall and spring semesters. A few doctoral seminars may also be available in a weeklong intensive format during summer.

Foundational (Choose 5 courses, 15 credits) Credits
PIC702:   Christian Mission, Anthropology, and Globalization 3
PIC714:   Theology of Mission & Evangelism  3
PICC715: Global Theologizing & World Christianity  3
PICC742: Intercultural Communication 3
PICF713: Biblical Principles for Transforming Culture 3
Total 15

Research Methodologies (Choose 2 courses, 6 credits)
PICR720: Qualitative Research Methods 3
PICR721: Quantitative Research Methods 3
PICR722: Historiographic Research Methods 3
PICR723: Research Design 3
Total 6

Core Electives (Choose 4 courses, 12 credits) 
PICC723:  History of Christian Mission  3
PICC730: Theological Studies on New Paradigms of Church Ministry for Mission  3
PICC731: Systematic Theology for Mission 3
PICC732: Biblical Mission and Strategies  3
PICC741: Methodology of Ministry in Postmodernism Thoughts  3
PICC750:  Cross-Cultural Leadership  3
PICC751:  Education in Intercultural Context 3
Total 12

Electives (Choose 3 courses, 9 credits)   
PIC711:  World Mission and Church (Missional Church) 3
PICC743: Indigenous Church Planting and Growth  3
PICE760: Partnership in Mission & Ministry  3
PICE762: Christian Encounter to Other Religions 3
PICE765: Trends of World Missions 3
PICE766: Christian Mission and Social Transformation 3
PICE767: Business as a Mission 3
PICE768: Studies on Ecumenical Involvement in Mission 3
PICE769: Mission and Biblical Worldview 3
PICE772: Global Contextual Studies Seminar 3
PICE776: Postmodern Issues for Mission     3
PICE778: Cross-Cultural Discipleship  3
Total 9

Comprehensive Examinations & Dissertation (18 credits)
PICD780: Orientation for Comprehensive Exam and Dissertation 0
PICD781: Comprehensive Exam Preparation 3
PICD782: Dissertation Proposal Preparation 3
PICD783: Dissertation Research & Writing  12
Total 18

Total Credits: 60