The PhD Lowdown: Why? Where? How?

After a long wait, I just found out that I’ve gained entrance into the PhD program of Fuller Seminary. So I thought I’d answer the common questions here….

Where?: At Fuller’s Pasadena, California campus.

When?: the course starts in August 2011, but there is a ‘Research Methods’ class I’d like to take in July which will give me keys like how to footnote and plan a PhD project etc. I do four semesters (10 weeks each) after Research Methods; after this I’m a distance student back in Oz.

What is my topic?: my research topic seeks to explore worship, music and our Australian identity. I am particularly interested in personal reconciliation between Aboriginal/Torres Strait islander and non-Indigenous Australians. My question can fall in a range of disciplines – sociology, anthropology, missiology, intercultural studies. A part of the first year would be identifying my question, and the best discipline for this question. I would like to be able to teach and do research for secular universities among other things when I get back, so this thinking is framing my planning.

How long does it take?: I plan to study by distance in Australia, however every PhD student at Fuller must spend one year minimum at the Pasadena campus. The course is three years but the reality is that most people run over the expected time frame by a couple of months at least. I’m going to try for a Dec 2013 deadline.

What is Tim doing for the year I’m away?: We would love Tim to travel to the States with me… And we don’t want to be away from each other. But there are financial implications of studying in another country – and his income and sponsorship may be mandatory for my visa application. Tim is planning to continue his very important work with youth at Streetwork in Chatswood which he loves. His work is pretty flexible and he has annual leave in which to visit me and hopefully spend some time in churches both in the States and Europe together to share our music and to see some of you!

The Scholarship: I haven’t heard about the specific scholarship that I applied for, but what I applied for is only available for an Australian seeking to return to work in Australia. There are few Australian applicants to Fuller in the PhD program each year, and even less who would know they seek to return to work here. There are less again who would be seeking to study about Australian identity – so if the scholarship is going to be granted, it is likely to go to me. Now, I may not qualify for it, so keep me in your prayers – however it seems that I am also eligible for Financial Aid, and also for other Australian scholarships. So there are lots of options for extra help. Ideally, I would receive a stipend to study… so if you know of a scholarship please let me know!!!

Why a PhD?: in 2010 I completed a Masters of Philosophy, which is the equivalent of 2/3rds of a PhD. The particular course I completed has all the drawbacks of research – copious coffee drinking, the collection of data and writing 40,000 words – but without the more formal elements of a PhD such as publishing each chapter as articles. I’ve done enough to realise that I love research, I love writing, and I also love teaching at a graduate level. However, my M.Phil was very much based in my past, studying Darlene Zschech’s impact on worship. It’s time to forge my own path and create a project that carves new ground in this discipline. I am very interested in figuring out how research can practically help pastors and how we can engage research missionally with our national identity.

What are you doing in the meantime?: I was recently blessed with the news that an investor has decided to fund a worship project of my songs. This is something that I never could have afforded to do in the lead up to the PhD, after part-time (read full-time) ministry. So I am writing more songs, editing, and gathering resources in order to help churches better connect with God. I’m attending Hillsong Church, and would love to help wherever I can in the body of Christ – worship leading, teaching, sharing… whatever I can!!!

Is Tim excited?: Seriously excited. He has envisaged us buying a Combi van and travelling around Australia meeting Aboriginal communities, and is busting for me to get into my data collection phase so he can drive the Combi van out into the outback.

Are you excited?: Yes!!! I am nervous, and excited – I have been working on the application since October ’10, so my excitement is metered over that many months!!! I’ve never seen Pasadena before, so I want to see my local cafe, my apartment, and meet my supervisor Roberta King… but it’s a long way to go before all that, so in the interim, I want my visa to go through and for us financially to have a bit of savings up our sleeve as a buffer. And my purpose isn’t to travel, but I would love to at least see some of the States for the year I’m there… so a million things are going through my head, and the main one is gratitude to God.

Look forward to filling you in as we go!!!

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