Introducing the PhD in International Development

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  • Overview
    Thank you for considering the jointly offered Ph.D. in International Development. The program is interdisciplinary and strives to develop each participant’s heart and mind through the disciplines of anthropology, sociology, asset-based philosophy and development methods, as well as theology, ethics, and spiritual formation. The program is holistic in scope, seeking to create opportunities for participants to gain both knowledge and experience appropriate for the 21st century.

    This program is designed for mid-career professionals seeking to engage in humanitarian service, research, program development and direction or training of personnel in the broad field of international development.
    How about Community Development with an Indigenous Perspective?

    Indigenous peoples' rather unique situation in discussions concerning development means there is a need for scholars who are also practitioners of development.

    How about joining that much needed group?

    If we caught your interest, what better place to prepare than with a community development studies program delivered by Indigenous scholars.
    As with all our programs, the NAIITS/Carey PhD is uniquely designed to equip you for a contribution to the Indigenous world— wherever serving your community finds you—on the Rez, the urban core—or somewhere in between!

    As part of their recruitment into the program, candidates for the Ph.D. will be guided by their major advisor to identify specific areas needing research within the field of In Development, as defined by NAIITS/WCIU. Alternately, they may apply for the and be placed in the program through a joint discernment process with the student and faculty. The student serves in an apprentice relationship with the major advisor who, along with a committee of qualified scholars, guides the student in designing the doctoral learning contract (DLC). This contract includes a minimum of 46 semester units of course work and a dissertation.
    The Program

    You will study with some of the finest scholars and practitioners in the Native North American context, including 85% Indigenous faculty - men and women with earned experience to accompany their earned degrees. Check us out, with a visit to

    • Majority Indigenous faculty
    • An Indigenous designed curriculum
    • Course delivery with Indigenous methods


    As one of a growing community of Indigenous scholars you will work and study with an expanding community of upcoming leaders connected to the NAIITS learning community.

    Designed specifically to train Indigenous people—and those who work within an Indigenous context—the PhD in International and Community Development Studies, in partnership with William Carey International University, is intended to hone your skills in applied community research. The objective is to engage the community in a self directed exercise of development.

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  • Details

    The North American Institute for Indigenous Theological Studies (NAIITS), in conjunction with WCIU is dedicated to equipping men and women for meaningful engagement within their own communities, other local cultural contexts as well as globally. The PhD has been designed and tailored for Indigenous people, those serving in Indigenous communities, and others simply interested in a non-Western approach to development education. Indigenous leaders – academics and community practitioners alike, supervise it. In fact, the majority of instructors for the PhD are Indigenous North Americans. Our unique program provides teaching from alternative epistemologies and pedagogies (anthrogogies), as well as practitioner skills that assist co-learners in the creation of informed paradigms for development beyond traditional western models.


    Courses are available in flexible, accessible formats. Continue to live in your communities from online-hybrid options. Intensive summer courses provide face-to-face classroom experience. Wrap-around conference courses related to the NAIITS Annual Symposium stimulate learning with Indigenous theological learners. . Elective courses allow you to further tailor the program to your own learning and ministry environment.

    Mutual Learning Community

    Join with colleagues that are currently working in Indigenous contexts. Grow in your leadership capacity as you build relationships and experience one-to-one and small-group mentorship.

  • Course Framework
    Standard Courses (22 Units)

    IC 565 Foundations of the World Christian Movement (2)
    Humankind has virtually erased their story. Human beings as far back as we have any paleontological record have been fighting each other so much that they have destroyed well over 90 percent of their own handiwork. Their libraries, their literature, their cities, their works of art are mostly gone. Even the little that remains from the distant past is riddled with evidences of a strange and pervasive evil that has grotesquely distorted human kind’s potential. This course, however, is not about what has gone wrong within creation, but about what has been introduced by its creator to bring about the creator’s own intentions for its full restoration.

    ID 600 Perspectives from Cultural Anthropology (2)
    Cultural Anthropology is the study of the immense variety in human culture. In this class we will begin our journey together by traveling through some historical anthropological theory. There are important trajectories that anthropology has taken that have been helpful and hurtful, particularly to indigenous people globally. However, as in all things cultural or otherwise, change will occur. Culture is not static, and neither is anthropology. It has grown and changed, it has interacted with other disciplines in an interdisciplinary manner, it has contributed to great heights of learning and great lows of oppression, and it has critiqued itself and learned from its mistakes. Although there is much more to learn via anthropology as a discipline, particularly when it comes to inviting other worldviews to contribute to the shaping of anthropological theory and practice, it has something important to offer us, both as indigenous and non-indigenous people.

    MD 604 Theory and Praxis in Development – History and Method (4)
    Our study will begin with a brief examination of historic relief and development theories, sighting in on a more careful examination of post WWII models and their evolution through the 1960s, 70s, and 80s toward the Transformational Development models of the 1990s and beyond. The continued emphasis on Modernization and Westernization in contemporary practice will create a frame around a discussion of alternate ideas for community health and well-being. While not intended as a strict comparative of methods, the cost/benefit between asset and deficit based methods will emerge for the student as we examine the biblical and theological issues each raises when each is applied to human systems and communities.

    ID 635 Asset-based Development I (2)
    This course is an introduction to asset-based planning and design as a human and organizational capacity-building approach that seeks to locate, underscore, and emphasize, in a selective way, the life-giving forces and successes within an organization, group, or community. As the title implies, Level I it is for those who are intrigued by a different way of dealing with life in communities and organizations, and would like to explore in an introductory fashion, the skills of community development facilitation at a basic depth for practitioners. Several tools used in asset-based planning and development will be carefully examined with a view to developing proficiency in both their theory and practice. Finally, each student will propose, design and implement a practical project using the tools of asset-based development.

    ID 735 Asset-based Development II (2)
    Level II advances the participant’s skills so that they have good capacity in both understanding and implementation in various kinds of community need. This is the capacity builder level and is deigned to increase student competence in community and organizational facilitation and facilitation of community planning using asset-based tools. While also providing the basis for continued personal growth in asset-based skills, level II also uses the practicum undertaken at the end of level 1 to create the framework for certification with the NAIITS community of certified practitioners.

    RM 700 Introduction to Research Methods
    An introduction to the approaches to research design and the research methods typically employed in international development and missiological contexts.

    RM 800 Research Design
    The student will be engaged, under the auspices of their committee members, in setting out an appropriate design for their research project paying attention to appropriate ethical and moral considerations as well as accessibility of research materials.

    ME 700 Introduction to Mentoring
    While international development does not always entail the PhD graduate be in formal educational environments, the ability to mentor another is nonetheless critical to any transmission of knowledge and experience – particularly within Indigenous contexts. In this course, the student will explore their own mentoring styles and capacities and situate them within the context of their discovery of the richness of Indigenous mentoring.

    ME 800 Mentoring Practicum
    As the course title suggests, the student will here be required to participate in a practicum within the NAIITS community as a mentor/teacher either in the PhD or one of the other NAIITS educational programs.

    Individualized Courses (18 Units selected by student)

    HS 800 Hebrew Scripture Community Models

    A general introduction to the historical, sociological and theological context in which the Hebrew Scriptures came into existence, this course will provide the student with an understanding of the major emphases of the texts with a focus on their presentation of the nature of community models and concepts. In addition, the student will be introduced to themes of community life and praxis in the Hebrew Scriptures that find parallels in what has been coined by some as the “Old Testament of Native North America.” The course will use community understandings, models and paradigms as a basis for comparison.

    NT 800 New Testament Community Models  

    While familiarizing students with the content and structure, distinctive theology, and introductory matters (e.g., date, authorship, occasion) of the four NT gospels and the book of Acts, this course will focus its energies on exploring the nature of community as described in the NT. Attention will be given to understandings of community present within the text and its historical context. The course provides students with a solid grasp of the NT canon with attention given to understanding the nature of community, its transitions and changes from a strictly Hebraic construct as found within the Jewish community, and projections made for its future development.

    TH 501 Theology of Community I (HS)

    This course is an exercise in theological reflection ordered around the concept of community. It will examine the Christian doctrines of creation, fall, and redemption identifying God’s ultimate purpose in the world as being the establishment of community. The course has two major foci. It examines, on the one hand, the work of the triune God in creation, preservation, and redemption; and on other, the place of humanity within the created and redeemed order. Other issues that are examined include: evil and the fall in their spiritual and cosmic dimensions, ecology and the cultural mandate, etc. As with TH 601, the course will include understandings of the nature and origins of community as portrayed within Indigenous myth, cosmologies and spiritual perspectives.

    TH 601 Theology of Community II (NT)

    This course is a critical examination of different attitudes toward culture and community adopted by the Church throughout history. The texts of representative theorists of culture and community such as Richard Niebuhr, Dietrich Bonheoffer, Stanley Hauerwas, and Jacques Ellul are assessed in light of biblical patterns and the requirements of a postmodern paradigm. Practical questions such as the relationship between the sacred and the secular, the role of art, the place of work and leisure, and the significance of political engagement will receive particular attention in juxtaposition with Indigenous perspectives in each area. This course also seeks to develop an integrated model of God, humanity and culture focusing on current debates and their bearing on Christian mission and community.

    SH610 Ethics in Intercultural Context     

    An intercultural, contextual introduction to central issues in Christian ethics, with attention to the way in which moral reflection interacts with philosophy and culture. The course explores biblical-theological foundations for ethics, the role of scripture and Jesus’ example in ethical formulation, and deals with major contemporary topics including gender, sexuality, marriage, euthanasia, war, bioethics, wealth and poverty.

    MD 507 Contextualized Leadership

    This course will engage the student in a variety of discussions on leadership – in the family, community, Indigenous church, and wider society. Special emphasis will be on exploring the praxis of decolonization and growing edge of re-traditionalization as a means of understanding contemporary Indigenous leadership models used in each of these social contexts.

    ID 600 Social Construction of Identity

    This course critically examines the social construction of ethnicity and identity within First Nations, Inuit and Metis communities as well as the implications for broader community social responses to those identities. Students will study the myths and realities surrounding the development of racial, ethnic and cultural categories in North America, and learn how social, political, and economic forces have shaped the experiences of different ethnic groups. Students will also be introduced to the concepts of socialization, social interaction, identity formation and self-fashioning, the social construction of class, gender and race, age, deviance, and other social phenomena. This comparison will include an invitation for students to explore their own unique ethnic heritage.

    ID 530 Family and Social Systems

    Indigenous family contexts have dramatically changed over the course of the centuries since contact. Family systems, including parenting, intergenerational roles and relationships as well as governance and provision for need have come under significant stress. Proposed remedies over the 20th and into the 21st centuries have attempted to accommodate what constituted traditional ways within often equally invasive new ways. This course examines the impact of cultural and social forces upon the family system including major systems theories, strategies, and techniques of engaging family and family relationship in the context of shifting dynamics and demographics. Issues of family and inter-generational conflict as well as the ethical considerations of intervention are also examined.

    MD 560 Indigenous Economics

    This course introduces various theories and forms of praxis within the Canadian context of Indigenous community economic development, setting it within both historical and contemporary contexts. The work of the course is designed to utilize economic issues in Indigenous Canada as its focal lens. Issues covered will include: The impact of governance options on Indigenous economics; Indigenous rights and title – economic perspectives; rationale and economic roots of income differentials between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples; and economic failures and successes within Indigenous community contexts.

    ID 530 Cultures and Change

    No experience of Christianity has been more culturally damaging than that experienced by Indigenous peoples. Through process of decolonization and indigenization this course will examine how Indigenous people live a biblically informed Christian faith in the context of Indigenous cultures. Cultures and Change is designed to give perspectives and tools for interpreting and guiding a cultural system towards deep change. Insights from various disciplines, such as anthropology, social psychology, and organizational science, stimulate the exegesis of culture in fresh ways. Jesus as a change master in a complex cultural system is the model for guiding effective and lasting change.

    SH 620 Creation and Transformation

    The centre of Christian theology is Jesus Christ who unites Creator and creation. This course, therefore, will focus on thinking through the scriptural and ecclesiastical traditions concerning the person and work of Christ in transforming creation. This will provide the basis for a discussion about the implication of Christology for the transformation of the creation community. Thus, the course will seek to engage the ideas represented by the councils, creeds of past theologians, and then move to examine the theological praxis that resulted in a colonial and post-colonial context. All this in hopes of the learner developing a shared praxis based upon a renewed Indigenous creation-centered theology.

    ID 640 Studies in a Holistic Gospel

    The environment in which the Christian community exists has changed radically in the past number of decades – physically, socially, economically, politically, and culturally. The comfortable dualism between body and soul by which much of Christian mission operated in the past (saving souls only) has not only proven inadequate but damaging, as in the case of many First Nations, Inuit and Metis people in Canada. This course allows participants to explore the old and develop the new in the world of Christian mission. The courses focus through the lens of hands-on discovery and experience – both instructor and student – to provide a more robust understanding of the nature of the gospel.

    ID 501 Anthropology of Leadership

    This course will have students examine leadership, organizational and change theory and the skills required for leaders to lead organizations and communities in the context of changing demographics and increasing diversity. As societies become increasingly ‘globalized’ and diverse, there is significant provincial, national, and international awareness in organizations about the impact that this change has on leadership. This course will also introduce students to the historic and evolving concepts of and the relationship between diversity, culture and leadership. The emerging practice of diversity as central to leadership theory and practice, the holistic nature of diversity, social justice within a diverse society, and the role it has in contributing to effective and appropriate leadership in the midst of rapid change will be explored to gain an informed understanding.

    ID 520 Colonization and Decolonization

    This class will look at the critiques made by indigenous and postcolonial scholars of the methodological approaches used in the humanities and social sciences for their complicity in colonialism. We will then look at attempts to “decolonize” methodology and construct indigenous and postcolonial methodological approaches to society and community. The class will focus on methodological approaches in anthropology, sociology, literature, religious studies, and history. Students will have the opportunity to develop their own philosophical and methodological approaches to decolonization informed by the readings in the class.

    ID 525 Christianity and Culture

    This course is an interdisciplinary exploration of the interpenetration of Christianity and the cultures in which it finds expression. As such it will combine aspects of biblical studies, theological discourse, cultural studies, and explore historical and contemporary models. The ultimate goal of the course is to have the student realize that Christianity in all its varieties will always exist within particular cultural grids, either intentionally or unintentionally, both embracing and reacting to various cultural influences, shaping and being shaped by the world it finds itself in. The student will be challenged to combine cultural exegesis and theological reflection both within and outside of the church and so contribute to the ongoing contextualization of the Christian faith.

    ID 510 Indigenous Survey

    This course provides the student with an opportunity to pursue and interest that they might have in a particular discipline related to indigenous peoples. It is a directed study with the final syllabus for reading and assignments negotiated between the student and the faculty member overseeing the course. The course is expected to expand the students depth and breadth of knowledge in the particular area selected, but is also expected to provide an opportunity for the student to integrate said knowledge within the overall program. Student’s select one:

    1. Indigenous History
    2. Indigenous Philosophy
    3. ndigenous Religious Contexts      

    Dissertation (6 Units)

    To accommodate unique circumstances of life, three completion options are available for a student enrolled in the MA in Community Development. Each one leads to successful completion of the degree program while providing for flexibility various student interests, areas of focus, and personal circumstance. The thesis of the dissertation and its completion is expected to contribute to the body of knowledge that exists re: Indigenous community models and holistic development. A successful presentation of the dissertation to the student’s dissertation committee is required. 
  • Scholarship Applications
    Scholarship Application

    While not guaranteed, NAIITS attempts to offer a tuition-directed scholarship for the MA program(s), which is made available through the generosity of faculty and friends. If you believe you might qualify for the scholarship, you are encouraged to apply according to the following guidelines.

    $100 per credit hour taken per award period deemed eligible to a maximum lifetime
    award of $5000.

    Requirements for Consideration

    1. Scholarship awards are directed primarily toward Native North American, then other Indigenous peoples – in that order. Non-Indigenous students may apply and be considered, but will not be guaranteed.

    2. Scholarships will be awarded solely at the discretion of NAIITS faculty and/or administration, which may make other awards as deemed appropriate.

    3. Students must be enrolled or accepted into one of the NAIITS degree programs.

    4. Students must be enrolled full time in two consecutive semesters for the year in which the scholarship is being awarded. Full-time status for degree programs is considered reached at 6 hours per semester.

    5. Students must reapply for scholarships each year. NOTE: Subsequent withdrawal from courses to below the above level, or failure to complete courses in the semester for which the award is given will disqualify the applicant from reapplying for one full year.

    6. Applications must be received by March 1st to be considered for the April 30th awards and by July 1st to be considered for the August 30th awards respectively.

    7. Students who are applying for other student aid in their country of residence must complete and file required documents personally – they will not be filed by NAIITS.

    NOTE: Successful applicants are not prevented from applying for scholarships from other sources of funding.

    Download the Scholarship Application form here
  • Apply Now

    We are excited about your interest in studying in the NAIITS/William Carey program. You may contact the Admissions Office of either NAIITS or William Carey if you have any questions or concerns.
    Admission is granted to those who meet the admission qualifications and whose records indicate their ability to pursue advanced study and research in line with the research goals of the NAIITS/WCIU faculty. In addition to these requirements, specific admission requirements are as follows:

    • Applicants must be referred by a voluntary agency involved in cross-cultural service.
    • Applicants must have been in good standing at the last institution attended.
    • An appropriate master’s degree in a related area from a regionally accredited institution or comparable institution recognized by WCIU.
    • A GPA of 3.5 or above in the master’s degree or equivalent, or similar high standing from foreign institutions.
    • Evidence of a substantial background in the expected specialization within the broad field of international development.

    The PhD in International Development is offered in a non-resident framework. However, face-to-face engagement with the student is both

    provided and expected with faculty and mentoring committee in a variety of ways including through the annual symposia.
    Integral to the program is a research internship with a community development context either domestically or internationally. This gives you the experience needed to fully understand the realities of the field while being mentored by people already effecting change in the world. You will have the opportunity to take what you’ve learned and apply it directly to your research and writing, and to the issues you will face in your future career as a development facilitator.
    For enrolment or for more information on the content of this Degree please contact NAIITS Admissions at