Two Years into the Program

This fall I begin the third year of my PhD studies at Fuller.

The program has been ideal for me because of its flexibility and openness to interdisciplinarity. From within the theology concentration and the New Testament minor concentration in the School of Theology, I’ve been able to work on theological hermeneutics from various angles, including crossing into the School of Intercultural Studies (read: school of missiology and world Christianity).

It has been a blast—and exhausting. The fall quarter (yep, it’s a quarter system) is my last class before comprehensive exams. Which are as ominous as they sound. After that I launch into the second half of the program, which involves coursework geared specifically for writing the dissertation.

I guess I’ll reach the moment when I’m ready to be done, but it hasn’t come yet. Even when the workload is overwhelming, I (usually) feel shocked and a little giddy at the privilege of concentrating on theological reflection. When I was thinking about applying to PhD programs, a former teacher told me only to do the degree if I couldn’t be happy doing anything else. It’s that hard, and the financial return doesn’t justify the effort unless you’re one of the few people who can write best-selling books. Scholarship has to be a labor of love. For me, it is.

I’m looking forward to teaching, though. I’ll be a teaching assistant for my mentor in the program this quarter, in a masters-level class called “Jesus and the Kingdom of God.” Sounds good, right? Teaching assistant mostly means grading, I expect, but it will be fun to think about curriculum design and instruction in the context of a real class. One of the nice things about Fuller—and other schools too, I suppose—is that they build extracurricular professional training requirements into the program. Basically, they offer training in pedagogy. Which is good, because I’m pretty sure I need it.

There’s a lot more going on, of course—family and church stuff, writing, editing, and whatnot. But this is where things stand with the program. Pretty much, I’m loving it. The next couple of weeks are the deep breath before jumping into year three.

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