When Dr. Kevin Gushiken thinks about how the student population of LBC’s graduate programs are changing, he thinks of a small circle on a map. It wasn’t too many years ago, the director of Lancaster Bible College | Capital Seminary & Graduate School’s PhD in Leadership program says, you could draw a circle with a 100-mile circumference around LBC’s main campus – and from within that globe came a good 95 percent of the students in LBC’s graduate and doctoral programs. Now, the PhD program Gushiken leads has students from 11 countries and five continents, and there are 23 countries represented overall among the college’s graduate and seminary programs.
“We quite clearly have gone from regional to global, and I love that,” says Gushiken, who came to LBC three years ago after 17 years as a pastor at a multi-ethnic Evangelical Free church in Chicago. “It’s an important thing to see – groups interacting with each other in the classroom,” he says. The average age of his doctorate students is around 43 – some students are in their 60s and many are in their 50s, he notes – and come from a range of businesses, along with a cross-section of cultures and countries. One student is a nurse manager at a major Lancaster-area health system. Another is a national director for Compassion International in Uganda, while others include a vice president with the transit authority in Washington D.C., company founders, CEOs, pastors and more.
As this shows, the ideal student according to Gushiken is “. . . someone who has had some ‘life seasoning,’” by which he means a person who’s had some leadership experience and desires to grow in their leadership. “Also, someone who is strong academically, but that’s not the only thing I look for. I want someone who has that life openness so that when they come in they work well with their other classmates, and they also are very open to being stretched – high-capacity, good thinkers who can make a difference in the world.”
His passion is to produce Christians from the program, “who do such good scholarship here through their studies … that it would be a testimony to God, and show that Christians are able to think exceptionally well and write exceptionally well, so that it brings glory to God and impacts the Kingdom,” Gushiken says. Seven students and graduates of the program published in academic journals within the last year, a record for the program.
Students in the doctoral leadership program include some from African nations like Kenya, Ghana, Zimbabwe and Congo, where earning a doctorate is a bigger deal and may have a larger in-country impact than in the U.S., Gushiken continues. “I like to tell them, ‘Do this well, and you will change the face of Africa.’ In their home countries, it’s not common practice to have a PhD. Here, it’s not that big a deal … but it’s going to make a huge difference in those countries,” the program director notes.
Increasing diversity and opportunities for individuals from other cultures is a reminder of what Heaven will be like, says Jael Chambers, an adjunct professor at the college’s Philadelphia location. The seventh chapter of Revelation specifically details a multitude of people from all tribes and nations, Chambers notes: “For us Christians to effectively live out the gospel, we should desire to have diversity, inclusion, and equity in our lives because it displays God’s heart for all people and gives Him the glory.”
The leadership program is aimed at not just church leaders but also others in business, to “give them a deep understanding of biblical leadership, and it’s now its ninth year. It doesn’t require full-time residency, allowing students to remain active in their ministries or vocations, and the program only requires students to meet on campus two weeks a year.
Visiting instructors have included Dr. Eugene Habecker, former president of the American Bible Society and president emeritus of Taylor University, and Wess Stafford, former president and CEO of Compassion International. LBC’s graduate school has blossomed into 12 different programs plus three doctoral programs, and there are now some 500 students in graduate programs.