Dr David Turnbull on Achieving the V-C Award for Doctoral Thesis Excellence

Thesis: ‘Clergy and Cultural Intelligence: A Study of the Foundational Capacity of Clergy to Function as Multicultural Leaders’


My part-time PhD journey took nine years, so it was obviously a relief to finish.
To receive the Vice-Chancellor’s Award at the conclusion was a real surprise, especially considering my struggles with self-belief, especially with academic writing, and my sense of being overwhelmed by the enormity of the task at the beginning.
Studying not always went smoothly, particularly trying to balance it with my full-time workload as an academic at another institution. I initially went down the doctoral path for career advancement, however, what sustained me was the growing realization that my research would be of value in addressing a need within the Christian community in Australia and beyond.

The basis of my research was the presence of diaspora believers within denominations and local congregations, and the requirement of clergy to have the theological and intercultural engagement capacity to consider and realize a vision of multicultural church.
The thesis investigated the perceived gap between the vision and the actual reality in ministry settings. Cultural intelligence, a business world construct, provided the conceptual background, due in part to its theological connectivity.

Personal motivation played a role in steering me to the conclusion, but other factors were significant. My supervisors were crucial in developing the project and ensuring limited distractions, and I am indebted to Rev Prof Andrew Dutney and Rev Dr Steve Taylor for their guidance, constructive critique, and academic input.
Flinders University also offered several useful support mechanisms, especially with regards to the quantitative elements that contributed greatly to my academic journey.
Of the numerous HDR seminars I attended, ‘Turbo Charging Your Writing’ inspired my practice of writing daily for up to an hour and ensured I kept moving forward despite my busy schedule. ‘Communicating Research’ empowered my writing capacity.

There were several highlights. I attended a research forum in the US with other practitioners, led by David Livermore, who is a leading expert, trainer and publisher on cultural intelligence, and other staff from the Cultural Intelligence Centre.
I also gained much from the faculty’s annual W(H)IP (Work Honestly in Progress) conference and the chance to interact with and learn from other researchers.

The research has heightened my focus, especially in my part-time role as Head of Intercultural Studies at Tabor.
I am currently working on ways to use my research wider and have been liaising with local churches to facilitate cultural intelligence training and development.
I am looking to write up my research and connect with likeminded practitioners and thinkers around the world.

Study at Flinders was an enriching experience. My advice to those who are still on the research journey would be to take control of their thesis process.
Also, seize every opportunity and always try and be proactive in their learning.

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