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Celebrating graduates of M.A. in Intercultural Studies with Wheaton College

Lumina College celebrates first cohort of international master’s graduates, last cohort for M.A. in Intercultural Studies with Wheaton College

In partnership with Wheaton College in Illinois, USA, Lumina College in Hong Kong offered its world-renowned, long-standing M.A. in Intercultural Studies program alongside local perspectives. The graduating student cohort is significant for at least two reasons: they are the first of Lumina’s master’s graduates, and the last for Wheaton’s program, which has graduated over 2,000 alumni who have gone on to serve in cross-cultural ministries worldwide.

Dr. Clara Chan, a local faculty member of the program with 30+ years of intercultural teaching experience, gave a celebratory speech on the evening of September 30, 2021 titled “Cultural Intelligence: An Important Competence for Future Leaders.” Chan stressed the urgency of understanding different cultures in an increasingly globalizing world, going beyond knowing “tip of the iceberg” culture such as food and art, to recognizing unseen aspects of culture, such as worldviews and assumptions.

One such concept that may differ across cultures is time, which may be polychronic (having no problem with interruptions) or monochronic (sticking to a rigid schedule). Chan shared a personal anecdote in which she arranged a meeting with a potential domestic helper who showed up an hour late. While Chan’s monochronic city lifestyle would have found this unacceptably inconvenient, she chose to give the person a chance. This was how she learned that coming from rural Indonesia, this person, who did not carry a watch and had underestimated her journey’s length, had a completely different, polychronic sense of time. “Different, but not wrong,” Chan explained. She turned out to be a great hire.

Chan also shared other cultural concepts, such as power distance, which tends to be more egalitarian in the West and hierarchical in the East; and generational differences, highlighting mainstream-valuing Boomers in contrast with idealistic Millennials. In connection with the Hong Kong context, she noted how independence in decision-making had become part of the city’s core societal values, causing tension with the rising authoritarian Chinese government. Yet despite the cultural clashes, Chan emphasized true listening not as “cringing compliance” (John Mogabgab) but rather “in all things, charity” (Rupertus Meldenius) and leadership marked by bringing “unity amid division” (John Stott).

In closing, Chan offered a simple prayer: “Let the world change us before we can change the world.”


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