WCIU provides innovative distance education programs to equip professionals serving with agencies, development organizations, and educational institutions as they address the multi-faceted challenges of societies around the globe. 

WCIU offers graduate degree programs in International Development with various specializations.


William Carey International University (WCIU) in Pasadena, CA is a private faith-based university, founded in February, 1977 and incorporated in the State of California. The university was founded under the leadership of Dr. Ralph D. Winter who led an effort to purchase the 17-acre campus and housing, of the former Nazarene College in Pasadena. WCIU was established with the major goal of providing balanced, research-based educational programs leading to the improvement and furtherance of international development practices.

Dr. Winter, envisioned delivery of a holistic curricula that integrated history with social sciences. It would focus exclusively on international development with an emphasis on practical, field-based experimentation leading to major breakthroughs. It would have a diverse, experienced, and dispersed faculty using a mentored approach to education. It would work closely with non-governmental voluntary agencies worldwide. In 1978 the State of California granted WCIU institutional approval to offer the BA, MA, and PhD degrees in International Development. The university was founded on the education by extension model, and would have no residency requirements.

Initially WCIU granted only the PhD degree in International Development, empowering cross-cultural workers holding PhD degrees to recruit and mentor students for collaborative research on issues of importance to their non-profit organizations. By 1994, there were nine graduates from this program.

Shortly after the PhD program was started, WCIU began offering a BA and an MA in International Development with specializations in Intercultural Communications, Intercultural Studies, Community Development, Applied Linguistics, and TESOL. Some short, residential programs were offered on the Pasadena campus of WCIU but later discontinued as WCIU focused its resources on curriculum development for its extension programs.

Between 1994 and 2006, WCIU Faculty focused on developing, implementing, and revising its patented World Christian Foundations (WCF) curriculum with the intention, as Dr. Winter explained, to re-engineer the liberal arts and seminary curricula into an integrated framework that looks at God’s global purposes throughout history. Insights gained by these studies would allow graduates to effectively address the challenges faced by their organizations. This course became the backbone of WCIU’s BA and MA programs. Revisions of this course have continued to the present.

WCIU undertook regional WASC accreditation and achieved the stage of “Eligibility” in 2005 but did not complete the process. WCIU leadership realized that the demands of regional accreditation would have caused the university to be less flexible in the accomplishment of its mission, and it would need to raise tuition fees to cover additional expenses incurred by accreditation. Higher tuition would have adversely affected the access of worthy international students to WCIU’s programs. WCIU also desired to keep its distinctive of being a laboratory school that could try out new programs and approaches to learning without the limitations regional accreditation may have imposed.

Due to the effort to meet regional accreditation expectations, WCIU also discontinued offering the BA degree. Students in that program were offered the option of transferring to Northwestern College or if qualified by their portfolio review, into WCIU’s MA Program. In January, 2013, portfolio review for BA equivalency was discontinued. Until 2013, the World Christian Foundations course was the only curriculum used for the MA program.

Also, in 2005 the mission statement was revised and approved by the WCIU Board to read: William Carey International University prepares men and women to discover and address the roots of human problems around the world. This statement summarizes longer explanations found in prior catalogs. This mission statement was replaced in 2016 but this older mission statement kept as a motto.

Since its inception, the university properties were used to generate funds to sustain the work of the university and related non-profit ventures. In 2006 financial and business operations were made more efficient and a systematic plan carried out to renovate the campus properties which are rented primarily to other educational institutions with resident students, and also to churches.

In 2007 WCIU’s Board officially approved this definition of WCIU’s intended audience: WCIU exists to provide foundational education for proven leaders who would otherwise not be able to engage in graduate studies: those working cross-culturally with NGOs, intercultural leaders / scholars from the Majority World, and globally minded North Americans.

In 2009 WCIU’s founder, Ralph D. Winter, passed away. As the primary conceptual and most influential university leader, his absence is still greatly felt.

In 2009, Korean scholars began working through WCIU to offer the PhD in International Development, in the Korean language under the leadership of Dr. Peter Im. That program has had ongoing success.

In 2010, Dr. Beth Snodderly was appointed full-time president and served till January, 2016. Prior to that, the various presidents had concurrently held major roles in other institutions. Having a full-time president led to unprecedented growth, particularly in the PhD program.

In 2010, WCIU’s Board also voted to begin operating under the Policy Governance model. The Policy Manual includes Ends statements, Executive Limitations and Board Governance guidelines. The president submits a monthly monitoring report to the Board. According to an agreed-upon schedule, all policies are reviewed at least once each year.

During the years 2009 through 2016 a total of 53 students had enrolled in the PhD program. The MA program has grown more slowly, from about 25 students to about 35 active students.

During the summer of 2012 two NGOs approached WCIU about creating specializations within the MA in International Development program to meet the needs of their constituents. WCIU appointed qualified faculty from within these NGOs and in the Spring of 2013 received approval from the State of California to add two specializations in the MA Program: Transformative Development and Translation Studies.

In 2015, the California State licensing board (BPPE) advised WCIU that to continue to operate, it would have to seek and attain accreditation by a federally authorized accrediting agency by July, 2020. Immediate action was taken to begin an approval process.

Institutional Objectives

WCIU strives to generate the following competencies in its students:

1. The ability to apply insights gained from the understanding and integration of biblical, cultural, historical, and applied research in addressing the social challenges they face as part of an agency, organization, or institution working in a particular social context.

2. The ability to generate collaborative grass-roots efforts in addressing pervasive problems facing societies in their specific field and context.

3. The ability to use applied research methods in the assessment of needs, and the formulation of programs that effectively address the needs and challenges of specific socio/cultural groups and contexts where they work.

4. To be responsible for their own learning by organizing and administrating self-generated research and learning programs using primary and secondary resources available to them in the context where they serve.

5. The ability to communicate the results of their research and programs in effective ways to a variety of audiences, including other scholars, supporting constituencies, and the people they work with which may include non-literate populations.

Core Commitments

1. WCIU's programs are Faith-based but Non-sectarian:

WCIU's underlying core value is a belief in a divine Creator who can be known through the physical universe and the sacred collection of writings commonly known as the Bible, portions or the whole of which are accepted as authoritative by Jews, Muslims and Christians alike, and widely respected by other religions. We are also followers of Jesus, whose teachings have been instrumental in inspiring and motivating social reformers, scientists, and development practitioners over the past 2,000 years. WCIU's reason for equipping students for development work is based on in two biblical commandments: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second most important commandment is this: 'Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ (Jesus, the Bible, Mark 12:31-32). We welcome persons of every socio-religious background to engage with us in understanding this biblical perspective and to pursue the sacred ideal of biblical shalom — the mutual pursuit of right relationship with God, with self, and with others that leads to peace, health, and well-being for all.

2. WCIU’s Educational Programs are Holistic and Integral:

WCIU is committed to reflection and critical thinking that integrates personal faith-generated commitments with practical service. Core courses integrate an understanding of history and the social sciences with the biblical narrative and worldview. This approach aims at generating the holistic growth and personal development of our students as they work with others to address the social challenges of their field contexts, employing their professional services with the goal of transformation.

3. WCIU’s Educational Programs are Mentored:

Although WCIU offers field-based extension programs, we are committed to providing our students virtual contact with experienced scholar-practitioners who comprise our faculty. We also recognize the immense value to professional growth of peer mentoring and as often as possible, organize our students into cohort groups. This lessens the sense of isolation distance learning can produce, and provides a stimulating learning experience in which students can share their insights related to their work, their community engagement, and their personal development with others involved in similar work around the world.

4. WCIU’s Educational Programs are Flexible:

WCIU’s programs are designed for working adults serving with international development organizations in a variety of global contexts, or preparing to do so. Our part-time, field-based approach allows students to work toward a degree while actively serving with their organization almost anywhere in the world. We seek to encourage a healthy balance of the student's time commitment by encouraging synergistic integration of study and research with their work.

5. WCIU's Educational Programs are Collaborative:

WCIU recognizes the value of working with organizations, both educational and service oriented, who share the same fundamental values and perspective. We work at creating viable partnerships with these organizations in order to generate the best environment and context for learning to take place for students, employees and volunteers. We recognize that these relationships will not always be formal academic partnerships, but rather collaborative efforts aimed at strengthening the hand of those serving to address pervasive problems and challenges faced by the peoples of developing nations. This also means a commitment to providing courses and materials in various languages of instruction.