Asian Theological Summer Institute Receives $400,000 Grant from Lilly Endowment, Inc.

The Asian Theological Summer Institute (ATSI) at United Lutheran Seminary, has received a $400,000 grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to support the seminary’s annual program for PhD/ThD students of Asian heritage studying in North America. The three-year grant will enable the institute to grow by supporting costs for visiting faculty, room, board and travel stipends for participants,development of a research data base and student field research.  It is the only mentoring program for PhD/ThD students of Asian heritage studying in North America.

The ATSI at ULS was founded in 2007 by Dr. J. Paul Rajashekar, Luther D. Reed Professor of Systematic Theology at United Lutheran Seminary. Rajashekar has been a member of the ULS faculty since 1991, and former Dean of the Lutheran Theological Seminary Institute at Philadelphia from 2000-2012.

“The Lilly Endowment grant is a recognition of ATSI for its contribution to theological education over the years, especially encouraging and supporting students of Asian heritage and fostering a network of Asian scholars,” said Rajashekar. “ATSI has also made the seminary known nationally and internationally as a Lutheran institution committed to fostering racial and ethnic diversity, while promoting rigorous academic and critical theological scholarship.”

The grant will provide research support for students engaged in field research and establish a database of past and present graduate students of Asian heritage. The grant will also enable ATSI to expand its faculty and increase the number of doctoral students each year, in addition to providing travel assistance for students coming to the ULS Philadelphia campus to participate.

The ATSI is an annual event designed to nurture the next generation of Asian and Asian American scholars and theologians for the churchand theological education. ATSI brings together distinguished Asian/Asian American scholars and theologians to Philadelphia for a week-long seminar for doctoral students engaged in theological studies.

Students who have completed their course work and are preparing their dissertation proposals are selected from ATSI applicants. The institute provides an opportunity for students to present their dissertation proposals to their peers and the faculty and receive input for sharpening the focus of their proposals, including bibliographical assistance. They also receive individual mentoring from Asian faculty. Dr. Kwok Pui-lan (Emory University), Dr. Peter Phan (Georgetown University), Dr. Anne Joh (Garrett Theological Seminary), Dr.Benny Liew (Holy Cross University), Dr. Jayakiran Sebastian (ULS), Dr. Boyong Lee (Iliff School of Theology), Dr. Sue Pak (Union Theological Seminary) and many other established Asian faculty have, or continue, to participate in the annual institute.

Since its inception, 227 doctoral students from 40 theological institutions in North America have completed the program, of which 70 percent have teaching positions in colleges, universities and seminaries in North America in addition to several countries throughout Asia. Others have pursued pastoral vocations or engaged in adjunct teaching. The 2020 ATSI was held via Zoom due to COVID-19.

ATSI has sought to foster a network of Asian/Asian American scholars in the United States. Occasionally, Asian students from Europe (besides students from the Asian continent studying in the US) have attended ATSI. Except for travel costs, the program, including room and board, is offered at no cost to participants.

 Note: The photo featured here is from the 2019 ATSI.


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