The Crescent

Terrance Steele(Part 1)-Intro to Generation Y

November 7, 2013

Terrance Steele, an instructor in Sociology, has a Ph.D. in Intercultural Studies from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and a Doctor of Missiology of Divinity from George Fox Evangelical Seminary.

“In high school I thought I was going to med school or I thought I was going to be geology or biology, one of those things,” Steele said. “I got about half-way through and thought ‘Ugh, I don’t want to do this’ so I started looking around. We had moved to Portland from Idaho.”

His brother attended Multnomah School of Bible at the time, which has now changed to Multnomah University. Visiting the campus often, Steele was compelled by his senior year of high school to receive his bachelor’s at the school out of a desire to know more about the Bible. During this time many of the founders of the school were still alive, and Steele was driven by the thought of studying with men like Dr. Willard M. Aldrich(who passed away in 2009 at the age of 100), or Dr. Mitchell (who passed in 1990 at the age of 97). Steele believed both were brilliant men of the Bible who had firm desires to teach.

“Honestly, it was within that school I encountered a bunch of professors that have really impacted my teaching style in terms of really odd tests or odd lecture style keeping me off [my] feet,” he said.

At Multnomah, Dr. Steele received a Bachelors of Arts and Theology with a minor in languages, also taking three years of Greek and one year of Hebrew. Wanting to become a Bible scholar or a pastor, he transitioned into seminary. He attended Western Seminary, just like his brother and father. Steele went on to gain his Masters of Arts and uncovered a love for his cultural classes.

“I was really discouraged and I remember driving around with dad and my brother going to lunch,” Steele said. “And I’m like, ‘I’m bummed. I keep getting these rejection letters from all these schools.’ And dad said ‘Terry did you like your education at Western Seminary?’ And I was like ‘yeah it was great.’  He said ‘did you like your cultural classes?’ And I was like ‘yeah Dr. Smith and Dr. Mary rocked.’ He says ‘what about D-miss’? And I went okay.”

Steele went in to call a friend at the head of the program for a Doctrine of Missiology and learned that it was not theory but going and doing: “You don’t come to study, you come in to do.” Thinking long and hard about his decision for a week before signing the application, Steele then decided to study Generation X (and is now in the process of studying Generation Y).

“So I broke the mold for a lot of my peers in that ‘cause I had no mission experience prior to that,” Steele said. “I had never travelled out of continental U.S. until I was in my twenties. After I was half way through the D-miss program, I had a traditional church background but  nothing in terms of culture. Then I was studying a culture group that was in America as a missions group. I was always told by some of my colleagues that you have to go overseas to be a missionary.”

After receiving encouragement from friends and family he decided to study American missions and loved it.

“There’s another part of my teaching that is all, ‘Are these assignments practical?’ ‘Can you use them right now?'” Steele said. “And that’s what I’m always aiming for and that’s when I’m starting a new class I think, ‘can it be used?’ All the assignments are usable. All of them come into play and a lot  people go, ‘why are we doing this?’ And I go ‘just wait, just wait.’ And you get to the end and you go, ‘oh wow, that actually works.’

“I love theory and stuff like that, but it’s gotta be fingers in the dirt kinda stuff,” Steele said, “Which is odd ‘cause I started out wanting to be a theorist. And I loved working with theory and my mind likes working with those things. And the further I got in the more I just thought, ‘I just love- I love doing.’ Which is really odd”

Fifteen years ago, he went through a change in career path when he entered a part-time teaching job in Introduction to Communications for 5 years.

“And I was like, this is great because intercultural communication is a part of all this, it’s a part of culture,” he said. “If you don’t know how to communicate with people then don’t worry about studying them ‘cause you’ll never be able to use it. So I loved that.”

After finishing his D-miss, Steele started looking for jobs. At the same time the anthropologist on campus retired. He then filled the position and became the Cultural Anthropology professor and has been doing it ever since, with the exception of one year.

Paul Hiebert visited Western Seminary that spring to speak on folk religion. Dr. Steele and his father are both avid readers of the man’s work, and have been doing their own work on American culture. They took Dr. Hiebert to breakfast to discuss core values and other ideas; Hiebert discovered that Steele needed a PhD and encouraged Steele to study for a year.

“So much of what I understand about culture was matured by his experience. He confirmed that you don’t have to go oversea’s to be a missionary.”

Steele completed the PhD within six years, graduating in the spring of 2012.

“I would consider this part of my educational process,” Steele said. “I always seem to learn something from the students, everyday I’m wrestling with ideas now.”


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