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Student Spotlight: Jeremy Davis

Global citizen and passionate multicultural minister Jeremy Davis boasts a passport full of stamps. He has also enjoyed a long and fruitful academic career with ACU. You can find Jeremy currently living at about 11,000 feet above sea level in the Andes Mountains, where he’s six courses into ACU Online’s Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership program.

Jeremy earned his undergraduate degree in English from ACU and followed that in 2015 with a Master of Arts in Global Service from ACU’s Graduate School of Theology. His wife, Whitney, is also an ACU alum, who graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Advertising/Public Relations.

The Davis family, which includes three daughters under the age of 7—Adelyn, Myla, and baby Polly—currently resides in Huancayo, Peru. Whitney is homeschooling the two older girls, while Jeremy continues the mission work that brought the couple to Latin American. After spending a year in Costa Rica at language school, Jeremy and Whitney arrived in Huancayo, where they work with a small team. Jeremy explains, “Our goals here were to become part of the community, get to know the people and the culture, and then start to form communities of Christ in and around the city. That’s been our main focus over the last three-and-a-half years, and it’s been a very rewarding, interesting journey so far.”

Before having children, Jeremy and Whitney were in the Zambia bush for two years. He shares, “We worked in a very rural area with a church-planting team. We started 19 churches in that region.” The couple has also done ministry work in diverse cultural areas such as Tennessee, Cuba, Jamaica, and Guatemala.

Choosing ACU Online for his doctoral degree

When asked if his prior experience as an ACU student motivated him to consider the school for his Ed.D., Jeremy replies, “I remember quite vividly when I was 18, I came from Chattanooga, Tennessee, out to Abilene and visited the school my senior year. I was very much interested in missions. I have a family history of people working abroad and working cross-culturally.”
Jeremy arrived at the ACU campus and started talking to people. “It was very evident that there was this movement to change the world. The focus was on training people to go out and make a difference in the world. That really drew me in, and I’ve felt that consistently throughout my experience with ACU, both in undergrad and in grad school,” he shares.

Jeremy continues, “Even now, I still interact with some of my undergrad professors. I’ve had some visit us in the various mission points that we’ve been at to encourage us. I get messages from them saying, ‘We’re praying for you’ and then always an interest in what we’re doing. So, I very much feel like the professor/student relationship, at least in my case, has been very valuable and enriching to me. I’ve grown to where my professors became mentors, and now I can call some of them friends, and that’s been a real blessing.”
As Jeremy was thinking about starting a doctorate program, he wanted to continue with ACU due to his positive experiences while earning his bachelor’s and master’s degree. However, he needed a flexible program that would allow him to work in Peru while continuing his studies. When he discovered the Ed.D. program at ACU Online, he felt it would help him tremendously with not only his current work, but his future goals. He wants to be able to effectively train leaders in Peru and believes the Ed.D is helping him get there.

In reply to a question about the importance of seeking education from a Christ-based institution, Jeremy replies, “For me, Christ is the center. He permeates everything that we do and, so, to pursue education through the lens of Christ is very important. And it’s much more than just saying a prayer or reading a Bible verse in class. It’s thinking about culture, organizations, and leadership from a worldview of service, love, and sacrifice—a pursuit of justice and mercy.”

“Even though we may not be studying the Bible or theology, so to speak, but when we’re looking at theories, educational theories, or leadership theories, I’m coming at those from a Christian perspective. Those are some things I’ve found have been cultivated within me through the teachings at ACU, through the professors and the overall experience.”

Jeremy’s experience as an online graduate student

Because he earned his master’s degree in a hybrid program at ACU’s Graduate School of Theology, Jeremy was familiar with online coursework. But the Ed.D. program is his first experience with a 100%-online degree program.

“I’ve been very impressed with ACU, the advisors, and just the way the overall program has been set up for students coming in to make it not an overwhelming process. I’ve had people calling me at the beginning of every week or every other week checking on how I’m doing, if I understand the material, if I need anything. I’ve always gotten help from the staff and the advisors at ACU with whatever I need. Those are really helpful things, especially for somebody who lives abroad.”

He also enjoys the flexibility. “It certainly makes it more possible for me to do what I’m doing here in Peru and then continue my studies when I can.”

Applying what he’s learning in real-time

Jeremy originally decided to pursue the Ed.D. because he felt it would support some future goals he has in ministry and leadership development across various cultures. But he’s found great value already, especially in the early coursework on self-leadership and leadership theories.

“I’m in a position where I am my own boss, so to speak. I set my own hours and set my own schedule. So when we talk about leading self and the important motivators, some of the coursework was very important to me in helping me improve the way I manage myself.”

When it comes to the topic of leadership and culture, Jeremy says, “I’m surrounded by a culture different from my own. I live in a research laboratory. I walk outside and I’m able to ask questions and pursue interests that I get from the class material, from conversations that I’ve had, or from interactions with professors. I’m able to apply concepts and process the findings that I get. I have a way to ask questions and conduct research, a way to write up results and think about the things that I’m seeing and observing.”

What are Jeremy’s ultimate goals for his Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership degree?

It is clear that Jeremy is focused on finding new ways to be of better service to the people that he serves. After spending more than 10 years working with various civilizations, he’s observed breakdowns in organizations, churches, and nonprofits that result in goals not being achieved, often due to differences in customs between cultures.

“A lot of what I hope to pursue and understand more is how we can have better multicultural organizations where there’s a mutual honor and respect between the cultures present so that goals can be achieved … I know right now our main objective is to train leaders here in Peru. With us being from the United States, there are certainly a lot of cultural differences with Andean Peruvians that we have to understand to be able to help them step into a leadership role. So, we’re asking questions like:

  • What does it mean for a follower to follow a leader?
  • What types of leaders do followers value here in Peru?
  • How can we train those leaders to be proven leaders and not leaders with the American culture?

Jeremy does see himself working in ministry “in some capacity for the foreseeable future,” but his interest in community development that’s often impeded by cross-cultural dynamics leads him to want to be “a middleman trying to intervene between the two cultures and help positive communication to happen.”

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