Janine Allen is the Associate Provost for Global Engagement at Corban University. This unique position allows her to guide and shape the University’s global partnerships, which currently include offering accreditation to education programs in Indonesia and Australia, as well as many other partnerships with church networks and education organizations that equip Christian leaders to impact the world for Jesus Christ. Janine has been particularly instrumental in establishing and nurturing Corban’s partnership with Universitas Pelita Harapan (UPH), which educates teachers in Indonesia, and the Pathway Program, which prepares students from the Papuan province of Indonesia for life at an American university and leadership in their home country.

How did Corban’s relationship with Indonesia begin?

Corban’s relationship with Indonesia is a legacy of president Reno Hoff. I consider him to be pretty innovative. At the time, our current president, Dr. Sheldon Nord, was over in Indonesia serving as the president of UPH, which had started an education program to train teachers for Christian schools throughout Indonesia. But they hadn’t yet accredited the program. At that time, I was coming on as dean of education, and I remember there was this big question: is accrediting an overseas program something that Corban can do? Is this something we’d be willing to take a risk on? We decided we would attempt it, so the provost and I went over several times to put together the accreditation documentation. When we were done, we submitted the proposal to the NWCCU, and the accrediting body didn’t really know what to do with it. It was the first time any university had asked to approve something across borders. It was really cutting edge; we were pushing the limits. But it lined up with our accreditation, and we could provide the required curricular oversight by someone who would travel back and forth. It took 18 months, but it was approved, and in 2010 we had our first graduating class.

Why was Indonesia a strategic partner for Corban, and why was Corban strategic for Indonesia?

Indonesia functions primarily as a caste system. There’s the rich, the poor, and a growing middle class. The focus of our partner in Indonesia—and this is what makes it so strategic for Corban—is that he has a vision to change Indonesia for Jesus Christ from within these different layers of society. He’s helped establish school networks throughout the nation, schools for the lower class, middle class, and upper class. They all teach from a Christian perspective, and they do such a high-quality job that multiple faith groups want their children to go to these schools. These are the schools where the students receiving Corban University degrees would teach, thus giving Corban an entry point for spreading the Gospel, which completely aligns with our mission.

The reason it was a strategic priority for Indonesia to partner with Corban was that we didn’t insist the Western way of doing things was the correct way. The Western mindset was something we were willing to put aside, to say, “How can we contextualize our accreditation so that it makes sense in Indonesia, so that God can be made known?” Often times international organizations will come in and say, “No, this is the way we’re going to do it; because it makes sense in America, it makes sense here.” Part of the reason they partnered with us was because we were willing to be adaptable and malleable and say, “A Corban degree is founded on the Word of God, that is not movable. But regarding our cultural differences, let’s contextualize it so that it makes sense, and equip your students with what they need to be relevant here in Indonesia.”

What’s an example of something in academics that Indonesia approaches differently from the West?

In Indonesia they measure what is academic by the number of seat hours, how many books are on the syllabus, how many assignments you do; it’s an input-based accreditation. Whereas here, in a Western context, it’s more about “What can the student demonstrate?” Is the student demonstrating what they have learned, and are they critically considering the content? And so we had to adapt our outcome-based accreditation for an input system.

Another conversation we’ve had surrounds the question of what’s “best practice.” You’ll hear, in academic circles, about doing what is “best practice.” That means it’s research-bound. But a lot of the best-practice research that people talk about was conducted in a Western setting. We’ve had to carefully consider, “Does that make sense here?” When we’re talking about a country where the teacher has a much different role than the teacher in America, what does “best practice” mean? How do we create active learners, while respecting the cultural ideals and cultural values at play?

How did Corban’s Pathway Program with Papuan students begin?

At one time Papua was a very Christian island because of the work of missionaries and the Dutch that had settled there, but with the influx of Islam through transmigration, and with the spread of HIV and malaria, the government’s getting concerned about the future leadership of Papua. So that’s what this program is all about.

In 2014, we started working with the Papuan government through our partner Wally Wiley, an American who lives in the Sentani region of Papua and serves as the Mission Aviation Fellowship advisor for Indonesia. He also works with some of the more remote villages on the island, many of which are only accessible by small plane. Through talking with Wally Wiley, we learned that the government wanted to work with Corban to develop a language program. We did a lot of research, put together an agreement, and flew out to Papua.

We proposed to the government that Corban faculty would come to Papua and teach English in-country, with the idea that after they learned English, students would come to Corban and earn a bachelor’s degree. But the governor said, “No, I don’t want to do that. I want them to go to America right away, because if they stay here, they will never learn English. They need to go to America right away.” We were so surprised!

In 2015 we welcomed our first Pathway group, comprising mostly students from the coastal regions of Papua, where there’s more access to education. Our second cohort, who came in 2016, were from the interior villages where education is much more limited (only about 53% graduate high school).

Where are these students headed after the Pathway program?

The Pathway program’s primary focus is to teach English to students of lower proficiency to prepare them for university instruction. While we encourage them to consider Corban as their home for the remainder of their undergraduate studies, if they choose a degree we don’t offer, we help them transfer to another university. We hope they’ll stay here, though, because we believe we give them that character element which is of such importance to the Papuan government.

Students know that they’re coming to be equipped with God’s Word and to earn a degree to go back to impact Papua for Jesus Christ. The idea is, how can we protect Papua, an island rich in natural resources, during this critical time of HIV and malaria, transmigration, poorly equipped schools, and a 53% high school graduation rate? The students who join Pathway are pretty rare: not only have they finished high school in the interior regions, but they’re also Christians, and they have the vision to earn a degree and then go back to be the future leaders of Papua. It’s pretty exciting to be involved in the equipping-and-sending-back process, to have them come and learn English, learn God’s Word, and help them retain the vision for Papua.

How would you summarize Corban’s global engagement strategy?

Corban’s global engagement strategy comprises two prongs: extending Corban’s discipleship mission around the world, and developing Christian leaders for the developing nations. I have people ask us, “Why aren’t you working in, say, England?” It’s interesting to see how God has brought us into partnerships with developing nations. And as we are passionate about building the multiethnic, multilingual, global church, I’m not surprised he’s brought that to Corban. I think Corban is the perfect university for this work to be done.

Corban’s global strategy recognizes, too, that some regions are more urgent than others. We don’t know when doors are going to be closed, or when we’re no longer going to have that entry point. What’s important is coming alongside and equipping others with those skills. As Americans, we won’t always be able to go where other groups can go. Already, there are places I can’t go as a white American female. I see myself as equipping, mentoring, and guiding, so that God can send other Christian leaders to do that important work. It’s good. It’s really good. We’re not going to be the headliners, but we’re going to be the equippers.