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Whitworth University receives $400,000 grant to build internship program for Office of Church Engagement

May 30, 2014

Whitworth has been awarded $400,000 from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust to build a robust internship program within the university’s new Office of Church Engagement. The office will use the grant to hire 15 students to work full time over the summer at partner church organizations. Five additional stipends will be issued to interns working internationally.

“The best thing we have at Whitworth is our students,” says Director of the Office of Church Engagement Terry McGonigal. “We really want to deepen and strengthen Whitworth’s relationship with churches and our mission partners internationally. Sending our students to be directly involved in thriving ministries is a great way to do this.”

McGonigal says the grant will help the internship program reach its three objectives: to develop the necessary infrastructure by hiring a half-time program director; to develop an internship program that encourages and prepares students for Christian ministry; and to assist alumni with job placements by networking with church organizations.

Interns will be selected from the student body, including but not exclusively those students involved with Whitworth’s Certification in Ministry Program. Students selected as interns will take a one-credit internship preparation class during the spring semester and a two-credit debriefing class following their placement; the debriefing class will also serve as a method of program evaluation and vocational discernment.

Individual and group mentoring will be an important part of the internship. Each student will have an assigned mentor at his or her church site, and mentors will meet with interns regularly. McGonigal says the current plan is to send students into church communities that are relatively close to each other, allowing one mentor to work with multiple students. He hopes to increase the number of interns being sent out by about 15 each year.

In December 2013, Whitworth was awarded a $1 million grant from the Lilly Endowment to fund a new comprehensive church-engagement initiative called The Ekklesia Project; the grant was written by McGonigal, Whitworth President Beck A. Taylor, and Professor of Theology Jerry Sittser. Administered by the Office of Church Engagement, The Ekklesia Project aims to help Whitworth meet the needs of churches and congregations throughout the western U.S.

The Ekklesia Project, the Whitworth Office of Church Engagement, and the new grant-funded internship program are consistent with the University’s Whitworth 2021 strategic plan, which calls for deepening Whitworth’s position as a valued resource to the church and society.

The M.J. Murdock Trust’s mission is to enrich the quality of life in the Pacific Northwest by providing grants and enrichment programs to organizations seeking to strengthen the region’s educational, spiritual and cultural base in creative and sustainable ways. In addition to a special interest in education and scientific research, the trust partners with a wide variety of organizations that serve the arts, public affairs, health and medicine, human services, leadership development, and persons with disabilities.

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private liberal arts university affiliated with the Presbyterian church. The university, which has an enrollment of 3,000 students, offers 60 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.


Lynn Noland, director of sponsored programs, Whitworth University (509) 777-3701 or

Lucas Beechinor, media relations manager, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4703 or