CCCU Names Magnuson New BestSemester MESP Director

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David Holt and Douglas Magnuson on-site at BestSemester's Middle East Studies Program in Jerusalem, Israel. Photo courtesy of Doug Magnuson.
David Holt and Douglas Magnuson on-site at BestSemester's Middle East Studies Program in Jerusalem, Israel. Photo courtesy of Doug Magnuson.

The Council for Christian Colleges & Universities is delighted to confirm the appointment of Douglas Magnuson to serve as the new Director of the CCCU BestSemester Middle East Studies Program (MESP) beginning this fall.

Magnuson succeeds David Holt who developed and led the MESP for more than a decade. Holt and wife, Suzanne, return to the United States where she has accepted a teaching position at a CCCU member institution.

“With Dr. Magnuson’s impressive academic credentials, extraordinary experience as an educator, scholar and leader in the Middle East, extensive background in CCCU Christian higher education and strong evangelical Christian faith, our MESP program will be under outstanding leadership to continue on its current trajectory of great success,” said CCCU President Edward O. Blews, Jr. “Based on my conversations with Doug following the unanimous recommendation of our search process, I am so impressed and grateful that God has brought this scholar and man of faith to us to lead our MESP program. Under his leadership, I am confident it will flourish as it integrates academic excellence, experiential learning and biblical faith in an area of the world so critical to our historical faith and that of our students. His wife, Patti, with her own strong credentials, will be a valuable asset as well.”

Magnuson received his Ph.D. and M.A. in anthropology from Brown University and completed his undergraduate studies at CCCU member institution Bethel University, Minneapolis, Minn. The Magnusons have lived and worked in Tunisia, Egypt and Jordan, and have traveled to several other countries in the region, including Israel, during their 30 years in the Middle East. Magnuson has taught undergraduate and graduate students in Tunisia and has trained and coached Christians of many nationalities in intercultural competence.

In recent years, Magnuson has led educational trips in Israel with Bethel University students, faculty and administration. In both teaching and training, he has used the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) and other tools to help Christians become more effective in relating to those of other cultures. Much of his teaching has been on-site in the Middle East, guiding American students in experiential learning in the sociocultural context. The Magnusons are enthusiastic about helping students understand how to deeply relate to people of different faiths and cultural backgrounds.

“We are very excited about working with MESP,” Magnuson said. “During the years we lived in Cairo, we often taught with the program and were privileged to lead the MESP Israel-Palestine trip in 2000. There is no better place for a Middle East Studies Program than Jerusalem, the heart of the Middle East, where all of the peoples, cultures, religions, politics and history come together.

“We look forward to the privilege of helping our students learn to relate positively and effectively, in Christ, to all of the peoples of this region that has been our home for the past 30 years.”

Blews noted that Magnuson has demonstrated his anthropological competencies of the Middle East in scholarship and in practice both in the United States and abroad, and has a long-standing relationship with the CCCU beginning with his undergraduate studies at Bethel. While there, he also attended the CCCU’s American Studies Program in Washington, D.C. where he met Patti, who was attending CCCU institution Westmont College, Santa Barbara, Calif.

Magnuson has also taught at Bethel University and Bethel Seminary, and at Gordon-Conwell Seminary. The Magnusons have four children, all born and raised in the Middle East and three of the four have attended CCCU colleges. The fourth is a senior at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.

Holt’s tenure as MESP concludes after 11 years, 548 students, hundreds of specialty guest lecturers and countless miles logged on study tours. The Holts will return to Tennessee where Suzanne has accepted a position at Lee University and where she previously taught for many years.
“Speaking for the CCCU and a generation of MESP alumni, we are profoundly grateful for the visionary and faithful leadership provided by David and Suzanne Holt,” Blews said. “They built our MESP program over the last 11 years and laid the foundation for the future.”

“It has been a journey worth taking,” Holt said.

“What a privilege it has been for both Suzanne and I to be part of MESP,” Holt continued. We have so many people to be grateful for across the Middle East—Jewish, Eastern Christian, and Muslim. In a Middle East region that must seem to many a harsh desert place, MESP students flourished in a secure oasis, drawing on [the region’s] deep well of hospitality, friendship and wisdom. Thanks to all the CCCU staff and students for allowing Suzanne and me to drink from this wellspring.”

Holt is pleased with Magnuson’s selection to succeed him as director.

“Doug will move the program forward in its newer Jerusalem setting at the Tantur Ecumenical Institute, adding fresh perspectives, activities and content,” Holt said. “It is precisely the challenging nature of the Middle East today that requires a CCCU presence in the region. Our CCCU campuses and students deserve continued, safe access to the vocational and spiritual opportunities afforded by MESP, and I depart with full confidence that Dr. Magnuson and Patti are the chosen stewards of this worthy endeavor.”


About BestSemester: The Council for Christian Colleges & Universities offers 12 off-campus study programs, collectively branded BestSemester®, which expand learning opportunities for students from CCCU campuses and are designated as culture-shaping or culture-crossing programs. Culture-shaping BestSemester programs are: American Studies Program (Washington, D.C.); Contemporary Music Center (Nashville); Los Angeles Film Studies Center (Los Angeles); and Washington Journalism Center (Washington, D.C.). Culture-crossing BestSemester programs are: Australia Studies Centre; China Studies Program; India Studies Program; Latin American Studies Program; Middle East Studies Program; Programmes in Oxford; and Uganda Studies Program. Visit for program details.

About the CCCU:  The Council for Christian Colleges & Universities is a higher education association of 172 intentionally Christ-centered institutions around the world. The 118 member campuses in North America are all fully-accredited, comprehensive colleges and universities with curricula rooted in the arts and sciences. In addition, 54 affiliate campuses from 20 countries are part of the CCCU. The Council’s mission is to advance the cause of Christ-centered higher education and to help our institutions transform lives by faithfully relating scholarship and service to biblical truth. Visit