The principal objective of the program is to prepare students to promote social justice by contributing to the advancement of knowledge and practice in the field of social welfare and the profession of social work. Our graduates have assumed leadership positions in such areas as teaching, research, administration, and policy analysis. In these various capacities, they use their scholarly abilities to improve the quality of policies, programs, and services in the field. More specifically, the objectives of the program are for students to acquire:

  • a broad understanding of the major policy and practice trends and issues in the field of social welfare and the profession of social work;
  • the substantive knowledge of some field of social welfare with particular emphasis on issues and questions within the field that require scholarly attention;
  • the competence to conduct empirical research that informs and advances policy and/or practice in some area of social welfare;
  • a balanced preparation for the professorate, including teaching, scholarship, and related faculty roles.

Four principal means are used to assess student progress toward the attainment of these objectives: examinations and papers required in individual classes, the First-year Comprehensive Examination and formal Doctoral General Examination, hands-on experience in teaching and research practice, and the Dissertation. Advisors and students meet on a regular basis with an emphasis placed on assisting students in developing effective strategic plans toward a successful educational experience.


Each student is assigned a faculty advisor upon entry to the program. The assignments take into account mutual areas of scholarly interest and serve as a "starting point" for procedural matters and questions, facilitating contact with other faculty and thus helping the student form the Supervisory Committee. The advisor helps the student develop an awareness of the culture of the PhD Program and the academic community. In addition, the advisor assists the student in developing the program of study through which students clarify and further define their substantive interests, identify useful courses and instructors, and gain information about and linkages with community and university resources. Once a Supervisory Committee is established, the chair becomes the primary advisor.