Virginia Commonwealth University

Ph.D. Program

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Ph.D. programVCU’s Ph.D. program in social work is a research-oriented educational enterprise with a mission to develop scholars and leaders for education and practice in human services. Our vision is a program that builds and nurtures students’ intellectual curiosity, creativity and courage, as well as their desire to “make a difference.” The Ph.D. program is particularly committed to the school’s mission to enhance social and economic justice. This is apparent in the curriculum in a myriad of ways, as described in the Social Justice Contributions of Ph.D. Program statement [PDF].

Our program is built around excellence in teaching, mentorship and socialization of students, as well as collaborative involvement in the program by its diverse faculty.

Our graduates become active in teaching, consultation, research, practice and program evaluation, staff and program development, policy analysis and advocacy. They are employed in universities and colleges, and in human service organizations and agencies at the local, state, national and international levels. In all the program’s activities and events we emphasize:

  • The development of an intellectual community that values critical and creative thinking.
  • The connections between philosophy of science, theory, research and practice.
  • The analysis and integration of knowledge and values, especially their relevance to diverse populations and issues of social justice.

Strengths of our doctoral program

The doctoral program in social work at VCU brings together a unique group of diverse faculty who provide opportunities for professional development and advanced interdisciplinary study to eager-to-learn individuals. The program's signature is its commitment to the nurturance and socialization of doctoral students. Both faculty and students have noted the high degree of collaboration between faculty and doctoral students. They do research together, write papers together, do presentations together and participate as colleagues in many activities.

Goals and objectives

The Ph.D. program’s specific educational objectives are achieved and demonstrated by our students through a number of formal and informal mechanisms: required and elective course work, independent study and directed research, a comprehensive exam process, and the dissertation process. They are:

  • A critical understanding of multiple paradigms in the philosophy of science and the implications of these for contemporary research.
  • Mastery of a range of research methodologies and data analysis strategies, and competence in conducting independent inquiry on issues of importance to the field.
  • Competence in the analysis and application of a wide range of social, behavioral and practice theories.
  • An ability to design and propose theoretically and empirically grounded models of social work intervention for coping with personal transitions and challenges, addressing social problems, and promoting equity and social justice.
  • A critical understanding of the historical place of social work and social welfare in the evolution of social thought and cultural values.
  • Expertise in a chosen substantive area related to social work, including skills related to dissemination of this knowledge.
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