The online Doctor of Social Work (DSW) program comprises 24 months of part-time study. Students complete 42 units of coursework focused on two primary content areas: innovation and leadership, and advanced management practice in complex systems.
Strategic Innovations for the Grand Challenges (704)
Introduces interdisciplinary ideas and approaches for innovation and change as they address the Grand Challenges for Social Work. Students will leave the course with the ability to respond to the fast-paced and changing organizational environment with a skill set that supports new strategies and approaches for targeting “wicked problems” and managing change.
Design Laboratory for Social Innovation I (711)
This course integrates design thinking with a norms-driven approach for social innovation, described as “the systematic disruption of social norms to effect social change.” Implementing a case study method, students will assume the role of key decision-makers in actual organizational contexts in order to uncover norms that preserve social problems (emanating from the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare’s 12 Grand Challenges) and identify or invent deviants to subvert them. Lastly, they will assess a specific social problem, diagnose norms and apply design thinking techniques to develop a proposed innovative solution corresponding to their selected social problem.
Second Semester Courses
Leading and Managing Large Complex Systems (706)
This course examines large-scale national, state and local social intervention programs (e.g., income security, housing, health, justice and child welfare programs) in the context of how these programs do or do not include strategies to address the Grand Challenges for Social Work. Implications for fiscal and outcome accountability, inclusion and exclusion criteria, political considerations, funding, social program implications, and interoperability of design are of critical importance.
Design Laboratory for Social Innovation II (723)
This course extends the exploration of design thinking as a methodology for social innovation. Students are required to explore innovative solutions related to their Grand Challenge and social problem and then test their ideas through prototype development. Students will be encouraged to take audacious approaches and even fail their ideas. The course introduces new innovation tools that can be leveraged in their design, including change agents, change processes and change technologies. In the face of rapid social change and increasing social instability, students will explore how to use these elements to create greater impact.
Third Semester Courses
Leading Public Discourse (705)
This course will prepare students to develop a range of skills in leading public discourse for the purposes of increasing civic engagement and public participation, building broad-based public support, and enabling competencies including utilizing knowledge to generate change for the benefit of vulnerable and at-risk populations and the social work profession; facilitating social connectivity; constructing and defining critical perspectives; ensuring transparency and accountability; and strengthening civic agency. A necessary focus of the course is to effectively navigate and understand social media, how to build social media marketing strategies to communicate and how to track their effectiveness (message management).
Preparatory Scholarship for Capstone (710)
This intensive workshop assesses and improves our students’ ability to: (a) make clear decisions informed by knowledge of key concepts and tools and (b) articulate these decisions in writing. Additionally, this course prepares students to deliver and defend a capstone project proposal, a key deliverable for passing Residency 1 (712) and achieving candidacy in the doctoral program.
Residency I (712)
The campus-based residency takes place in the third semester of the DSW program. Residency I provides students with their first opportunity to meet each other in person in Los Angeles. During these five days, students shift from focusing on their particular project in relation to specific Grand Challenges to a broader scope of influence in the field and the profession on a national and global scale. To accomplish this, students will re-examine and deepen their understanding of the first two semesters’ course material (learning), challenge their knowledge base (reading), and relate their ideas with the goal of leading the overall profession (critical thinking). Finally, students will complete an oral defense of their capstone proposal during their Qualifying Assessment.
Fourth Semester Courses
Application of Implementation Science (713)
Students will develop skills focused on examining challenges faced in implementing innovative and evidence-based practices, programs and policies. Furthermore, students will learn strategies, theories, models and frameworks supported by the scientific literature for overcoming these challenges in order to successfully implement and sustain these innovations. This application-focused class will also help students learn to analyze implementation barriers and facilitators, find the appropriate implementation strategies, and develop a plan to implement their innovation in order to solve their identified social problem.
Financial Management for Social Change (707)
This course will prepare students to apply effective financial management and planning skills in human service organizations. The skills they will develop will emphasize fiscal approaches that maximize revenue, control costs, allocate resources, improve decision-making and support successful social programs and social change.
Fifth Semester Courses
Data Driven Decision Making in Social Services (721)
This course provides students with the practical and conceptual skills needed to manage, analyze, interpret and present quantitative findings from data generated through agency operations. Learning how to interpret statistics and the visual presentations of statistics, and conceptualizing the measurement and rigorous assessment of new innovations and policy change initiative, will be emphasized. Ethical considerations and practical issues on using data originally collected for non-research purposes will also be discussed. The course also introduces students to developments in data science and artificial intelligence that are emerging as new methods to analyze big data within social work.
Executive Leadership (714)
Students will develop skills that will enable them to apply theories and principles of executive leadership, including development of personal skills, technical skills and skills in navigating organizations.
Sixth Semester Courses
Communication and Influence for Social Good (720)
This course examines how communication and messaging strategies and newer information technology — such as mobile apps, social media, Snapchat and more — can be used to craft appropriate messaging that would influence decision-makers, members of social groups, campaigns and/or members of the public to address the Grand Challenges in the interests of the public good.
Implementing Your Capstone and Re-Envisioning Your Career (Capstone II) (722)
This course is the culmination of each student’s experience in the DSW program. As an analogue to independent study for a doctoral dissertation, Capstone II is much more equivalent to student-guided work with faculty oversight than to a structured course with a defined series of lectures and assignments.
Residency II (724)
Residency II provides students, faculty and other stakeholders with the opportunity for an in-person presentation of students’ capstone projects. During Residency II, students will exhibit their solutions to the Grand Challenges for Social Work through exercises, speaking engagements, workshops and key informant meetings. Students will share their ideas, engaging possible funders, innovators, policymakers and stakeholders. Finally, students will complete an oral defense of their capstone project during their Capstone Assessment.