Skip to content

Stay up to date on our COVID-19 Return to Campus Plan.


DSW Program of Study

Low-residency curriculum

Our Doctor of Social Work curriculum is offered in a low-residency format—a hybrid of online courses and periodic on-campus Saturdays where you’ll engage in meaningful discussions and faculty-led experiences on campus and in the Louisville-area.

Program of study and course descriptions

During Year 1 and Year 2, you’ll progress through the same foundational classes as your cohort. In Year 3, your courses will be tailored to your track of study: Advanced Clinical Practice or Leadership and Administration. You’ll also take your written and oral qualifying exams. In Year 4, you’ll work alongside a faculty mentor to create a capstone project tailored to you interests and goals.

Year 1 (12 Credits)
Writing for Publication
This course aims to teach students how to format and publish a research, practice, or teaching paper. Content will include a review of APA formatting, paper sections, how to handle peer reviews of written materials submitted to scholarly journals, and tips for selecting the appropriate journal for which to send manuscripts for publication. (2 credit hours)
Positionality and Epistemology
This course introduces the concept of how knowledge is shaped by who a person is as an individual. Discussion will occur about what knowledge, why it is valuable to us, and the sources of knowledge we consider to be “truth.” At the conclusion of this course, individuals will be asked about values, beliefs, and attitude changes and how these shifts have affected their positionality and the epistemological claims they maintain about the world. (2 credit hours)
Theories of Social Change
This course reviews both classical and contemporary theories of social change—why and how organizations and societies change over time, and the role that the profession of Social Work has played (or not) in these social changes. Discussion will occur about how personal stories inform our perspectives about the need for social change. (2 credit hours)
Research for Advanced Social Work Practice I
This course is designed to be a comprehensive review of the major concepts of the research process including conceptualization, hypothesis testing, study designs, and sampling techniques. Students will also become familiar with research ethics and the process of obtaining approval from an Institutional Review Board.  (3 credit hours)
Intersectionality and Social Justice
This course introduces students to the theory of intersectionality and power relationships and the social framework through which to understand how individuals experience contexts that may produce or reproduce their marginalized or privileged identities. The importance of exposing uneven power relations associated with interlocking structural oppressions in order to support social justice will be a key focus. Theories to be explored include critical race theory critical race theory, queer theory and feminist theory. (3 credit hours)
Year 2 (12 Credits)
Research for Advanced Social Work Practice II
This course serves as the second in a two-course series designed to focus on advanced quantitative and qualitative data analytic techniques. Students in this course will develop an individualized plan of study in consultation with a Social Work faculty member for their final capstone project leading to the DSW degree.  (3 credit hours)
Trauma Informed Interventions and Healing Practices
This course serves as the foundation and framework for creating and applying healing strategies within the context of individual and systemic trauma. Students will develop an applied understanding of the four core tenets of a trauma informed system/organization (realization, recognition, response, and re-traumatization avoidance) while exploring best practices focused on the healing principles of safety, transparency/trust, peer support, collaboration, voice and choice and cultural/historical/gender issues. (3 credit hours)
Trauma Informed Leadership and Administration
Building on SW 706, this course addresses the unique leadership qualities and strategies required to effectively and ethically lead organizations committed to a trauma-informed approach. Grounded in the four core tenets of a trauma-informed lens (realization, recognition, response and re-traumatization avoidance) leadership styles conducive to trauma informed organizations will be explored with specific attention given to the micro to macro continuum of impact for trauma informed leaders.  (2 credit hours)
Teaching Skills for the Social Work Classroom
This course focuses on the theory and application of planning course curriculum and objectives and their relevance to formal instruction and student learning.  Students will be introduced to the rationale for course planning, methods of planning, instructional design and technology etc. and discuss how this information may be applied to social work education.  (2 credit hours)
Community Practice and Policy Advocacy
The implications of contemporary international, national, state and local social welfare policies for community practice will be an ongoing focus of the course. Professional social work’s past and current involvement in influencing and shaping policy within communities will be described and evaluated. Students will discuss the vulnerability of marginalized communities, with respect to age, class, color, culture, disability, ethnicity, family structure, gender, marital status, national origin, race, religion, sex, sexual, and gender identity. The role of economic forces and events in influencing public perceptions and decisions about a community’s welfare will be an ongoing dimension of this course.  (2 credit hours)
Year 3 (12 Credits)

Advanced Clinical Practice Track

This course includes content on psychopathology as it is represented in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5, 2013). Contemporary theories and scientific research of major psychological disorders will be discussed, as well as the historical classification and sociocultural implications of today’s mental disorders. Diagnostic criteria (assessment) of mental health disorders will be covered as well as evidence-based treatments used for said disorders. Content on the professional, ethical, and cultural issues relating to psychopathology will be included with an emphasis on trauma-induced conditions. (3 credit hours)
This course is designed to educate the advanced clinical practitioner with a comprehensive understanding of psychotropic medication classifications, neurotransmitters/mechanisms of action, and adverse effects of psychotropic medications. Special consideration is given to the integration of psychotropic drugs with evidence-based therapies. Attention to issues of diversity (race/ethnicity, sexual orientation etc.), mental health stigma, and socioeconomic barriers to medical intervention will be given. (3 credit hours)
Clinical Research and Single Systems
This course is designed to enhance the knowledge and skills needed to evaluate practice and intervention effectiveness as an advanced clinical practitioner. Numerous single-system designs will be discussed, as well as content on descriptive statistics, graphing and plotting data, and hypothesis testing. Values and ethics that relate to the design selection, baseline and withdrawal phases, and appropriate statistical analyses are key areas of content in this course. (2 credit hours)
Advanced Clinical Practice I
Building on the work done in SW 710 and SW 711, this course will use the lens of neuroscience to explore the intersectionality of trauma, mental health disorders, addiction and wellness on the individual life course. Various evidence based practices (EBP) will be assessed using this combination of physiology and context.  (2 credit hours)
Advanced Clinical Practice II
Building on SW 713, this course requires students to apply EBP to contemporary clinical issues with the intent of identifying and responding to gaps in current theories/models/strategies. This exploration will lay the groundwork for a subsequent capstone project. (2 credit hours)


Leadership and Administration Track

Decolonizing Practices for Community Organizations
This course provides content on the process of decolonizing and dismantling existing power structures at the organizational level. Key content of this course will include information regarding microaggressions and organizational indignities, indigenizing the organizational environment and workplace relationships. The importance of creating cultural safety at the agency level will be discussed. (3 credit hours)
Program Evaluation and Assessment
This course includes content regarding theories and approaches to program evaluation and assessment. A key focus of this course will be on the development and administration of formative and summative evaluation instrumentation. Content regarding the analysis and interpretation of program evaluation data for the purposes of making evidence based social work practice decisions will be discussed. (3 credit hours)
Grants and Financial Management
This course provides students with the descriptive and analytic tools to enhance their professional practice of grant writing, financial management and planning.  This course is designed to enable students to explore the plethora of issues that encompass the funding of an organization and the provision of services to communities, including the colonization of philanthropic actions and corporate wealth.  At the same time attention is paid to accountability, as administrators are responsible for the delivery of performance-based, and effective and efficient services both in the public, private, and the non-profit sectors. (2 credit hours)
Leadership, Administration, and Supervision
This course addresses advanced administrative, management, and supervisory skills necessary for leadership practice in organizations. Course content includes supervision, evaluation, staff hiring and termination; working with boards and volunteers, and leadership styles, and current best practices in social service organization administration. (2 credit hours)
Strategic Planning for Social Change
This course includes content regarding the steps of the strategic planning process of community-based organizations from a decolonization perspective. Internal and external assessment techniques will be included, as well as steps regarding plan formulation, implementation, and evaluation. Discussion will occur about the importance of creating opportunities for agency team members to engage as change agents throughout the strategic planning process. (2 credit hours)
Year 4 (12 Credits)
Capstone I
Pre-requisite: Successful completion of DSW Oral and Written Comprehensive examinations. In consultation with the sponsoring Social Work faculty member, students will initiate their capstone project as agreed upon per the student and faculty mentor. Example capstone projects may include an original research project completed from start to finish, the creation of a comprehensive curriculum designed to advance human rights and social justice etc. Capstone projects must be approved by faculty mentor prior to student registering for SW800. (6 credit hours)
Capstone II
Pre-requisite: Successful completion SW 800. In consultation with the sponsoring Social Work faculty member, students will complete their capstone project as agreed upon during SW 800 per the student and faculty mentor. Example capstone projects may include an original research project completed from start to finish, the creation of a comprehensive curriculum designed to advance human rights and social justice etc. (6 credit hours)

Summer research and publication

There are no classes during the summertime. Therefore, you can engage in optional research and scholarship during this time. It’s a great opportunity to build your curriculum vitae with as few as four publications or scholarly presentations. You’ll work collaboratively with a team of peers alongside a faculty mentor. All research and writing can be completed online from your home locale.

Request information

Tell us about yourself and we’ll be in touch with more information.