The program seeks to prepare students to make significant contributions to both education and research in the social sciences. Four areas of specialization that reflect both faculty expertise and issues of importance to the university’s urban mission are emphasized. These are:

Applied Gerontology

This specialization focuses on the complexity of the aging process from the perspective of the individual, family, society, and social policy. It covers the physical, psychological, and social processes of aging, including family roles and responsibilities, cultural diversity, social support networks, and the use of health and social services. Major developmental issues during the second half of life will be presented and interventions to facilitate adaptation to developmental change will be described.

Criminal Justice

This specialization focuses on criminal justice theory, the causes and consequences of crime, and the administration of justice. It also covers specific issues in the criminal justice system and the integration of criminal justice research, theory, and policy. The goal of the specialization is to prepare students for teaching and scholarship in the fields of criminal justice and criminology.

Family and Child Welfare

Both the social work and criminal justice professions have historical commitments to ensuring the welfare of children, and professionals view the family system as being of prime importance in children’s lives. The family system, in its various forms, is also a significant social institution, essential to communities and to society as a whole. This specialization focuses on the study of family systems, child and family welfare, and interventions to enhance the lives of children and families.

Health and Behavioral Health

This specialization is designed to prepare students for teaching and scholarship relating to the delivery of mental/physical health services to individuals, families, small groups, and the community. Students are exposed to issues, approaches, and technologies in prevention, treatment, administration, and policy. These are related to risks and problems with alcohol and other drugs, various forms of mental illness, intimate partner violence, cognitive and physical disabilities, physical illness, community violence, and other behavioral health concerns.


Objectives of the curriculum within each of the above areas of specialization include:

  • Providing opportunities for advanced scholarship and research, including partnerships with the wider community;
  • preparing scholars who demonstrate knowledge, skills, values, and ethics of their respective discipline and who are able to serve as future leaders in social work academic and research settings;
  • preparing scholars competent in the development and advancement of knowledge in criminal justice or social work.

Outcomes and competencies expected of doctoral graduates, regardless of specialization, include:

  • Knowledge of theories underlying intervention approaches used in the student’s discipline;
  • ability to critically analyze theories and knowledge development related to a specific content area;
  • understanding of how knowledge currently is and has historically been developed, disseminated, and applied in each discipline and in relation to specific content areas;
  • familiarity with relevant policies, their rationale, and their implications for practice;
  • capacity to design and conduct intervention research appropriate to the student’s area of interest, including the capacity to participate effectively in knowledge-building and in applying that knowledge to the development of effective interventions, programs, or policies;
  • capacity to develop, utilize, and disseminate quantitative, qualitative, mixed, epidemiological, and instrumentation research methods and statistical analysis with relevance to discipline-specific research;
  • furthering the knowledge base of the discipline by conducting research that addresses questions of direct practical relevance and questions involving broad theoretical issues, etiological and epidemiological concerns, and large-scale social policy;
  • knowledge, values, ethics, and skills essential to teaching and the preparation of future professionals, in addition to those relating to research, scholarship, and leadership in their respective discipline.