College of Education and Human Development

School of Social Work

PhD in Social Work

Established in 1946, our program is one of the oldest in the United States, and develops a mentoring partnership between nationally prominent faculty and students to promote knowledge and skills in theory development and community-based research. The research productivity of our faculty was ranked 20th out of 76 U.S. social work doctoral programs in a recent study 

Our graduates include internationally recognized scholars in diverse areas of study. Alumni go on to faculty and academic leadership roles in schools of social work around the world, as well as agency and program directors, and high-level servants in federal, state, and local government agencies. 

Learn about the PhD program in social work at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

Scholarship, research, and teaching which contribute to the knowledge base of social work and foster a just, nurturing, inclusive society.

Program Highlights

  • Highly productive faculty. Collaborate with our faculty and research and training centers to conduct, write, and publish research in child welfare, aging, mental health, violence prevention, health disparities, social welfare policy, international social work, work with immigrants and refugees, and other social work related research areas.
  • Generous funding for PhD students. The majority of our students receive a four-year funding package that covers tuition, health insurance, and a stipend. Many students also secure dissertation fellowships, and we help students secure assistantships for funding for their fifth year.
  • Teaching and professional development. Gain skills in teaching and curriculum development. We provide doctoral colloquia focusing both on current research and professional and career development.
  • Diverse student body. Our graduate students come from Minnesota, across the nation, and from around the world, giving the learning and research experience depth and breadth in lived experiences and perspectives.
  • Structured research mentoring experiences. Our PhD program relies heavily on a mentoring model, and PhD students work closely with faculty members throughout the program. Mentoring is seen as a vital part of the teaching and learning process within the doctoral program. 

Fall 2023 Applications

Please note: the application deadline was December 1, 2023


Program Outline

Students take two years of coursework both inside and outside the School of Social Work, including required courses in research methods, statistics, theory, history, policy and teaching, as well as supporting program courses from across the university. Students typically complete their preliminary examinations and defend their dissertation proposal, and then complete their dissertation in their fourth or fifth year.

Careers of Social Work PhD Graduates

This is a selected list of institutions where recent University of Minnesota School of Social Work graduates have found positions:

Research Universities

  • State University of New York at Buffalo
  • Tulane University
  • University of Arkansas
  • University of Kansas
  • University of Memphis
  • University of Texas
  • University of Utah
  • Virginia Commonwealth University

Teaching Universities

  • Augsburg University
  • California State University - Chico
  • Colorado State University - Pueblo
  • Providence College
  • Radford University 
  • University of Wisconsin - Green Bay

Institutes and Foundations

  • Institute on Community Integration, University of Minnesota
  • Health Partners Research Foundation
  • Minnesota Minority Education Partnership

Applied/Administrative Positions

  • Children’s Defense Fund
  • Minnesota Department of Human Services

International Universities

  • National University Taiwan
  • Tel Aviv University
    • Self-Directed Services for the Long-Term Supports of Adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities: A Propensity Score Matching Analysis
    • Social Work, Intractable Conflict and Professionalism: A Case Study of Jewish-Israeli Social Work Practice
    • Omayeletumbulo [wisdom sayings] as a Pathway to School Engagement for Young Mothers in Rural Namibia
    • County Exemption from Social Work Licensure in Minnesota: Understanding the Past and Present to Affect the Future
    • Animal-Assisted Interactions for College Student Mental Health and a Conceptual Model of Practice
    • Environmental Effects on Cognitive Health in Older Adults: Insights for Long-Term Care Services
    • “This is how we show up for our relatives”: Understanding How Indigenous Relative Caregivers Embody Traditional Kinship to Resist the Colonial Child Welfare System
    • Perceived Discrimination and Depressive Symptom Trajectories of Middle-aged and Older Adults with Chronic Diseases
    • Student Stories of Resilience After Campus Sexual Assault
    • How do Contextual Factors and Family Support Influence Disclosure of Child Sexual Abuse During Forensic Interviews and Service Outcomes in Child Protection Cases?
    • Moral Injury Among Professionals in K-12 Education: A Mixed Methods Inquiry
    • Making Sense of Poverty in Child Welfare: A Grounded Theory Informed Study of Public and Tribal Child Welfare Workers' Poverty Constructions, Perceptions of Causes, and Praxis
    • Neighborhood Social Capital and the Health and Health Risk Behavior of Adolescent Immigrants and Non-Immigrants

    Sampling of PhD Student Publications

    Our PhD students routinely co-author with faculty and other researchers at the School of Social Work and across campus. Nearly all PhD students graduate with multiple peer reviewed articles, multiple presentations at national/international research conferences, and teaching experience as the instructor of record of undergraduate or graduate courses. The following is just a sampling of the recent peer-reviewed articles published by our students, either as sole author or in collaboration with others.


      Carlson, W. C. (2023). Implementation challenges of T visa eligibility for human trafficking survivors: a role for social work. Social Work, 68(3), 222-229.

      Flangan, S., Sterman, J., & Merighi, J. R., Batty, R. (2023). Bridging the gap – How interprofessional collaboration can support family-centered emergency preparedness: An exploratory qualitative study. BMC Public Health, 23(1):777.

      Haight, W. L., Suleiman, J., Flanagan, S. K., Park, S., Soltani, L. J., Carlson, W. C., Otis, J. R., & Turck, K. S. (2023). Reflections on social work education during the COVID-19 pandemic: Experiences of faculty members and lessons moving forward. Qualitative Social Work, 22(5), 938-955.

      Samimi, C., Jefferson, N., Flanagan, S., & Anyon, Y. (2023). Intersections of disproportion: A critical quantitative examination of dis/ability and gender in Black students’ school discipline outcomes. The Urban Review, 1-20.

      Soffer-Elnekave, R., Haight, W., Nashandi, N. J., Cho, M., Suleiman, J., & Park, S. (2023). Re-orienting narratives of moral injury towards positive development: The experiences of emerging adults with child welfare histories. Children and Youth Services Review, 149, 106922.

      Soria, K. M., Horgos, B., & Shenouda, J. D. (2023). Disparities in college students’ financial hardships during the Covid-19 pandemic. Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice, 60(1), 31-48.

      Toft, J., Lightfoot, E., Calhoun, M., Choy-Brown, M., Merighi, J. R., Renner, L. M., Soffer-Elnekave, R., Mendel, J., & Marsalis, S. (2023). Effects of neoliberalism on social work practice in the United States: A scoping review. Social Work Research, 47(2), 99-110. 


      Renner, L. M., Driessen, M. C., & Lewis-Dmello, A. (2022). An evaluation of a parent group for survivors of intimate partner violence. Journal of Family Violence, 37(2), 247-259.

      Soria K., Horgos B., Roberts B.J. (2022). The COVID‐19 pandemic and students’ mental health. New Directions for Student Services, 176, 37-45. 


      Lee, M. H., Hong, S., & Merighi, J. R. (2021). The effect of fatalism on mammography use in Korean American women. Health Education & Behavior, 49(4), 740−749.

      Lightfoot, E., Yun, H., Moone, R., Otis, J., Suleiman, K., Turck, K., & Kutzler, C. (2021). Changes to family caregiving of older adults and adults with disabilities during COVID-19. Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine, 7, 1-8.

      Mervis, J. E., Fischer, J., Cooper, S. E., Deckert, A. C., Lysaker, P. H., MacDonald III, A. W., & Meyer-Kalos, P. (2021). Introspective accuracy for substance use across a year of treatment for first episode psychosis. Schizophrenia Research: Cognition, 26, 100200.

      Renner, L. M., Hartley, C. C., & Driessen, M. C. (2021). Provider, caretaker, nurturer, hero: Perceptions of parenting changes among women who experienced intimate partner violence. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 30(9), 2191-2203.

      Soria, K., & Horgos, B. (2021). Factors associated with college students’ mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic. Journal of College Student Development, 62(2), 107-113. 


      An, S., Lee, H. Y., Choi, Y. J., & Yoon, Y. J. (2020). Literacy of breast cancer and screening guideline in an immigrant group: importance of health accessibility. Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health, 22, 563-570.

      Lightfoot, E., Zheng, M., & DeZelar, S. (2021). Substantiation of child maltreatment among parents with disabilities in the United States. Journal of Public Child Welfare, 15(5), 583-596.

      Renner, L. M., Driessen, M. C., & Lewis-Dmello, A. (2020). A pilot study evaluation of a parent group for survivors of intimate partner violence. Journal of Family Violence, 35, 203-215.


      Cho, M., Haight. W., Choi, W. S., Hong, S. H., & Piescher, K. (2019). A prospective, longitudinal study of risk factors for early onset of delinquency among maltreated youth.Children and Youth Services Review, 102, 222-230.

      Choi, Y. J., Lee, H. Y., An, S., Yoon, Y. J., & Oh, J. (2019). Predictors of cervical cancer screening awareness and literacy among Korean-American women. Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities, 7(1), 1–9.

      Driessen, M. C. (2019). Campus sexual assault policies: A feminist policy analysis framework. Affilia, 35(3) 1-16. doi:10.1177/0886109919878273

      Driessen, M. C. (2019). Campus sexual assault & student activism, 1970-1990. Qualitative Social Work, 19(3), 1-16. doi:10.1177/1473325019828805

      Emery, C. R., Wu, S., Eremina, T., Yoon, Y. J., Kim, S., & Yang, H. (2019). Does informal social control deter child abuse? A comparative study of Koreans and Russians. International journal on child maltreatment: research, policy and practice, 2(2), 37–54.

      Gibson, P., Haight, W., Cho, M., Nashandi, N. J., & Yoon, Y. J. (2019). A mixed methods study of Black Girls' vulnerability to out-of-school suspensions: The intersection of race and gender. Children and Youth Services Review, 102, 169–176.

      Haight, W., Waubanascum, C., Glesener, D., Day, P., Bussey, B., & Nichols, K. (2019). The Center for Regional and Tribal Child Welfare Studies: Reducing disparities through Indigenous social work education. Children and Youth Services Review, 100, 156-166.

      Kiesel, L, DeZelar, S. & Lightfoot, E. (2019). Equity in social work employment in the United States: Opportunity and challenges for social workers with disabilities. Disability & Society.

      Kivnick, H. Q., Driessen, M. C., Santavasy, C., Wardwell, C., & Davis, L. D. (2019). “Who’s Been Putting Socks in My Drawer?” Narrative case study of an elder role model. The Gerontologist, 1-10. doi:10.1093/geront/gnz114

      Lee, H.Y., Beltran, R.M., Kwon, M., Kim, G.N., Lee, D.K. (2019). Racial disparities in cervical cancer screening: Implications for relieving cervical cancer burden in Asian American Pacific Islander women. Cancer Nursing: An International Journal for Cancer Care.

      Lightfoot, E. & DeZelar, S. (2019). Social work with parents with disabilities: Historical interactions and contemporary innovations. Social Work Review, 2, 1-10.

      Lightfoot, E., Franklin, C., & Beltran, R. (2019). Preparing for the academic job market: A guide for social work doctoral students and their mentors. Journal of Social Work Education.

      Newman, T., Okamoto, K., Kimiecik, C., Sohns, E., Burns, M., & Magier, E. (2019). The role of social workers in sport: Shared values and opportunities for interprofessional collaborations. Journal of Sport Psychology in Action, 10(3), 160-173.

      Renner, L. M., & Driessen, M. C. (2019). Siblings who are exposed to child maltreatment: Practices reported by county children's services supervisors. Journal of Public Child Welfare, 13(5), 491-511. doi:10.1080/15548732.2018.1514350


      An, S., Choi, Y. J., Lee, H. Y., Yoon, Y. J., & Platt, M. (2018). Predictors of breast cancer screening among Korean American women: Is having an annual checkup critical? Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention, 19(5), 1281–1286.

      Bayless, S. D., Jenson, J. M., Richmond, M. K., Pampel, F. C., Cook, M., & Calhoun, M. (2018). Effects of an afterschool early literacy intervention on the reading skills of children in public housing communities. Child & Youth Care Forum, 47, 537-561.

      DeZelar, S., & Lightfoot, E. (2018). Use of parental disability as a removal reason for children in foster care in the US. Children and Youth Services Review, 86, 128-134.

      Fink, A. (2018). Bigger data, less wisdom: The need for more inclusive collective intelligence in social service provision. AI & Society, 33, 61-70.

      Haight, W., Waubanascum, C., Glesener, D., & Marsalis, S. (2018). A scoping study of Indigenous child welfare: The long emergency and preparations for the next seven generations. Children and Youth Services Review, 93, 397-410.

      Jenson, J. M., Veeh, C., Anyon, Y., St. Mary, J., Calhoun, M., Tejada, J., & Lechuga-Peña, S. (2018). Effects of an afterschool program on the academic outcomes of children and youth residing in public housing neighborhoods: A quasi-experimental study. Children and Youth Services Review, 88, 211-217.

      Kiesel, L., DeZelar, S. & Lightfoot, E. (2018). Challenges, barriers and opportunities: Social workers with disabilities and experiences in field education. Journal of Social Work Education. 54(4), 696-708.

      Lee, H. Y., Choi, Y. J., Yoon, Y. J., & Oh, J. (2018). HPV literacy: The role of English proficiency in Korean American immigrant women. Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing, 22(3), E64–E70.

      Lightfoot, E. & LaLiberte, T. & Cho, M. (2018). Parental supports for parents with disabilities: The role of informal supports.Child Welfare, 96(4), 89-110.

      Merighi, J. R., Zheng, M., & Browne, T. (2018). Nephrology social workers' caseloads and hourly wages in 2014 and 2017: Findings from the National Kidney Foundation Council of Nephrology Social Workers Professional Practice Survey. Journal of Nephrology Social Work, 42(1), 31−59.

      St. Mary, J., Calhoun, M., Tejada, J., & Jenson, J. M. (2018). Perceptions of academic achievement and educational opportunities among Black and African American youth. Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal, 35(5), 499-509.


      Haight, W., Sugrue, E., Calhoun, M., & Black, J. (2017). “Basically, I look at it like combat”: Reflections on moral injury by parents involved with child protection services. Children and Youth Services Review, 82, 477-489.

      Haight, W., Sugrue, E., Calhoun, M., & Black, J. (2017). Everyday coping with moral injury: The perspectives of professionals and parents involved with child protection services. Children and Youth Services Review, 82, 108-121.

      Haight, W., Sugrue, E., Calhoun, M. (2017). Moral injury among child protection professionals: Implications for the ethical treatment and retention of workers. Children and Youth Services Review, 82, 27-41.

      Hewitt, A., Stancliffe, R., Hall-Lande, J., Nord, D., Pettingell, S., Hamre, K., Hallas-Muchow L. (2017). Characteristics of adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder who use residential services and supports through adult developmental disability services in the United States. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders.

      Horn, T. L., Piescher, K., Shannon, P. J., Hong, S., & Benton, A. (2017). Experiences of Somali and Oromo youth in the child protection system. Children and Youth Services Review.

      Kayama, M., Haight, W., Ku, M. L. M., Cho, M., & Lee, H. Y. (2017). East Asian and U.S. educators' reflections on how stigmatization affects their relationships with parents whose children have disabilities: Challenges and solutions. Children and Youth Services Review, 73, 128-144.

      Khuu, B. P., Lee, H. Y. (2017). Health literacy and associated factors among Hmong American immigrants. Journal of Community Health, 1-8.

      Kim, Y.S., Lee, H.Y., Lee, M.H., Simms, T., & Park, B.H., (2017). Mental health literacy in Korean older adults: A cross-sectional survey. Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing. doi: 10.1111/jpm.12395

      Lightfoot, E. & LaLiberte, T. & Cho, M. (2017). A case record review of termination of parental rights cases involving parents with a disability. Children and Youth Services Review, 79, 399-407.

      Sugrue, E. & Lightfoot, E. (2017). Preschool Policymaking by Stealth: Application of an Alternative Framework for the Policy Process. Journal of Policy Practice. DOI: 10.1080/15588742.2016.1266982


      Carlson, J., Nguyen, H., and Reinardy, J. (2016). Social justice and the capabilities approach: Seeking a global print for EPAS. Journal of Social Work Education, 52, Issue 3.

      Haight, W., Bidwell, L., Choi, W. S., & Cho, M. (2016). An evaluation of the Crossover Youth Practice Model (CYPM): Recidivism outcomes for maltreated youth involved in the juvenile justice system. Children and Youth Services Review, 65, 78-85.

      Haight, W., Kayama, M., Ku, M. L., Cho, M., & Lee, H. Y. (2016). Perspectives of elementary school educators in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the US on disability, stigmatization and children's developing self Part 1: Defining the problem in cultural context. Children and Youth Services Review, 70, 214-228.

      Haight, W., Sugrue, E., Calhoun, M., & Black, J. (2016). A scoping study of moral injury: Identifying directions for social work research. Child and Youth Services Review, 70, 190-200.

      Hoffman, S. J., Robertson, C. L., Shannon, P. J., Cook, T.L., Letts, J., & Mathiason, M. A. (2016). Physical Correlates of Torture Exposure in Karen Refugees. Journal of Loss and Trauma, 1-15.

      Kayama, M., Haight, W., Ku, M. L. M., Cho, M., & Lee, H. Y. (2016). Perspectives of elementary school educators in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the US on disability, stigmatization and children's developing self Part 2: Solutions. Children and Youth Services Review, 70, 403-418.

      Khuu, B. P., Lee, H.Y., Zhou, A.Q., Shin, J. & Lee, R.M., (2016) Healthcare providers’ perspectives on parental health literacy and child health outcomes among Southeast Asian American immigrants and refugees, Children and Youth Services Review, 67 (2016) 220–229. doi: 10.1016/j.childyouth.2016.06.006

      Lightfoot, E., Blevins, J., Lum, T. & Dube, A. (2016). Cultural health assets of Somali and Oromo immigrants in the United States: Findings from a community-based participatory research project. Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved, 27(1), 252-260.

      Lightfoot, E. & DeZelar, S. (2016). The experiences and outcomes of children in foster care who were removed because of a parental disability. Children and Youth Services Review, 62, 22–28.

      Lightfoot, E., Nienow, M., Moua, K., Colburn, G., & Petri, A. (2016). Insights on professional identification and licensure from community practice social workers. Journal of Community Practice, 24 (2), 123-146.

      McCleary, J., Shannon, P. J., Cook, T. (2016) Connecting refugees to substance use treatment: A qualitative study. Social Work and Public Health, 31(1), 1-. 10.1080/19371918.2015.1087906.

      Shannon, P.J., Vinson, G.A., Cook, T.L., Lennon, E. (2016). Characteristics of successful and unsuccessful mental health referrals of refugees. Administration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research, 43(4), 555-568. doi:10.1007/s10488-015-0639-8

      Simms, T. (2016). Statutory compensation for the wrongly imprisoned. Social Work, 61, 155-162. doi: 10.1093/sw/sww003

      Yang, H., Yoon, Y. J., Jeong, B., & Emery, C. R. (2016). The effects of parental abuse and aggression on mobile phone dependency: Focused on the moderated mediation effect of youth activity. Youth Facilities and Environment, 14(2), 5–15.