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PhD Program

Doctor of Philosophy in Social Welfare

Statement of Purpose and Goals

The Thompson School of Social Work & Public Health PhD in Social Welfare program prepares students for leadership in the advancement of social welfare education, practice, policy development, and research. The program promotes social justice and global understanding through scholarly inquiry using indigenous and mixed method approaches. Emphasis is placed on knowledge development which enhances the well-being of Native Hawaiians and the diverse people and communities of Hawai‘i and the Asian-Pacific Region.

Program Goals and Educational Objectives

The major goals of the doctoral program are to:

  1. Provide students with the substantive and methodological competence requisite for scholarship and research in social policy and social work practice and in the field of social welfare;
  2. Increase the number of social welfare professionals, especially in Hawaiʻi and the Pacific region, who would be qualified to carry out social welfare research and program evaluations, to teach, and to foster knowledge development in all areas of social work; and
  3. Increase the number of doctorally-educated social workers from under-represented ethnic minority groups.

The PhD curriculum exposes students to a program of study and investigation that places its highest priority on independent inquiry and the enhancement of intellectual, creative, and analytical abilities. Each student completing the doctoral program will be expected to possess a comprehensive body of knowledge about the field of social welfare, related behavioral and social sciences, and the social work profession, all in relation to a social problem area. Each student will obtain the ability to conduct independent research on a critical social problem. Specifically, every doctoral graduate would be expected to be competent to achieve the following educational objectives:

  1. Apply relevant social work and social science knowledge to the resolution of critical social problems.
  2. Critically evaluate the cultural dimensions of social problems and promote strategies for social problem resolution.
  3. Delineate and analyze social policy and social work practice issues related to substantive areas in social welfare and conceptualize the social or behavioral processes characterizing them.
  4. Analyze and apply social science theories, findings, and research methodologies to social welfare knowledge-building concerns.
  5. Formulate professionally relevant and theoretically productive research questions and hypotheses, and investigate them through empirical research, with particular concern and sensitivity to culturally appropriate research methodologies and needs in Hawaiʻi and the Pacific region.
  6. Integrate and synthesize research findings into the body of professional knowledge.
  7. Disseminate knowledge through publications and/or teaching.

To accomplish the above, the doctoral curriculum provides opportunities for the student to acquire advanced and comprehensive knowledge in the following areas:

  1. The application of social science theory and research to social policy analysis, program evaluation, and social work practice.
  2. The conceptualization, design, and conduct of empirical research.
  3. At least one critical social problem area.
  4. Perspectives on culturally appropriate social welfare programs, social work practice and intervention approaches.
  5. Pedagogy of teaching and research through practicum experiences.

PhD Curriculum

The doctoral program is designed to provide sufficient structure to allow students to progress smoothly through the program and, at the same time, provide the flexibility and rigor that are the hallmarks of doctoral education. The organization of the curriculum is divided into core required courses to ensure that all students are equipped with comparable basic knowledge; specialization work, in which students largely design their own curriculum; electives; a dissertation design requirement; and the dissertation. The PhD in Social Welfare requires 46 hours of course credit excluding dissertation credits.

For more information, please review the information on this site, or contact Jennifer Kishida, PhD Program Assistant, at

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