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School of Social Work

Doctor of Social Work (DSW)

Earn Your Doctor of Social Work Degree

The St. Thomas DSW is the first online DSW program to focus on preparing social work faculty and practitioners specifically for university-level teaching and leadership. Experienced social work educators and practitioners with an MSW degree will gain the skills and credentials to teach and lead in the social work profession and become stewards of the discipline. The online delivery format makes this program accessible to working professionals throughout the country and graduates will be prepared to: 

  • Engage in transformative teaching 
  • Develop an identity as a scholar practitioner 
  • Pursue social justice through service and leadership
  • Write for publication 
The expansion of bachelor’s and master’s programs in social work has created a strong demand for faculty who hold doctorates. Strong practitioners, adjunct faculty and clinical faculty need teaching skills, writing and publication skills, a full understanding and integration of the roles of the professoriate, and credentials to confidently teach and lead in university settings.
Where You'll Learn:

Online, with two-week on-campus residency each year.

When to Start:

Cohort starts in July.

Degree Details

  • Coursework Overview
  • Year One
  • Year Two
  • Year Three
  • Coursework Overview

    Students complete the required 45 credit hours of DSW coursework in three years.

    • Online course instruction is supplemented with 2-week on-campus summer residencies at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN.
    • Students take one course at a time.
    • Fall and Spring semesters are comprised of successive, 8-week sessions.
    • All courses are 3 credit hours
    • Banded dissertation
    • Cohort model for experienced social work practitioners and teachers
    Browse DSW Courses

    Year One

    SUMMER

    3-day Orientation in Minnesota
    2 Week On-Campus Residency, University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, MN

    DRSW 700: History of Social Work and Social Work Education

    SEMESTER I, FALL

    8-Week Online Courses

    DRSW 710: Social Work Education
    DRSW 720: Social Work Theoretical Perspectives

    SEMESTER II, SPRING

    8-week Online Courses

    DRSW 728: Research and Scholarship I
    DRSW 729: Research and Scholarship II

    Browse DSW Courses

    Year Two

    SUMMER

    2 Week On-Campus Residency, University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, MN

    DRSW 727: Banded Dissertation and Scholarship

    SEMESTER III, FALL

    8-Week Online Courses

    DRSW 717: Pedagogies in Social Work Education: Theory and Practice
    DRSW 721: Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) in Social Work Education

    SEMESTER IV, SPRING

    8-Week Online Courses

    DRSW 723: Engaged Scholarship
    DRSW 718: Mission and Purpose through Curriculum

    Browse DSW Courses

    Year Three

    SUMMER

    2 Week On-Campus Residency, University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, MN

    DRSW 725: Career Development Practicum

    SEMESTER V, FALL

    8-Week Online Courses

    DRSW 726: Writing for Publication
    Elective Course, choose from:
    DRSW 731: Grant Writing
    DRSW 734: Leadership, Mentorship and Faculty Development
    DRSW 735: Independent Study

    SEMESTER VI, SPRING

    8-Week Online Courses

    DRSW 800: Banded Dissertation
    DRSW 801: Banded Dissertation II: Defense

    Browse DSW Courses

    Coursework Overview

    Students complete the required 45 credit hours of DSW coursework in three years.

    • Online course instruction is supplemented with 2-week on-campus summer residencies at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN.
    • Students take one course at a time.
    • Fall and Spring semesters are comprised of successive, 8-week sessions.
    • All courses are 3 credit hours
    • Banded dissertation
    • Cohort model for experienced social work practitioners and teachers
    Browse DSW Courses

    Year One

    SUMMER

    3-day Orientation in Minnesota
    2 Week On-Campus Residency, University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, MN

    DRSW 700: History of Social Work and Social Work Education

    SEMESTER I, FALL

    8-Week Online Courses

    DRSW 710: Social Work Education
    DRSW 720: Social Work Theoretical Perspectives

    SEMESTER II, SPRING

    8-week Online Courses

    DRSW 728: Research and Scholarship I
    DRSW 729: Research and Scholarship II

    Browse DSW Courses

    Year Two

    SUMMER

    2 Week On-Campus Residency, University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, MN

    DRSW 727: Banded Dissertation and Scholarship

    SEMESTER III, FALL

    8-Week Online Courses

    DRSW 717: Pedagogies in Social Work Education: Theory and Practice
    DRSW 721: Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) in Social Work Education

    SEMESTER IV, SPRING

    8-Week Online Courses

    DRSW 723: Engaged Scholarship
    DRSW 718: Mission and Purpose through Curriculum

    Browse DSW Courses

    Year Three

    SUMMER

    2 Week On-Campus Residency, University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, MN

    DRSW 725: Career Development Practicum

    SEMESTER V, FALL

    8-Week Online Courses

    DRSW 726: Writing for Publication
    Elective Course, choose from:
    DRSW 731: Grant Writing
    DRSW 734: Leadership, Mentorship and Faculty Development
    DRSW 735: Independent Study

    SEMESTER VI, SPRING

    8-Week Online Courses

    DRSW 800: Banded Dissertation
    DRSW 801: Banded Dissertation II: Defense

    Browse DSW Courses

    Earning a Doctor of Social Work

    The expansion of bachelor's and master's programs in social work nationally has created a strong demand for faculty who hold doctorates. Our school's leadership has long recognized that the nation's doctoral programs are not graduating enough individuals to replace retiring faculty or to staff the expansion of social work programs across the country. We developed this program in response to inquiries from our graduates and others in the social work field who were interested in pursuing a doctorate and careers in higher education, specifically in teaching-intensive universities.

    This is the nation's first online program specifically designed for those with a master of social work degree who are either currently teaching at the bachelor's or master's level - or plan to do so - and who are seeking a doctorate in order to further develop the skills needed to excel as teachers and to advance in their university careers. Most universities have moved beyond the requirement of the MSW as the terminal degree for most tenure-track positions. To help fill this gap, our doctoral program focuses on teaching, scholarship, service and leadership, rather than a traditional focus on research or advanced clinical practice.

    student presents to a class

    01 Applied learning

    Banded Dissertation

    Students in the Doctorate in Social Work program must complete a banded dissertation - a series of three written works of scholarship that are linked by issue, theme, pedagogy, or population. This work is done during the second and third years of the program.

    LEARN MORE ABOUT BANDED DISSERTATION

    Summer Residency

    The DSW program kicks-off with an orientation for incoming students. This is the perfect opportunity to get to know your cohort of DSW colleagues and to be introduced to the philosophy, structure, and technology of the program.
    Students should plan to bring their own laptop computers to orientation to participate in the technology training and to test for system compatibility. For program technology requirements, please view the St. Thomas Online Learning Checklist.

    The on-campus residency will be at the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, MN campus, with on-campus residence hall housing. Residence Life determines fees on an annual basis. All students are required to participate in the residency experience. Please be aware that due to the program’s unique academic timeline, summer housing charges will appear on the tuition bill for the fall semester, following completion of residency. This ensures that you will be billed only for the number of days you are on campus. If you plan to use your financial aid assistance for residency housing, we recommend that you speak to your financial aid counselor.

    Following orientation, students stay at the University of St. Thomas' St. Paul campus and complete the first course, DRSW 700: History of Social Work and Social Work Education. Students will have the opportunity to meet School of Social Work faculty and staff and to become familiar with the university resources that they will be using throughout the program.

    Faculty

    Our faculty are recognized scholars, researchers and engaged practitioners, committed to mentoring relationships and community engagement.

    Headshot of Catherine Marrs Fuchsel

    Dr. Catherine Marrs Fuchsel

    Dr. Marrs Fuchsel is the DSW Program Director and an Associate Professor. An experienced social work practitioner and scholar, her research focuses on supporting Latina women who experience complex trauma, and on the development and implementation of prevention programs with immigrant communities.

    MEET DR. MARRS FUCHSEL
    Headshot of Kingsley Chigbu

    Dr. Kingsley Chigbu

    Dr. Chigbu is an Assistant Professor who teaches in the MSW and DSW programs. His research focuses on the individual, familial, group, social, and environmental factors that enhance the prevention and mitigation of organized violence, mental illness, substance abuse, and human/sexual trafficking and abuse. His backgrounds in law and diplomacy and social work inform his interest and belief in interdisciplinary approaches to human problem-solving.

    MEET DR. CHIGBU
    Headshot of Robin Whitebird

    Dr. Robin Whitebird

    Dr. Robin Whitebird is a professor and researcher with expertise in mixed methods, qualitative research, and clinical trials. Much of her research is in health care, where she consults on studies focusing on patient reported outcomes and strategies for organizational change.

    MEET DR. WHITEBIRD

    DSW VS. Ph.D.

    The DSW is an advanced practice degree, and in the case of the St. Thomas DSW, the form of practice is education. Our degree is designed to prepare experienced social work educators and practitioners to teach and lead in higher education. The St. Thomas DSW has a strong emphasis on teaching pedagogy, curriculum development and the type of scholarship that faculty in teaching-intensive universities will be expected to produce throughout their careers.

    The Ph.D. is a research degree and Ph.D. students are trained in rigorous research methods and pedagogy. Research-intensive universities (generally considered "Doctoral Universities" with moderate to high research activity as detailed by the Carnegie Basic Classification Description) will likely require tenure-track faculty to have a Ph.D., as this is the standard research degree, and the expectation of their faculty is that they will be doing large-scale research.

    If there are specific schools you are targeting for employment, it is best to explore their specific hiring requirements before choosing which type of doctoral program is the best fit for you. Some universities will hire a combination of Ph.D.s and DSWs (or other practice doctoral degrees) depending on their areas of expertise and needs at the program level, while other universities will require a research focused (Ph.D.) degree only.

    Accreditation

    The St. Thomas Doctorate in Social Work program has been approved by our regional accrediting organization, the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. At this time, doctoral programs - both DSW and PhD programs - are not accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). However, in June of 2020 CSWE approved accreditation standards for practice doctorates. For further information about the piloting of the accreditation process, please review the CSWE website.