Overview of the Doctoral Program

Program Formats

In response to the different needs and interests of our students, the Mandel School offers two formats for professionals electing to pursue a PhD degree in social welfare: the full-time and the part-time format. Requirements in both formats include 43 credits of required and elective coursework, passing a qualifying exam, 18 hours of dissertation credits and completion of a dissertation.

The full-time program permits students to complete required coursework over two academic years, with students taking eight courses per year (four courses in the Fall semesters and four courses in the Spring semesters). Full-time students receive a guaranteed four year individualized fellowship training in social work research and teaching, Students are matched with a faculty member in their area of expertise and interest.

The part-time format accommodates social work professionals who must maintain their employment commitments but wish to pursue PhD study. Students complete their coursework over a three year period, taking six courses per year (three courses in the Fall semesters and three courses in the Spring semesters).


Our PhD curriculum emphasizes the creative and evaluative knowledge and skills necessary for an independent inquiry, critical thinking, research and theory. Both the full-time and part-time formats are structured to maximize interaction among students, as well as between students and faculty. Course content includes philosophy of science and theory building, theories of human behavior, advanced research design, statistics, measurement and data analysis, qualitative research models and methods, an integrated research seminar, social welfare policy, theory and evidence base of social work practice, and social work education. (See Course Descriptions for more details.)

Our curriculum and professional development opportunities are focused on assisting students to achieve competencies in research, theory, teaching, and leadership. Student performance on the four competencies is assessed annually as part of our faculty’s review of students’ activities and accomplishments.

“I chose MSASS for numerous reasons — its faculty, its national ranking, the part-time, PhD format, and the generous tuition assistance offered.  However, the school’s commitment to research, diversity, and student success is what really solidified my decision to enroll.”

-Cheryl Appline, Cohort 2017


“For me, the doctoral program at the Mandel School was an excellent choice. My coursework was top-notch, and included all aspects of doctoral preparation, from research to teaching. I had the opportunity to work with outstanding faculty members, leaders in their areas, to develop strong research skills that prepared me to be an independent researcher and scholar. I have also benefited greatly from a teaching mentorship, which led to opportunities to teach traditional, in-person and online courses as a doctoral student!”

-Amy Roberts, PhD 2013, Assistant Professor, Department of Family Studies and Social Work, Miami University


“As an African-American female, I am first generation in my family to obtain a doctoral degree. The Mandel School has allowed me to grow and develop in multiple areas. I have been able to expand and increase my ability in research and as a result be published. There have been opportunities to speak and present on a nationwide stage. My education has increased my ability to effect change in the classroom as an instructor. The higher level critical thinking and research skills have also been integrated into my academic and practice work”

-Becky Thomas, Current Doctoral Candidate

Research Opportunities

The Mandel School faculty is nationally recognized for its leadership in research and scholarship and its extensive portfolio of funded research. Their high-ranking levels of productivity and groundbreaking research impacts upon diverse fields of social work, transforming individuals and communities all over the world. Our three interdisciplinary research centers tackle society’s most difficult and complex issues – from urban poverty to youth violence – and investigate and foster the implementation of innovative and evidence-based practices.

The Doctoral Program provides opportunities for doctoral students to work closely with faculty members on their funded research projects through research fellowships, independent study, and research assistantships.

“As a first year doctoral student, I designed and implemented my first independent research project. Fellow students from my cohort joined in by conducting qualitative interviews with adoptive parents attending a course that I was co-teaching with a Cleveland Clinic Foundation team. It was a great experience. I continued doing independent research, publishing, and teaching throughout my time in the program. “

-Maureen Riley-Behringer, PhD 2015, Assistant Professor, School of Medicine, Case Western Reserve University


“Our doctoral program is transforming me from a student to a researcher. With demanding but highly organized coursework, a prospective student will experience the same transformation.”

-Seungjong Cho, Current Doctoral Candidate

Teaching Opportunities

Our doctoral program provides formal coursework on social work education and funded teaching mentorships which allow doctoral students the opportunity to develop knowledge of the history and current context of social work education and skills in education program design, curriculum development, and the delineation and assessment of educational objectives. Students have an opportunity to participate in seminars on teaching offered by the University Center for Innovations in Teaching Excellence. Students can serve as adjunct faculty who teach courses in our Master’s degree program in our full-time, intensive weekend and online teaching formats. Doctoral students typically leave the program with a teaching portfolio that can be used as a strong foundation for employment applications and interviews.

“I started the doctoral program due to my interest in higher education, but already committed to a clinical career in the mental health field.  As a part-time student with a family and a full-time job I found faculty to be sensitive to my situation.  The program has given me rigor in my critical and scientific thinking, as well as equipped me with valuable abilities and mentorship opportunities to develop my teaching skills. ”

Gabriela Sehinkman, Current Doctoral Candidate


“I have had many great experiences at Mandel, and there are many things that I am grateful for. The one the thing that I will always remember is how much teaching is both encouraged and supported in the doctoral program. As doctoral students, we are often afforded the opportunity to teach as adjunct lecturers in the school’s master’s program. This is an opportunity that I have taken full advantage of. Considering the paucity of African-American professors, I have always felt that teaching needed to be a part of my career goal. I knew that it would be important for students to have a teacher they could relate to. Teaching has allowed me to have personal conversations with my students about the process of applying to, entering, and succeeding in the PhD program. Teaching has allowed me to debunk many myths of what it means to seek a PhD, and to show minority students in the master’s program that a PhD is an attainable goal. I am grateful that the doctoral program has continuously provided me with this opportunity to lead by example and provide guidance to minority students in the master’s program.“

-Jamie Cage, PhD 2017, Tenure-track Faculty at the Virginia CommonWealth University

Professional Development

Our program enjoys a diverse and talented faculty committed to doctoral education who have close working relationships with doctoral students. Students work individually with a faculty mentor throughout their doctoral training and will have: hands-on experience in various phases of the research process; opportunities to learn and practice teaching skills; opportunities to develop and give presentations for national professional conferences; and active involvement in writing and publication.

In addition to coursework, there are a variety of supports for career development and preparation for leadership in the profession. These include regular workshops on class and conference presentations and professional writing and publications; colloquia and workshops on research methodology; practice and preparation for job interviews; and colloquia presentations of completed dissertation research. We consider this individual investment in our doctoral students an investment in the future of the social work profession.

“I thoroughly enjoyed my time at CWRU. The social welfare PhD program provided me a stimulating intellectual environment. The mentorship I received from my advisors and the doctoral program chair was absolutely invaluable. I especially appreciated the supportive and collaborative atmosphere among PhD students and between PhD students and faculty. The opportunity to work with faculty and cohort in developing research agenda and co-authoring articles is valuable in professional development. Coursework and research training offered by MSASS provided me the skills I needed to continue my research in health and aging.”

-Minso Paek (Ph.D.2013), Postdoctoral Fellows, Division of Public Health Services, Wake Forest University, School of Medicine