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Wayne State to offer Dual-Title Ph.D. in Social Work and Anthropology

November 18, 2014

Wayne State to offer Dual-Title Ph.D. in Social Work and Anthropology

Beginning in Fall 2015, Wayne State University will offer a Ph.D. in Social Work and Anthropology (SWAN) – one of only two joint-title doctoral degrees combining these disciplines in the United States.

Available only as a full-time course of study, SWAN will draw on the strengths of both fields in theory, social history, research, policy and practice, combining the approaches of each discipline and Wayne State’s urban location to foster scholarship examining the reinvention of post-industrial cities and other global issues of the 21st Century. The SWAN curriculum combines existing doctoral courses from each university division with the addition of one new capstone course that fully integrates the two disciplines and provides strategies for securing funding and publishing findings from interdisciplinary research. New students without a Master of Social Work will be required to earn one while in the program.

The degree will prove particularly attractive to academics seeking faculty positions in social work or anthropology and to professionals seeking positions in governmental or nonprofit agencies that work on urban or international topics. According to Andrea Sankar, professor in the Department of Anthropology and director of the university’s Medical Anthropology Program, social work and anthropology are complementary disciplines that focus on the relationship of individuals to larger groups.

“If you want to understand an issue like substance abuse, for example, you don’t just look at aspects of someone’s psychology, you look at the larger social context of families, neighborhoods and other societal structures that influenced how that person got involved in drugs,” Sankar said. “Students have been asking for this joint-title degree because they want to take the skills, theories and concepts rooted in both disciplines and use them to find solutions to problems that are culturally sensitive and at the same time practical.”

Professor Arlene Weisz, who led the School of Social Work’s collaboration on the new degree, said SWAN “reflects a strong trend toward transdisciplinarity within higher education.”

“We’re moving away from different silos of research and practice within discrete fields and looking at the commonalities between disciplines,” Weisz said. “This really is the wave of the future; more and more graduate training is going to cross disciplinary lines.”

To illustrate, Weisz notes that SWAN is the third joint-title degree developed by the School of Social Work, which also offers a Ph.D. in social work and gerontology and a master’s or Ph.D. in social work and infant mental health. The Department of Anthropology offers a joint Ph.D.-M.D. combining anthropological and medical training.

While nearby University of Michigan also offers a joint Ph.D. in anthropology and social work, Weisz believes that SWAN, housed in Michigan’s only public urban research university, will provide a real-world perspective that students are seeking.

“A lot of people are interested in studying in Detroit because it’s considered an incubator for how a city can rebuild itself,” Weisz said. “A big advantage of our program is that it is fully situated in Detroit, so our students will encounter many concepts that would be merely theoretical in other university settings.”

Visit Wayne State University’s website for more information on the School of Social Work (socialwork.wayne.edu) and the Department of Anthropology (http://clasweb.clas.wayne.edu/Anthropology). For more information on SWAN, contact Arlene Weisz at aa4495@wayne.edu or Andrea Sankar at aa7651@wayne.edu. 

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