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Political Social Work


Credits: 3
Prerequisites: Foundation Essentials required

Pathway Associations

Community ChangeElective
Interpersonal Practice
Mgmt & Leadership
Policy & PoliticalRequirement (Host)
Program Evaluation
Older Adults
Children & Families

Course Description

This course will introduce students to political social work, which is social work practice, theory, and research that focuses on the use of policy and politics to create social change. Students will gain an understanding of how politics impacts their lives as well as the lives of those served by social workers on both a micro and macro level. This course will prepare students for work in political settings, such as on advocacy and electoral campaigns, as staff for elected officials, and running for office themselves. Students will develop practice skills for policy advocacy and engaging with policymakers, influencing policy agendas, and empowering clients to become politically engaged. Students will critically examine the role of social workers in politics throughout history and the ethics that govern practice in political settings. Finally, students will develop a political engagement plan to facilitate their continued involvement.


1. Describe the history of political social work and the field’s engagement in social and political action;
2. Describe political social work theories and current research;
3. Identify the domains of political social work and strategies to make change in a variety of practice settings;
4. Apply social work research-practice, engagement, assessment, intervention, and evaluation skills to political settings;
5. Describe the ethical responsibility of social workers to engage in political social work and explore methods to manage ethical dilemmas;
6. Develop skills to engage in electoral, advocacy, and voter engagement campaigns;
7. Apply skills for political engagement to advance social, economic, and environmental justice;
8. Explore careers in political social work and develop a personal plan for engagement


This course will use multiple methods including but not limited to: lectures, demonstrations, case studies, readings, guest speakers, discussions, written assignments, individual and group exercises. The course will be offered primarily in person with the possibility of a flipped-class or hybrid structure.

Intensive Focus on Privilege, Oppression, Diversity and Social Justice (PODS)

This course integrates PODS content and skills with a special emphasis on the identification of theories, practice and/or policies that promote social justice, illuminate injustices and are consistent with scientific and professional knowledge. Through the use of a variety of instructional methods, this course will support students developing a vision of social justice, learn to recognize and reduce mechanisms that support oppression and injustice, work toward social justice processes, apply intersectionality and intercultural frameworks and strengthen critical consciousness, self-knowledge and self-awareness to facilitate PODS learning.

Issues related to privilege, oppression, diversity, and social justice will be explored through a political lens. This course will focus on providing students with the tools to advance social justice through engagement in policy and politics. Students will gain skills to engage marginalized groups and those typically excluded from the political process in making change in their communities.

Interprofessional/Interdisciplinary Education Description

This course intentionally integrates interdisciplinary or interprofessional practice content, including:
Focused, intentional integration of interdisciplinary or interprofessional practice perspectives through assigned content, readings, speakers, and/or assignments.
Public Policy (SW 639);
Philosophy, education, and economics (SW 638); and
Political science and law (SW 640).

All three courses integrate IPE content and skills with a special emphasis on the ways various theories, frameworks, practices and/or policies originating from other disciplines do or do not promote social justice, illuminate injustices, or seek to alleviate these injustices

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