Social Policy and Social Research — Ph.D. with Bioethics — M.A.

Program director, Bioethics

Zdravko Plantak

Program director, Social Policy and Social Research, Department of Social Work and Social Ecology

Larry Ortiz


The faculty for the combined degrees—Bioethics with Social Policy and Social Research Program is drawn from the School of Religion and from the Department of Social Work and Social Ecology in the School of Behavioral Health.

Purpose of the program

The purpose of the M.A./Ph.D. combined degrees—Bioethics with Social Policy and Social Research Program is to facilitate an integrated and more efficient completion of two graduate degrees for students with strong interests in both bioethics and social policy. Students who complete this combined degrees program will be prepared to make significant interdisciplinary contributions to the field of social policy and ethics. Individuals working in the area of social policy must be able to undertake and publish research on social problems. This requires the ability to apply ethical theory to real-world policy scenarios. Graduates will be able to provide leadership to the social policy arena by conducting interdisciplinary research on various issues and agendas that have significant moral implications.


To enter the proposed program, students must gain separate acceptance to both graduate programs.  The Social Policy and Social Research Program director recommends students. This recommendation triggers a streamlined admissions process for the M.A. degree in bioethics.

Course work requirements

If an M.A. degree in bioethics is taken as a stand-alone degree, the requirement is 48 units. However, the M.A./Ph.D. combined degrees student is able to double count 20 of the needed 48 units as follows:

  1. Sixteen (16) units from four courses in the social policy curriculum count toward the M.A. degree in bioethics requirements because of their similarity to ethics-type courses. Those courses are SPOL 613 Social Science Concepts I, SPOL 614 Social Science Concepts II, SPOL 615 Economic Theory and Social Policy, and SPOL 655 Research Methods II. These four courses have sufficiently similar content to bioethics that they warrant being applied to both the bioethics M.A. degree curriculum and the Ph.D. degree in social policy curriculum.
  2. Three (3) units come from one bioethics course in the social policy curriculum that is already required: RELE 588 Explorers of the Moral Life

To the extent possible, research projects in both programs focus on the interface of ethics and social policy.

Ethics core
RELE 524Bioethics and Society4
RELE 565The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Moral Aspects of Art and Illness3
RELE 566Heroes of Health Care3
RELE 567World Religions and Bioethics3
RELE 568Bioethics and the Law3
RELE 589Biblical Ethics3
RELE 598Master's Seminar I3
RELE 599Master's Seminar II2
RELE 5__7
Social science theory and policy
SPOL 600Colloquium1
SPOL 610Diversity Theory in Practice and Research3
SPOL 613Social Science Concepts I 14
SPOL 614Social Science Concepts II 14
SPOL 615Economic Theory and Social Policy 14
SPOL 656Organizational Theory and Policy3
SPOL 658Methods of Policy Analysis and Research4
RELE 588Explorers of the Moral Life 13
RELR 525Health Care and the Dynamics of Christian Leadership3
RELT 557Theology of Human Suffering3
Research methods, statistics, and information technology
SPOL 588Special Topics in Social Policy and Social Research (Statistical Analysis Practicum) 24
SPOL 654Research Methods I4
SPOL 655Research Methods II 14
Select one of the following sequences:12
Sequence 1:
Advanced Statistics I
Advanced Statistics II
Advanced Multivariate Statistics
Sequence 2:
Statistics I
Advanced Qualitative Methods
Advanced Quantitative Methods
STAT___ Statistics (advanced course in statistics or methods)4
Applied/structured research and specialized electives22
Applied/Structured research (6-10 units)
Applied/Structured Research I
Applied/Structured Research II
Applied/Structured Research III
Electives (10-16 units)
Dissertation research
SPOL 681Dissertation Proposal I2
SPOL 682Dissertation Proposal II2
SPOL 683Dissertation Proposal III2
SPOL 697Research18
Total Units137

Courses apply to both the M.A. and Ph.D. degree programs.


Under the guidance of faculty, students collectively conceptualize and analyze a research question from a data set. A scholarly product is required outcome.