Program director
Larry Ortiz

Closed to admission for the 2023-2024 academic year.

The mission of the Social Welfare and Research Program is to extend the distinctive principles of whole-person care beyond the individual to include interventions within communities and social institutions. The program's emphasis on an integrative approach to an advanced curriculum in social science, social welfare, Christian ethics, and social research provides students with the theoretical and methodological knowledge and professional skills needed to conduct innovative and interdisciplinary research. Graduates of the program are prepared for advanced administrative and research roles in national and international health and human services, policy development and analysis, and as university faculty members.

Program learning outcomes

In addition to institutional learning outcomes (ILOs), graduates of the program should be able to:

  1. Integrate advanced concepts from social science theories, social ethics, and social justice values in oral and written scholarship. (ILO: 1,2, 5)
  2. Utilize critical thinking to distinguish among the moral, ethical, and political differences that affect research, policies, programs, interventions, and their consequences. (ILO 5)
  3. Meet conceptual and analytical requirements of research questions through the integration of behavioral, political, economic, and social and human diversity. (ILO 4, 5)
  4. Independently define research problems and formulate appropriate questions and hypotheses. (ILO 3, 4)
  5. Explain the rationale for particular qualitative and quantitative research methods. (ILO 3)
  6. Select appropriate strategies for independent research and/or evaluation. (ILO 3)
  7. Demonstrate competence in utilizing different methods of collecting, recording, analyzing, and interpreting data. (ILO 1,2,3)
  8. Formulate research questions reflecting the global perspective of Loma Linda University that link the local with global. (ILO 4,5)
  9. Demonstrate the role of social justice in transdisciplinary research and practice for transprofessional interventions addressing significant social problems.(ILO 5)
  10. Prepare to join a faculty as a researcher, teacher, and mentor. (ILO 1,2)

Social welfare and research specialization

Students admitted to the program should have demonstrated evidence of interest in social values aligned with a commitment to social justice, and research interests compatible with the areas of expertise supported by the program's faculty. Information regarding faculty areas of expertise is available by contacting the program director. Years one and two are largely composed of coursework and shaping of one's dissertation question. 

While completing all required coursework, each student will choose a dissertation committee chair and committee with whom he or she will work closely to develop and defend a dissertation proposal following University guidelines. Upon successful defense of the proposal, students are admitted to candidacy and actively engage in dissertation research, culminating in the successful defense of their dissertations. Consistent with Faculty of Graduate Study policy, the department requires a two-publication dissertation. More information is available from the program director. 

Closed to admission for the 2023-2024 academic year.

The Ph.D. in social welfare and social research is designed to be a full-time program. Part-time attendance is discouraged as class scheduling does not support regular part-time enrollment.

In addition Loma Linda University admission requirements, admission to the program is governed by the policies and procedures established by the School of Behavioral Health. Admission requirements include:

  1. Master's degree from an accredited institution of higher education. Examples would include disciplines such as social work (M.S.W.), nursing (M.S.), business (M.B.A.), public health (M.P.H.), education (M.Ed.), and theology (M.Div.).
  2. Evidence of adequate academic preparation in graduate education. This includes a minimum cumulative G.P.A. of 3.5 (on a 4.0 scale) for graduate/postgraduate work.
  3. Strong intellectual abilities, including background in social sciences and statistics.
  4. Evidence of research and social welfare interests reflecting the values of social justice. Professional experience and achievement that demonstrate the competence, motivation, organization, and leadership to complete doctoral education in a timely manner. It is preferred that applicants have at least two years post-master degree experience in their professional area.
  5. Personal interview.
  6. Sample of writing in the form of a published article, academic or professional paper prepared for a research purpose, or an essay prepared for admission to the program.
  7. Satisfactory performance on the Graduate Record Examination. Due to issues associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, the GRE General Test is waived for all 2022-2023 applicants to doctoral programs in the School of Behavioral Health. Please do not submit GRE scores through ETS or report your scores in any application materials as they will not be taken into consideration.
  8. Curriculum vitae or other description of education and employment history.
  9. Three letters of recommendation including one from an academic source and one from a work supervisor.

The application process for the Ph.D. degree in social welfare and social research utilizes a pooled application process by which the top candidates meeting the admissions criteria are selected. The number of new candidates admitted each year ranges from three to four students, depending on the total number of students previously completing the program and the program’s ability to support potential candidates in their areas of interest.

Closed to admission for the 2023-2024 academic year. 

All course grades should meet the minimum B (3.0) standard, which by university policy indicates satisfactory performance. In some cases, conditional consideration of course grades below a B (3.0) may be given if the requirements for independent research and competency in consumer protection are not compromised.  Academic variances that document the rationale for acceptance of grades below a B (3.0), must be submitted to the dean’s office for approval.

SPOL 610Diversity Theory and Global Perspectives3
SPOL 613Social Science Concepts I3
SPOL 614Social Science Concepts II3
SPOL 616History and Philosophy of Social Welfare Policy3
SPOL 658Advanced Policy Analysis and Research3
SPOL 654Research Methods I4
SPOL 655Research Methods II4
SPOL 667Research Methods Practicum Seminar2
CFSD 601Statistics I4
or PSYC 501 Advanced Statistics I
CFSD 602Statistics II 14
or PSYC 502 Advanced Statistics II
CFSD 603Statistics III 14
or PSYC 503 Advanced Multivariate Statistics
SPOL 665Statistical Practicum Seminar2
Advanced statistics electives4
Integrative seminars
SPOL 601Integrative Seminar: Pro-seminar 13
SPOL 602Integrative Seminar: Global Perspective 16
SPOL 603Integrative Seminar: Implementation Science 13
SPOL 604AIntegrative Seminar: Academic Practice1
SPOL 604BIntegrative Seminar: Academic Practice1
SPOL 604CIntegrative Seminar: Academic Practice1
SPOL 681Dissertation Proposal I3
SPOL 682Dissertation Proposal II3
SPOL 683Dissertation Proposal III3
SPOL 697Research 112
RELE 588Philosophical Ethics3
RELR 540Wholeness and Health 23
RELT 557Theology of Human Suffering3
Total Units92

Course repeated to fulfill unit requirement


Fulfills service learning requirement

Noncourse requirements

Concept Paper

Prior to the beginning of SPOL 681 Dissertation Proposal I, students submit to the doctoral faculty a short concept paper, three to five pages in length, briefly describing their plan for dissertation research.


Students must successfully complete:

  1. required coursework
  2. the applied research requirements
  3. the defense of the dissertation proposal before advancing to candidacy

End of year two deliverables

Publishable paper (from SPOL 665 Statistical Practicum Seminar)
Draft proposal (from SPOL 667 Research Methods Practicum Seminar)

End of year three deliverable

Defend dissertation proposal


The PhD degree candidacy is spent in full-time dissertation research, culminating in the successful defense of the completed dissertation. Dissertation research for Ph.D. degree candidates follows University guidelines. Details regarding these requirements can be obtained from the program director.

Normal time to complete the program

Four (4) years — based on full-time enrollment.


SPOL 588. Special Topics in Social Policy and Social Research. 1-5 Units.

Reviews current knowledge and/or research methodologies in specified areas of social policy and social research.

SPOL 599. Independent Study. 1-8 Units.

Limited to Ph.D. degree students who wish to pursue independent investigations in social policy and/or social research under the direction of a department faculty member.

SPOL 600. Colloquium. 1 Unit.

Provides students with an academic seminar to explore and discuss relevant topics in the field of social policy and social research.
Prerequisite: Program prerequisite in interviewing and counseling.

SPOL 601. Integrative Seminar: Pro-seminar. 1 Unit.

Provides an overview to social work academe, research, policy and teaching. Focuses on LLU’s program and creates an environment to nurture student’s research interest.
Prerequisite: Matriculated in PhD in Social Welfare and Social Research.

SPOL 602. Integrative Seminar: Global Perspective. 2 Units.

Focuses on research and practice using a global perspective that locates differences and similarities of behavioral and other health inequities locally and internationally.
Prerequisite: SPOL 601.

SPOL 603. Integrative Seminar: Implementation Science. 1 Unit.

Focuses on promoting, adopting, and integrating evidenced-based research and practices by identifying barriers that prevent successful integration in practice, policies, and programming. Explores transdisciplinary research, transprofessional practice, and effective leadership and advocacy.
Prerequisite: SPOL 601, SPOL 602.

SPOL 604A. Integrative Seminar: Academic Practice. 1 Unit.

The first of three seminars focusing on the art and science of social work education, developing a teaching philosophy, instructional teaching methodologies, grading, educational ethics, and student assessment.
Cross-listing: SWCL 604A.

SPOL 604B. Integrative Seminar: Academic Practice. 1 Unit.

The second of three seminars on careers in social work education. Focuses on course subject and curriculum development and participating in social work accreditation.
Cross-listing: SWCL 604B.

SPOL 604C. Integrative Seminar: Academic Practice. 1 Unit.

Third of three seminars on careers in social work education. Examines preparation for career opportunities in social work education, and role of faculty in institutional, school, and program engagement and governance. Discusses scholarship expectations, student advising, and mentoring. Guidance on applying and interviewing for positions.
Cross-listing: SWCL 604C.

SPOL 610. Diversity Theory and Global Perspectives. 3 Units.

Critical examination of contemporary theories of diversity as seen through the lens of a global perspective, including intersectionality. Opportunity to apply these theories using a cultural humility framework for engaging diverse populations in policy practice and research.

SPOL 613. Social Science Concepts I. 3 Units.

First of two courses reviewing key theories, writers, conceptual frameworks, and seminal ideas from classical social science theory that have laid the foundation for contemporary social welfare theory and social research.

SPOL 614. Social Science Concepts II. 3 Units.

Second of two courses reviewing key theories, writers, conceptual frameworks, and seminal ideas from the Post Modern era that have laid the foundation for contemporary social welfare theory and social research.
Prerequisite: SPOL 613.

SPOL 616. History and Philosophy of Social Welfare Policy. 3 Units.

Explores the history of social welfare from a multicultural perspective and relates these principles to current and evolving social needs.

SPOL 654. Research Methods I. 4 Units.

Advanced quantitative research methods. Emphasizes experimental and quasi-experimental designs, and examines specific methodologies used in conducting research in the area of social policy and social research. Topics include measurement issues, research design, sampling, and statistical interpretation. Addresses survey research, time-series designs, and more advanced techniques.

SPOL 655. Research Methods II. 4 Units.

Advanced course in qualitative and mixed research methods. Emphasizes selected qualitative and mixed research methodologies specific to social policy and clinical and health services research. Topics covered include theoretical bases for conducting qualitative research; research design; data gathering, including interviewing, observation, archival and historical research, and data analysis and writing. Introduces various methods for integrating qualitative and quantitative methodologies.

SPOL 658. Advanced Policy Analysis and Research. 3 Units.

Presents conceptual and analytical requirements of policy analysis and research. Examines integration of behavioral, political, economic, and sociometric frameworks for understanding human conditions that support the development of formal policy arguments and policy research for sustained change.

SPOL 665. Statistical Practicum Seminar. 2 Units.

Students collectively conceptualize and analyze a research question from a data set. Requires a scholarly product outcome.

SPOL 667. Research Methods Practicum Seminar. 2 Units.

Development of methodology section and submission of draft dissertation proposal.
Prerequisite: SPOL 665.

SPOL 681. Dissertation Proposal I. 3 Units.

Development of the dissertation proposal. Research advisor develops with the student mutually agreed-upon objectives. Evaluation based on accomplishment of these objectives.

SPOL 682. Dissertation Proposal II. 3 Units.

Development of the dissertation proposal. Research advisor develops with the student mutually agreed-upon objectives. Evaluation based on accomplishment of these objectives.
Prerequisite: SPOL 681.

SPOL 683. Dissertation Proposal III. 3 Units.

Development of the dissertation proposal. Research advisor develops with the student mutually agreed-upon objectives. Evaluation based on accomplishment of these objectives. In addition, student must successfully defend a dissertation proposal according to program and Faculty of Graduate Studies guidelines.
Prerequisite: SPOL 681, SPOL 682.

SPOL 697. Research. 1-6 Units.

Credit for dissertation research. Total of 18 units required. May be repeated for credit.