Applied Arts and Social Justice Certificate

Jessica eschA degree in art is not necessary to participate in this program — just a natural artistic interest and a desire to help others. Unique among social work programs, our Applied Arts and Social Justice (AASJ) Certificate lets students design a course of study that puts the creative process front and center. Students work with real people in real need, where the love of creativity combines with our rigorous social work curriculum to promote real change.

Projects may include painting and healing, theater or writing with incarcerated youth, the healing power of music for PTSD veterans, life- story work with elders, puppets in group therapy and many more. 

Social Work faculty teach the coursework as students gain skills, learn ethical guidelines and develop the tools of social work.

At the same time, arts mentors and social work faculty support student research projects that are geared around AASJ. Students participate in art exhibits, performances and lectures by artists and healers. Selected electives support and enhance student skills.

The AASJ Certificate is offered at no extra cost, with no additional coursework required.

social work students with bags

Certificate Objectives

Students learn strategies for how Social Workers can use arts to effect change in:

  • Mental health, personal development and empowerment
  • Cultural competencies, communication and critical thinking/problem solving
  • Individual motivation and readiness for change
  • Healing, health promotion and community building

Student Learning Outcomes

  • Engage applied arts within social work to advance human rights and social inclusion.
  • Apply arts modalities to address discrimination and oppression, honor diversity, and empower self-determination and identity.
  • Utilize one or more expressive arts modalities within research-informed practice and practice-informed research on the micro/mezzo/macro levels.
  • Demonstrate how creativity improves readiness, flexibility, and ability to serve in social work practice, whether with individuals, communities, or causes.
  • Promote and advocate the use of arts and expressive therapies and the benefits for health, healing and social justice.


The certificate comprises 12 of the required 64 MSW credits: Research II and three guided electives. It also engages the use of the arts in clinical field placements.

Existing approved electives include:

  • Community Organizing and Social Inclusion
  • Social Work With Children, Adolescents and Parents
  • Narrative Therapy
  • Grief, Loss, Death, and Dying in Social Work Practice
  • Social Work in the Political Arena
  • Intimate Partner Violence
  • Grant writing
  • Conflict mediation
  • Advanced Trauma
  • Narrative Therapy
  • Social Work Practice and the Creative Arts
  • Applied Arts and Social Justice
  • Writing as a Tool for Change in Social Work Practice
  • Directed Study in the area of your interest (e.g. Storytelling for Social Inclusion, Addressing Racial Microagressions, etc.)
  • Other electives are always being developed and updated