Announcement of Ed.D. Dissertation Defense CHRISTINE MORALES: “Social Work Students’ Perceptions of Environmental Justice”

3:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Many socioenvironmental conditions, such as pollution, are impacting the well-being of the planet, its ecosystem, and people. These global-scale issues call for multidisciplinary approaches and interventions. Since many social workers are committed to achieving social justice, they are well-positioned to promote environmental justice. However, social work education does not always include the topic of environmental justice, impacting future practitioners’ awareness and preparedness. To determine what educational improvements are necessary for a school of social work’s graduate program, this qualitative research study asks: what are social work students’ perceptions of environmental justice; how do social work students perceive their role in addressing environmental injustices; and how do perceptions differ between those who have taken a social work and environmental justice course elective and those who have not? Data collection occurred through five focus groups: four comprised of students who have not taken a social work and environmental justice course (n = 11) and one focus group of students who have (n = 3). Interbeing, a concept from engaged Buddhism, is the study’s guiding framework and grounds the deductive data coding process (Hanh, 2012). The findings reveal students’ beliefs on environmental justice, related educational experiences, and their suggestions for explicit and implicit curriculum changes. The research implications highlight the profession’s need to reimagine social work education and practice.

Keywords: social work, education, social work students, environmental justice, socioenvironmental crises, interconnection

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