Human activity is driving global environmental degradation and threatening human health, well-being and survival. A Master of Social Work (MSW) degree with a concentration in Ecological Justice will prepare you to cultivate a compassionate human presence on Earth guided by social work values of equity and justice. As the first ecological justice MSW program in the United States, this concentration will challenge you to envision and create a world — inclusive of natural and built environments — that is thriving, healthy and regenerative for all. You will gain the knowledge and skills to address environmental crises and to protect and restore well-being for people, other species and the planet.
Climate change, biodiversity loss, pollution, natural resource depletion, and other urgent environmental problems are rooted in structural inequalities, oppression and lack of understanding of social–ecological systems and interdependencies. The concentration will help you develop a deep understanding of these systemic issues and how to address them. Core topics include social–ecological systems, critical anti-oppressive practice, systems thinking, traditional ecological knowledge, regenerative futures, social and environmental impact assessment, global and domestic policies for ecological justice, program development and administration, and strategies for building the resilience of individuals, groups, or communitiese. You’ll graduate ready for a career as a social worker who applies social justice and ecological justice knowledge, values and skills to improve the health and well-being of all life.
Starting summer 2021, the Ecological Justice concentration replaced the concentration in Sustainable Development & Global Practice. We offer a Global Social Work Certificate as well.
Your Career Options
With an MSW concentration in Ecological Justice, your social work career could include:
- Developing and advocating for policies that promote the health of people and the planet
- Working on projects to support circular and regenerative economies locally, nationally or internationally
- Working with non-governmental organizations and local, regional and national governments on issues such as environmental racism, air pollution, food security, biodiversity preservation, and energy justice
- Applying social–ecological systems science and understandings in all work settings to improve relationships humans have with other species and the natural environment
About this Course
This course builds a social ecology perspective that emphasizes integrated social-ecological systems as a necessary theoretical framework for understanding the inter-connectedness of human health, wellbeing and resilience with that of other species and the natural environment.
Social and Environmental Impact Assessments
About this Course
Social and environmental impact assessments are important tools for analyzing and managing both the intended and unintended consequences of development projects on human and ecological systems in order to bring about a more equitable and sustainable social ecological system. This class incorporates an understanding of the history and concepts of the three levels of impact assessments (micro, mezzo, and macro) into the research process that is the core of social impact assessments. Students prepare and evaluate social ecological impact assessments through learning to identify and define problems, select theoretical frameworks appropriate to the problem, identify research questions, design a study appropriate for the identified questions, gather and analyze data, and write the final assessment. Particular attention is paid to assessing the effects of interventions on vulnerable populations. Other topics will focus on the practical aspects of project team selection and management, timelines, and the communication of findings to stakeholders.
Creating a Regenerative Future
About this Course
This special topics course explores how we can create a regenerative future that is life-renewing for people and planet—a future in which all people, species, and ecosystems thrive. The concept of a “regenerative future” will be examined for how it goes beyond the limitations of a sustainability paradigm and analyzed from the lenses of ecological justice and power, privilege, and oppression. The special case of the climate crisis and ways to address it regeneratively will be explored in-depth, as one example of creating a regenerative future. You will also dive into a regenerative futures topic of interest through a quarter-long project and develop practical skills in case study analysis, communications, planning and group facilitation.
Explore some of our field education locations with a focus on ecological justice
EarthLinks cultivates transformation and self-worth with people experiencing homelessness and poverty by creating opportunities through Earth-centered programs. Individuals step out of isolation and into a community, restoring each other and the planet. Interns learn how to set professional boundaries and communicate with diverse populations while experiencing conservation social work and One Health — uniting the health of the planet with the health of humans.
Re:Vision is a community-based nonprofit working in Southwest Denver neighborhoods to cultivate thriving, resilient communities by establishing community food systems, building collective efficacy and igniting community wealth building. Interns help families improve their access to fresh food by growing fresh fruits and vegetables in their backyard.
350 Colorado is building a movement of everyday people to transition away from fossil fuels and toward 100% renewable energy. Interns support and mobilize grassroots community organizing efforts to address the climate crisis and create a better Colorado.
Urban Land Conservancy
The Urban Land Conservancy preserves and stewards affordable land and housing. Interns support outreach, data and research efforts alongside the strategy and communications team, contributing to the vision of vibrant, diverse neighborhoods in Denver with thriving quality of life.
Upcoming Final Application Deadline: January 2023 Two-Year Denver Campus Program