A School of Social Justice

For more than 100 years, SP2 has been a powerful force for good in the world, working towards social justice and social change through research and practice. Students are encouraged to embrace the interdisciplinary opportunities that SP2 and the University of Pennsylvania have to offer.

Read more about SP2’s mission.

University of Pennsylvania

University of Pennsylvania campus with the Philadelphia skyline

An Ivy League university established in 1740, Penn emerged as a revolutionary institution that sought to expand higher education beyond theological training. Benjamin Franklin, the University’s founder, envisioned Penn as a place to educate the policymakers, entrepreneurs, and public servants whose passions would shape a young city and a new nation. Charged with never divorcing the pursuit of knowledge from its implications for practical good, Franklin’s university would forever change the nature of American education.

Today, Penn bears the indelible mark of its founder, leveraging its world-class resources in the continued pursuit of peerless intellectual inquiry and commitment to social good. Grounded in an ethos of inclusion, innovation, and impact, Penn challenges its students and faculty to integrate their wide-ranging bodies of knowledge and experience for the benefit of our local, national, and global communities.

Its four undergraduate and twelve graduate schools – all united on one beautiful, historic campus – nurture an unparalleled academic life among the scholars and innovators who call Penn home.

Learn more about the University of Pennsylvania.

Degree Programs

SP2 students learn from faculty and one another across five distinctive but complementary programs. Experiences are further strengthened through the resources that students can access throughout the University of Pennsylvania. The practical and analytical training that students receive is superb and empowers graduates to become much more effective professionals, citizens, and social leaders in an amazingly diverse world.

Student & child at window
Master of Social Work (MSW)

Full accredited by the Council on Social Work Education, the MSW prepares social workers to develop and provide services to individuals, families, groups, communities, and organizations at local, national, and global levels.

Learn more about the MSW program.

MSSP students in front of the Supreme Court
Master of Science in Social Policy (MSSP)

The MSSP prepares students for policy leadership positions in government, philanthropy, research institutes, nonprofits, and more. Students learn to use policy to increase equality, promote equity, and forge social change.

Learn more about the MSSP program.

Students in the NPL program
Master of Science in Nonprofit Leadership (NPL)

The NPL program focuses on new approaches and innovative thinking. Our students are collaborative agents of change, addressing long-term challenges in and through nonprofits, social enterprises, international NGOs, and beyond. The program is offered both on-campus and online.

Learn more about the NPL program.

Dr. Irene Wong teaches a class
PhD in Social Welfare

The PhD program develops leaders in academia and research. We foster scholarly energy, collaboration, and creativity and offer a confluence of diverse philosophies and approaches to social work, social welfare research, social policy, social theory, and social justice.

Learn more about the PhD program.

DSW students walking down Locust Walk
Doctorate in Clinical Social Work (DSW)

The DSW prepares clinical experts, inspired teachers, and real-world scholars. Students earn the doctorate in three years through a combination of online coursework and limited campus immersion experiences.

Learn more about the DSW program.

Study & Research

SP2 faculty & students bring a broad range of real-world expertise and interdisciplinary focus to the classroom. Research transforms policy and shapes best-practices on international, federal, and local levels. Research and activism stretch across the social sciences and the humanities in ways that link nuanced methodological inquiries and important research questions to attempts at real-world problem-solving. Scholarship at SP2 is focused around social innovation, impact, & justice.

Explore SP2’s research centers.

Research at SP2 explores topics such as:

Actionable intelligence


Child welfare

Clinical theory & practice

Community mobilization

Criminal justice

Cultural change

Data analytics


Differences in ability

Domestic violence

Ethnographic methods

Evidence-based practice

Faith-based social services

Foster care



Global human rights


Group work

Gun policy

Health care


Immigrant rights

Interventions for youth

Jewish communal service



Mass incarceration

Mental dis/ability

Mental health

Nonprofit management



Race & racism


Schools & education

Social entrepreneurship

Social history

Social welfare

Substance use


Urban food deserts

Urban studies




Workforce development

Scholarly Interests in Service to the Public Good

Ezekiel Dixon-Roman at his book launch and discussion in fall 2017.

The SP2 faculty upholds Penn’s commitment to engage locally and globally. Internationally regarded for producing cutting-edge research, our distinguished scholars, practitioners, and policy advisors bring a broad range of real-world expertise and interdisciplinary focus to the classroom setting. The research of the SP2 faculty is transforming policy and shaping best-practices on international, federal, and local levels.

Although we are an Ivy League institution, our faculty members are not stuck in anyone’s proverbial ivory tower. The faculty’s important research and activism stretch across the social sciences and the humanities in ways that link nuanced methodological inquiries and important research questions to attempts at real-world problem-solving.

SP2 faculty members are readily available to students. They are inspirational instructors and supportive mentors and advisors, helping students to approach problems in innovative and creative ways.

View SP2’s faculty.

A Commitment to Understanding & Embracing Diversity

Diversity in its myriad forms – varied identities, experiences, and histories – is valued at SP2. The School strives to be as inclusive as possible, valuing differences of opinion and attempting to foster an environment where we think openly, honestly, sincerely, and deeply about the questions and concerns that both unite and divide us.

For our faculty, students, and staff, diversity is a multifaceted concept that includes careful treatment of questions about how differences linked to race, sexuality, gender, religion, ideology, mental illness, ethnicity, class, age, and so much more systematically hierarchize us. The questions we deal with are some of the biggest in the academy, and many seem intractable. We recognize that we have the best chance of doing justice to our concerns by embodying a truly diverse and inclusive space for re-imagining our social world.

SP2’s ability to produce cutting-edge research and to train trailblazing students is predicated, in part, on our commitment to faculty diversity of various kinds. As a truly Franklinian institution devoted “to the advancement of more effective, efficient, and just human services through education, research, and civic engagement,” our school and its faculty should reflect the peoples and cultures of those with whom we and our graduates work. SP2 educates students to work in a diverse world.

Learn more about SP2’s commitment to diversity.

Our Alumni

Dean's Alumni Advisory Board

The reach of SP2’s mission and work does not end at the Philadelphia city lines. Profoundly conscious of the need to empower agents of social justice in communities the world over, SP2 takes seriously its responsibility to prepare students for social change leadership both nationally and internationally. Alumni take their gifts, skills, and knowledge to all sectors of society, connecting the dots between issues that are local and international, intimate and institutional.

Meet some of SP2’s alumni.

SP2 News

Headshot of Johanna Greeson

Faculty & Research

New Study Examines Experiences of Foster Youth During COVID-19

A new study from the Field Center for Children’s Policy, Practice, & Research reveals that youth in foster care and...

SP2 diploma stand-ins before ceremony

Faculty & Research, Student Life

Social Policy & Practice’s 2020 Award Winners

Please join us in recognizing and congratulating the following members of our Social Policy & Practice community for their outstanding...

Walter Jean-Jacques speaks at podium

Alumni Stories

MSSP Alum Awarded 2020 Bank of America Fellowship

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” is a question many can recall hearing throughout childhood. For...

Amy Castro Baker speaking at a cash transfer informational session

Faculty & Research

COVID-19 and the Housing Crisis

Amy Castro Baker has been in the news lately. As an assistant professor in the School of Social Policy &...

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