Date of Award

Spring 4-23-2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Social Work (DSW)

First Advisor

Joretha N. Bourjolly, PhD, MSW

Second Advisor

John L. Jackson, Jr., PhD


The traumatic history of racism spans throughout generations of the African American experience and negatively impacts mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual wellness, as well as healthcare, housing, economic and financial outcomes, and a plethora of daily encounters. It is vital that social workers have clarity regarding the historical and present-age impact of racism on African Americans and other people of Color in order to effectively engage and advocate with these populations as they seek various services. This dissertation offers a 15-week academic course designed for baccalaureate-level social work students through the framework of transformative learning theory and with the integration of aesthetic education and the arts. Research indicates that students have greater potential to deeply understand racism and its impact through creative, non-traditional modes of study. From a cognitive perspective, experientially taught students may engage in higher-order thinking such as analysis, synthesis, and evaluation, and are also better able to identify the concepts in the real world; think about the material in new and complex ways; comprehend phenomena conceptually; and recall, retain, and memorize the material better. The arts, aesthetic education, and transformative learning theory reach students on a deeper level by engaging both affective and cognitive processes; by providing opportunities to unlearn racial biases through critical reflection and rational discourse; by creatively exploring ways to be open to other points of view; and by examining personal connections to the social issues of race through activities that include critical reflection, illumination, exploration, and the awareness of self and others. As social work students respond to the realities of working with African Americans and other people of Color, they will need to meet the expectations of the National Social Workers Association’s values of worth and dignity, integrity, competence, and the advancement of human rights and social justice, as well as answer the charge of the Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards with the competencies to engage diversity, and understand challenges of discrimination and oppression. This 15-week course responds to those needs using an experiential and transformative approach.