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    Saybrook University
  Dec 06, 2023
2021-2022 Academic Catalog and Student Handbook 
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2021-2022 Academic Catalog and Student Handbook [Archived Catalog]

Transformative Social Change, Ph.D.

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Department Overview

We live in a time of transformative social change. All over the world, people are working for a more sustainable environment, seeking social justice and democratic reform, and creating new economic models that work for the many and not just the few.  Many of these changes are powered by new communication technologies that are making a powerful impact, from spreading innovation to toppling repressive regimes.

But we also confront crises of environmental devastation, economic displacement, social injustice, war, terrorism, and personal stress that threaten the well-being of life on earth, and arguably our survival. Many of these crises are interrelated and can best be addressed by those with a deep understanding of the connections among such issues as social inequity, drawdown of our planet’s resources, toxification of our bodies and environments, and centralization of media in the hands of powerful interests.

This program subsumes a range of fields under a relatively new disciplinary area, Transformative Social Change. There is a growing acceptance and development of this field of research, academic study, and social action, from sources including the United Nations, major foundations, and other universities. The new degree program in Transformative Social Change will prepare students to respond to current social, cultural, and political challenges of our time in a unique way, as reflective scholar-practitioners, able to create transformative changes in society, guided by humanistic values. 

Distinctive Features

The TSC degree program is purposefully differentiated from a standard comprehensive nonprofit management training program orientation.  Specifically, the TSC program focuses on preparing graduates to possess the skills and capacities needed for particular types of nonprofit organizations, those with a program focus in advocacy for human rights, community building, democracy, peace, the environment and social justice.  To enable graduates to be successful participants and leaders in those types of NGOs, we emphasize development of the skills and capacities for employment positions in the program, policy and outreach areas.

PhD Learning Outcomes

  1. Design environments that reflect and support participatory, democratic, collaborative leadership skills.    
  2. Formulate interventions that are congruent with ethics and values.          
  3. Synthesize and design social system transformation strategies.   
  4. Formulate and evaluate dialogues that are inclusive of global, multicultural, multi-generational social and environmental viewpoints.
  5. Appraise models of compassion and connectedness with the larger community.

Admission Requirements

Applicants for the PhD Transformative Social Change must submit the following documents:

  • Application for Admissions
  • An official transcript from an accredited university demonstrating successful completion of a master’s degree, with a 3.0 GPA or better;
  • Professional resume or CV;
  • Personal statement; and
  • One Letter of recommendation

Degree Program Requirements

Residential Orientation (RO)

All new students in the MA and PhD in Transformative Social Change degree programs begin their studies with our one-time, two-day RO. Residential Orientations are held two days ahead of the Residential Conference at the start of the fall and spring semesters in California. Attendance at the entire RO is an academic requirement.

Residential Conference (RC)

All students are also required to attend a 5-day residential conference held off-campus at the beginning of each semester. These residential conferences offer didactic/topical, research, and practice-oriented seminars, in-person sessions introducing each core course in the program, and group meetings of the program as a whole. The residential conferences also involve informal exchanges with other students and program faculty for mentoring and socialization to the field.

RC Requirement

Master students are required to attend until formal enrollment in either master thesis or project. Doctoral students attend until they have advanced to doctoral candidacy (upon satisfaction of essay orals).

No academic credit is given for attendance at the Residential Conference. Students who attend a seminar at an RC and wish to study the topic further may, with the permission of the seminar instructor and the degree Department Chair, register for a 1 credit independent study course (ALL 8100) following the RC Each course is individually designed and negotiated with the seminar instructor. Not all RC workshops, courses, and seminars are eligible for the follow-up independent study credit. Students will need to review their program plan to confirm the 1 credit Independent Study will satisfy degree requirements.

RC Approved Absence Policy

If a student must miss an RC due to extenuating circumstances that include but are not limited to documented medical hardship or family emergency, attendance at an RC must be made up at a later date, even if that is beyond the point where the student would normally not be required to attend RCs. In such cases, the student needs to notify the degree Department Chair prior to the missed conference for approval. Refer to the Student Refund Policy for additional information.

RC Substitution Process

If students would like to substitute attendance at a professional conference for attendance at one of the RCs, they need to identify a faculty member who will sponsor them in this request. The conference must be at least five days, in accordance with Saybrook’s Residential Conference. Students must complete the “Authorization Request to Substitute for Residential Conference” form and submit it for approval no less than 30 days before the RC to be substituted.

Following the conference, students must complete the “Confirmation of Attendance at Substitute Conference” form and send to their faculty sponsor. After review and approval, the faculty sponsor will then forward it to the degree Department Chair, who will complete the recording process. Tangible documentation of attendance for the entire event is required, along with a copy of the completed Authorization Request signed by the supervising faculty member and any other required academic work or learning product required by the supervising faculty member.

Transfer Credit Policy

Transfer credits based on equivalent graduate courses taken at another regionally accredited institution in the same or similar discipline where the student received a grade of B or better may be transferred and will reduce the number of course credits required to be completed at Saybrook. Allowable transfer credits must be suitable for transfer to the intended degree as determined by the Registrar and the Department Chair. Transfer course credits do not affect the minimum number of credits required for the degree.

Transfer credit to be applied toward required electives:

  • PhD Transformative Social Change - May include up to 12 transfer credits completed in the related discipline, 6 of these credits may be from cognate fields, non-degree Saybrook Certificate credits, Saybrook CE credits, or other non-degree credits taken at Saybrook University within the last seven years

Ph.D. Research Requirement

The Ph.D. degree program in Transformative Social Change requires a sequence of research courses designed to achieve research program learning outcomes.  The University research program learning outcomes coincide with program learning outcomes and are related to the skills and knowledge needed to be successful doing research for the dissertation.  The research sequence begins with two required foundational courses:

  • RES 2100: Research Foundations and Literacy
  • RES 2300: Qualitative Data Collection and Analysis (or RES 2500: Quantitative Data Collection and Statistics with approval from Department Chair)

The sequence continues with two advanced research courses:

  • RES 3500: Research Design and Scholarly Writing
  • RES 3xxx - Advanced Research Methods (Select one course, see course descriptions RES 3000-3400) 3 credit(s)

When students reach the essay stage, students may consult with their dissertation committee, Department Chair, as well as the Director of Research about taking a research essay, RES 6900: Dissertation Preparation, in lieu of one of the program essays in order to further support student preparedness for dissertation research.

The research sequence concludes with a 2-course dissertation research sequence, which is led by 3-member dissertation committee comprised by program and research faculty:

  • RES 7000: Dissertation Proposal
  • RES 7100: Dissertation

Progress from RES 7000 to RES 7100 occurs when the student’s dissertation research proposal is successfully defended orally to the student’s dissertation committee.  The dissertation is also presented orally for dissertation committee approval to complete RES 7100.



Research Course Sequence (taken in order):

Other Electives***: 12 Credit(s)

Unless otherwise stipulated by program, any other graduate-level coursework will apply toward Other Elective credit requirements

Total Credits: 63

* Some courses may be waived if completed during the M.A. program at Saybrook University within the past five years. If waived, credits must be substituted with appropriate degree program electives.

*** May include up to 12 transfer credits completed during a graduate degree or certificate program in a related field from an accredited university within the last seven years. No transfer credit will be accepted from courses already applied toward another degree that was previously awarded. Transfer credits will be determined by the TSC degree program director and will be applied toward required electives.

**** Dissertation to be completed in a minimum of two semesters. Students registering for the Doctoral Dissertation with required degree coursework outstanding must complete all degree requirements within 10 consecutive semesters, inclusive of summer. Students registering for the Doctoral Dissertation with no outstanding degree requirements must complete their degree program within 9 consecutive semesters, inclusive of summer. 

MA to PhD in Transformative Social Change

While in the MA program at Saybrook University, students may decide to apply to continue to the doctoral program. Once such students have completed the admissions process to the doctoral program, they may be accepted on the condition of completion of the MA degree requirements (i.e., successful completion of the thesis/project). Such students are allowed to enroll in up to an additional 9 credits of coursework while completing the thesis/project. If the student is admitted to the doctoral program, these 9 credits will be considered toward the PhD degree. If the student does not continue to the doctoral program, those additional credits completed are awarded toward the MA degree. That is, admission into the doctoral program does not commence until the MA is complete. Such students will be required to adhere to the catalog that is in place when they matriculate into the doctoral program (i.e., after completion of the thesis/project), not the catalog in place at the time of their conditional acceptance into the doctoral program.

The following requirements apply to students who 1) earn an MA in Transformative Social Change at Saybrook University or MA in Psychology at Saybrook University within the Transformative Social Change Specialization, and 2) are currently earning an MA degree and, wish to apply for entry into the doctoral program immediately following graduation. If the student is accepted into the doctoral program and matriculates within two semesters of receiving the MA, the following program requirements apply. If more than one year elapses between finishing the MA and beginning the PhD program, the student must adhere to the standard PhD course requirements as noted above.

Research Course Sequence (taken in order):

Other Electives*: 9 Credit(s)

Unless otherwise stipulated by program, any other graduate-level coursework will apply toward Other Elective credit requirements

Total Credits: 63

* Some courses may be waived if completed during the M.A. program in Transformative Social Change at Saybrook University within the past two years. If waived, credits must be substituted with Electives.

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