American Indian and Alaska Native Concentration | Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis
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American Indian and Alaska Native Concentration


The American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) curriculum grounds students in the historical and contemporary issues facing Native populations from cultural, policy and practice perspectives.

Students study with renowned evidence-based practitioners and leaders in the field, including Brown School faculty affiliated with the Kathryn M. Buder Center for American Indian Studies, regarded as one of the nation’s preeminent centers for academic advancement and study of American issues related to social work.

Graduates develop the knowledge and skills to serve Native communities and individuals: understanding the extent, effects and causes of issues facing Native Peoples; gaining awareness of tribal governance and institutions; and learning best practices for evaluating and intervening with communities. A special emphasis is placed on cultural competencies and using strengths-based perspectives.

The concentration has three tracks to choose from: 

Direct Practice: Trauma Informed: for students who plan to work with AI/AN communities coping with trauma through a direct practice lens

Direct Practice: Behavioral Health: for students who plan to work with AI/AN communities experiencing mental health and substance abuse conditions through a direct practice lens

Community Track: for students who plan to work in community building, capacity development, leadership and asset building in AI/AN tribes and communities

Curriculum requirements are detailed below.

Concentration Requirements: 21 Credits

  • Indigenous Knowledge, Values, and Cultures (3 credits)
  • AI/AN Social Welfare Policies and Administrative Practices (3 credits)
  • Indigenous Mental Health Practice (3 credits)
  • Social Policy Analysis and Evaluation (3 credits) or Evaluation of Programs and Services (3 credits)
  • Community Development with American Indian and Other Indigenous Communites (3 credits)
  • Leadership Management of Organizations (3 credits) or Human Service Organizations: Theory, Concept, Issues (3 credits)
  • One additional practice-focused course, to be determined based on your track of choice (3 credits)

You will also have 9 elective credits, which can be used to broaden your expertise through courses such as:

  • Fundamentals of Community Organizing (1 Credit)
  • Differential Diagnosis (3 credits)
  • Core Concepts in Trauma Treatment for Children and Adolescents (3 credits)
  • Theoretical Approaches to Interpersonal Violence Across the Life Course (3 credits)

Concentration Practicum

The MSW program requires 600 hours of concentration practicum (in addition to 360 hours of foundation practicum). The concentration practicum must take place in an AI/AN-related setting.

Sample AI/AN practicum sites include:

  • Cahokia Mounds (Collinsville, Ill.)
  • Cherokee Elder Care/PACE (Tahlequah, Ok.)
  • Haskell Indian Nations University (Lawrence, Kan.)
  • Intertribal Council of Arizona (Phoenix, Az.)
  • National Indian Child Welfare Association (Portland, Ore.)
  • Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin (Oneida, Wis.)
  • National Native Children's Trauma Center (Missoula, MT)
  • Navajo Nation Division of Social Services (Window Rock, AZ)



David Patterson

Concentration Chair

Associate Professor David Patterson Silver Wolf researches the ways best practices are implemented in human services organizations. He directs the Community-Academic Partnership on Addiction (CAPA), which works to bring science to addiction services. Patterson also studies factors that improve the academic success of underrepresented minority college students—especially Native American/American Indian students.

Matthew Frank

Featured Graduate

“I went into public health and social work because I wanted to connect practice and theory with my own lived experience in order to create positive social transformations within Native communities. With this training, I’m confident that I will be able to offer valuable solutions to tribal nations and communities, with compassion and respect.”


—Matthew R. Frank (Navajo Nation), MSW/MPH ’16, Research Project Coordinator at Albuquerque Area Southwest Tribal Epidemiology Center