Domestic Social and Economic Development Concentration

Students in the Domestic Social and Economic Development (DSED) concentration develop “macro” social work skills to prepare them for transformative work in community and economic development, community organizing, and service in the public sector.

How can social workers build power with the people most directly affected by profound social, economic, and environmental challenges? How can we build an economy that truly lifts all boats? What are specific policy solutions for “wicked problems” like our national housing shortage and climate change?

The DSED concentration prepares students to work collectively on the most pressing issues facing our society. Students are trained in a variety of theories of change for achieving sustainable development, from the neighborhood to the national level. They will understand the basis of poverty and inequality in the United States, be able to analyze institutions and organizations, and hone tools and techniques for organizing change.

Alumni go on to careers in government and non-governmental organizations, developing and implementing programs, advocating for policy change, and building the evidence base for action.


  • Poverty and Inequality in America (3 credits) or Theories of Racial, Social & Economic Justice (3 credits)
  • Domestic Social & Economic Development (3 credits)
  • Nine credits of practice-focused coursework, chosen from a list of pre-approved options such as SED Redevelopment: East St. Louis Seminar (3 credits) and Fundamentals of Community Organizing (3 credits)
  • Management & Leadership of Organizations (3 credits)
  • Social Policy Analysis & Evaluation (3 credits) or Evaluation of Programs and Services (3 credits)

You will also have 9 elective credits, which can be used to broaden your expertise in other areas or to pursue additional SED-related electives, such as:

  • Harm Reduction Community Practice (3 credits)
  • Social Work Practice with Refugees & Immigrants  (3 credits)


The MSW program requires 600 hours of concentration practicum (in addition to 360 hours of foundation practicum).

Sample practicum sites include:

  • Offices of mayors and other local and state elected officials
  • Community development corporations, such as DeSales Community Development and North Newstead Association
  • Holistic legal services, such as Legal Services of Eastern Missouri and ArchCity Defenders
  • Research centers, such as the Center for Social Development


Molly Metzger

Concentration Chair

Dr. Molly Metzger conducts research on housing and economic justice, striving to connect this research with the public and policymakers. Her teaching engages students in real-world problem solving in the St. Louis region.

Founding Faculty Member

Professor Jack Kirkland was an activist and strategist in the Civil Rights Movement and has since held numerous roles as a public servant and elected official. In the classroom, Kirkland brings to life issues of community work, group relations, international social development, racism, social planning, and urban environments.

Jessica Estes

Featured Graduate

“I knew Social and Economic Development was the right path for me because my interest was in furthering change on the systemic and institutional levels. The relationships I developed with people and grassroots organizations as a student led me directly to the career path I’m on now. I would advise students to hold fast to curiosity and explore beyond the classroom.”