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Diversity & Social Justice in Social Work is critical to the education of all social workers.

A look into the diversity and oppression course at Rutgers School of Social Work which explores a range of diverse populations by race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and physical differences. Additionally, students examine the role, function, and effects of oppression in society as it relates to social, economic, and environmental justice. Students investigate the many assumptions that underlie theory and research methodologies from which basic constructs of human behavior are drawn. Students also seek to understand how power and other dynamics work together to sustain oppression at the individual and institutional levels. Also, of interest in this course is how oppression affects social work practice service delivery at micro and macro levels, with particular emphasis on social policies and strategic planning which drive the shape of services. This course, required of all MSW students as part of the Professional Foundation Year, introduces those concepts about diversity and oppression considered essential foundation knowledge for social work, and provides the basis of subsequent and more extensive exploration of related issues in other classes and the field practicum. The Code of Ethics of the National Association of Social Workers (2017, standard 1.05,(c)   mandates that “social workers should obtain education about and seek to understand the nature of social diversity and oppression with respect to race, ethnicity, national origin, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, marital status, political belief, religion, immigration status, and mental or physical ability.” As a result of this course, students are expected to begin a career-long process of learning and incorporating an understanding of culture and oppression into their practice.  

Course Objectives 

  1. To become aware of the history and dimensions of ethnic and racial diversity, gender differences, differences in sexual orientation and issues facing the physically challenged. 

  2. To become aware of theoretical approaches used to understand issues of diversity. 

  3. To become aware of concepts that will facilitate subsequent learning about the needs and lifestyles of various groups and how these must be incorporated into various levels of practice. 

  4. To become aware of approaches to learning that facilitates self-awareness especially pertaining to matters of diversity. 

  5. To develop increasing awareness and skill in identifying institutional and personal oppression locally, nationally, and globally. 

  6. To become aware of the historical and present dimensions of oppression in society.

  7. To provide affective awareness of theories of the multiplicative interaction effects of oppression on identity formation and the parameters this sets for achievement and fulfillment of individuals. 

  8. To develop awareness of ways in which institutional oppression and the misuse of power constrain human and legal rights of individuals and groups within American society. 

  9. To develop a growing awareness and flexible approach to contextual factors which permit acceptance of and sustain oppression of some groups in society. 

  10. To understand the social work profession’s responsibility and commitment to social reform, advocacy, and social justice in light of the existence of oppression. 

  11. To provide opportunity for critical self-awareness through analysis of personal values influencing professional practices with oppressed populations. 

  12. To provide students with experiences which raise awareness of inequalities in society and how they may impact social work interventions. 

  13. To assist students in identifying their own values and ethical systems and recognizing convergence and divergence with the values and ethics of social work. 


The Code of Ethics of the National Association of Social Workers (1999, standard 1.05, p.9) mandates that social workers pursue knowledge about effective micro and macro practice with diverse and oppressed clients and the social systems with which they interact. As a result of this course, students are expected to begin a career-long process of learning and incorporating an understanding of culture and oppression into their practice. 

Dr. DuWayne Battle 

Dr. DuWayne Battle is an Associate Professor of Teaching, Director of the Baccalaureate Program, and Course Coordinator of the Diversity & Oppression courses for the Rutgers School of Social Work graduate and undergraduate programs. Under his leadership the undergraduate social work program has more than quadrupled, making it one of the largest and most diverse in New Jersey. Ranked number 2 and 3 of the best US undergraduate social work programs by College Factual and U. S. Today respectively. Dr. Battle is the past president of the Association of Baccalaureate Program Social Work Directors, the National Association of Social Workers – NJ Chapter, and the Southwestern Social Work Association. Currently, he is the campus coordinator of the Baccalaureate Child Welfare Education Program (BCWEP), a consortium of all of New Jersey’s schools and departments of social work. He is also a member of the New Jersey Baccalaureate Social Work Educators Association (NJBSWEA), member of the NASW-NJ Continuing Education Program Committee, and serves on several other boards and committees. His most recent work has been related to COVID-19 and racial justice.  “COVID-19 and the death of Black Clergy,” “I can’t breathe,” and “How do we keep the homeless safe during this crisis?”  He had a BBC interview on “The disproportionate impact of the Coronavirus on the African American community,” and he has an article in press entitled, “Examining the Social Justice Implications of Physical Distancing and the Economic Stimulus Plans.” His co-authored article, entitled, Measuring student learning in social justice courses: The Diversity and Oppression Scale, provides an important instrument to evaluate courses on diversity, oppression, and social justice in schools of social work. Dr. Battle has been an advocate for open and affordable textbooks, increasing accessibility for people with disabilities, and he has led an effort to raise awareness about domestic violence and more than $200k for the Krystal Skinner Memorial Scholarship Endowment Fund and the Phi Alpha National Honor Society Scholarship Endowment Fund.


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