Social and Behavioral Sciences Ph.D.

The Ph.D. in Social and Behavioral Sciences (SBS) curriculum centers on the application of social and behavioral science research methods to solve contemporary health problems and advance health equity.

Student learning is focused in the following areas:

  • Analytical thinking: Students will demonstrate an appropriate level of ability to interpret information relevant to social and behavioral science, to connect rationales to procedures and evidence to findings, to draw reasonable conclusions, and to generate and evaluate alternate explanations.
  • Integrated knowledge of social and behavioral science: Students will demonstrate an appropriate level of knowledge of the current elements of the social and behavioral sciences as related to disciplinary specialization and a more detailed understanding of the individual area of scholarship, including an appropriate familiarity with the research literature and the ability to evaluate and critique.
  • Oral communication skills: Students will demonstrate the achievement of an appropriate level of skill in the oral communication of social and behavioral science subject matter with respect to content, organization, logical flow, presentation, use of language and incorporation of visual aids in formal and collaborative communication.
  • Study design: Students will demonstrate the achievement of an appropriate level of competence in the ability to appraise, modify and/or create, and implement study protocols and to design and develop studies.
  • Written communication skills: Students will demonstrate the achievement of an appropriate level of written communication skill with respect to grammar, syntax, spelling, vocabulary and use of figures, tables and citations to effectively present social and behavioral science information.

Graduates of the program will be able to:

  • Critically evaluate social drivers of health and develop strategies for improving health equity
  • Recommend and apply community-engaged principles in research design
  • Propose and justify analytical approaches for answering public health research questions assessed using qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods
  • Construct and critique theory-driven approaches for developing, implementing, and evaluating health promotion programs
  • Design and produce an independent research project involving primary data collection

About the Program

The SBS program gives students the skills and experience they need to make meaningful, independent scientific contributions, in addition to being valued members of collaborative research teams. We emphasize inclusive, personalized mentorship, and experiential research training under the guidance of one of the following faculty mentors:

Richard F. Brown, Ph.D.
Kellie E. Carlyle, Ph.D., M.P.H., M.Ed.
Dina T. Garcia, Ph.D., M.P.H., M.Ed.
Sun Jung “Sunny” Kim, Ph.D., M.S., M.A.
Jessica G. LaRose, Ph.D.
Alexander R. Lucas, Ph.D., M.S.
Maghboeba Mosavel, Ph.D., M.A.
Vanessa B. Sheppard, Ph.D.
Maria D. Thomson, Ph.D., M.Sc.
Katherine Y. Tossas, Ph.D., M.S.

Students complete a minimum of 54 post-master's credit hours in subject areas such as the following:

  • Research methods in social and behavioral science
  • Health disparities and social justice
  • Community-based participatory research
  • Communication in health care
  • Intervention development and implementation
  • Program evaluation

Learn more about the program’s curriculum and other degree requirements in the VCU Bulletin.

Life in Richmond

Urban life with a small-town feel

We encourage our students and researchers to maintain a healthy work-life balance, and Richmond is a wonderful place to engage in that well-rounded lifestyle. As the capital of Virginia since 1779, Richmond attracts students, faculty and staff from around the globe. The city’s location affords easy day trips to destinations like Washington, DC, Virginia Beach, Colonial Williamsburg and the Blue Ridge Mountains, among others.

As a mid-sized city with a metropolitan population of 1.3 million, Richmond provides stimulating activities while maintaining its intimate feel and unique vibe. Vibrant neighborhoods offer distinct, diverse experiences, with no shortage of art galleries, museums, music venues, restaurants, breweries and parks. For the outdoor enthusiast, you can’t beat the offerings in the city’s riverfront parks and urban wilderness areas such as white-water rafting, hiking, mountain biking and festivals.

Learn more about our community

Admission Requirements

Contact Us

For more information about the Social and Behavioral Science Ph.D. program, please contact:

Nerice Lochansky Luu
Education Administrator