PhD in Social Practice and Transformational Change

turn ideas into action

Interested in scholarship that cuts across conventional disciplinary boundaries?

Bridge the gap between theory and practice. Become immersed in a culture of collaboration with emphasis on community engaged scholarship.

The PhD in Social Practice and Transformational Change program is designed to stimulate interdisciplinary examination and critical theorization of social practice and its relationship to policy, programs and transformational change.

In this program, you will design and implement practice-based research projects and research-based practices, as well as develop principled, ethical and sustainable frameworks for collaborative, community-engaged initiatives.

Applications are now being accepted! Deadline: January 5, 2021

The Social Practice and Transformational Change PhD program is grounded by six key pillars:

  1. Intersectional and Decolonizing Approaches and the 'Unsettling' Nature of Change
  2. Feminist, Gender, Sexuality and Other Critical Perspectives for Rethinking Difference and the Human
  3. Indigenous Knowledge Systems
  4. Social Justice and Praxis Orientation
  5. Methodological Innovation and Boundary Crossing
  6. Community Engaged Scholarship

Embrace Indigenous philosophies and ideologies

Contribute to a collaborative learning environment

Re-conceptualize disciplinary


  • Successful completion of a course or thesis-based master’s degree with a minimum grade average of at least 78% from an accredited university.
  • Applicants who have not completed a master’s degree but have considerable relevant professional experience outside the academy may be considered for direct entry into the doctoral program.

How to Apply

The 4-year full-time program combines research-intensive classroom study with experiential and problem-based learning – preparing you for lifelong learning and future career success in private, public and civil society sectors.

A unique feature of this program is your active participation in a facilitated community of practice (CoP) conceptualized as a collaborative, dynamic, active learning group of students, faculty and practitioners.

Students must successfully complete the following degree requirements:

  • SOPR*6000 Social Practice and Transformational Change
  • SOPR*6100 Research and Social Practice
  • SOPR*6200 Methodologies Lab
  • Community of Practice
  • Qualifying examination
  • Thesis

Progression through the Program

The Social Practice and Transformational Change PhD program is designed to be completed over 12 semesters of full-time study, with progress reports each semester. See the expected program schedule below.

Text-only version of the program schedule


Year 1

Semester 1 Semester 2 Semester 3
SOPR*6000 Social Practice and Transformational Change SOPR*6100 Research and Social Practice
SOPR*6200 Methodologies Lab
Community of Practice
Development of Individual Development Plan (IDP) and research proposal
  Advisory committee selection Qualifying Exam preparation

Year 2

Semester 4 Semester 5 Semester 6
SOPR*6100 Research and Social Practice  
Community of Practice  
IDP and research proposal Research proposal approved
Qualifying Exam preparation Qualifying Exam  

Year 3

Semester 7 Semester 8 Semester 9
Community of Practice  
Ongoing research

Year 4

Semester 10 Semester 11 Semester 12
Community of Practice  
Ongoing research Thesis defence

Individual Development Plan

This program is intentionally designed to be deeply learner-centred. You will have the opportunity to explore your interests throughout the program with the creation of your own Individual Development Plan (IDP).

The Individual Development Plan will support you in aligning personal and professional goals with your academic expectations and responsibilities. Its built-in flexibility will allow your learning to be adapted and directed by you.

Community of Practice

The community of practice (CoP) creates space and opportunity for students to gather informally, to engage in sharing, to offer collaborative support, and to build connections and learning across the program.


Meet the Faculty

Expert faculty from all five departments in the College of Social and Applied Human Sciences and beyond are affiliated with the SOPR program as supervisors and instructors. Explore their wide-ranging research interests and meet your potential supervisor.


Feminist geographies, cultural politics of sustainability, everyday practices of 'global change'


Sustainable food systems, agroecology, community development, ecological resilience


The intersections of disabilities, gender, childhood, and Indigenousness


Meet our Students


Hannah Fowlie

What are your research interests? My work uses arts-based methodologies to explore Indigenous/settler relations and the possibilities of settler change when oriented to Indigenous knowledge about sustainability and environmental care, especially when confronted with climate change.

Why did you choose the SOPR program? In my professional life, I have sought out ways to connect social work, the arts and community-based participatory action research. This program and each of its 'pillars' provide a scholarly map I can follow to do truly interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary work.


Julie Rochefort

What are your research interests? My current research interests seek to explore the role of Whiteness in upholding oppressive and colonial epistemologies within contemporary dietetic education, training and practice.

Why did you choose the SOPR program? I chose the Social Practice and Transformational Change program because it offered a space to further understand my experiential knowledge and observation through critical scholarship offered by intersectional, feminist, decolonizing theory.


Graduate Student Funding

The University of Guelph is committed to providing a minimum stipend of $20,000 for all doctoral students. Students are guaranteed financial support through teaching assistantships, research assistantships, and/or scholarships.

More on Scholarships & Funding Cost of Tuition & Living


Get More Information

To learn more about the PhD in Social Practice and Transformational Change, contact:

Dr. Belinda Leach, Program Director


Take the Next Step

Start the application process for the PhD in Social Practice and Transformational Change.