PhD in Social Practice and Transformational Change

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 for the Fall 2024 intake are being accepted until January 10, 2024.

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

To learn more about student experiences and the exciting work underway in the program check out the SOPR Stories blog!

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.


  • 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

Course Descriptions

SOPR*6000 Social Practice and Transformational Change

Students engage with key theories of social practice, ethical community engagement, ways of knowing, reflexivity and change processes, social praxis and orientation, and the role of policy in social change, from inter- and transdisciplinary perspectives.

SOPR*6100 Research and Social Practice

Students build upon core concepts explored in SOPR*6000, moving beyond analysis and discussion of scholarly contributions into engagement activities working with or as practitioners on externally identified questions and community needs.

SOPR*6200 Methodologies Lab

Students treat methodology as critical research design connected to epistemology and ontology, investigating what counts as knowledge, as data and scholarship, the role of the researcher, issues of representation, and the implications of these for research.

Progression through the Program

The Social Practice program is designed to be completed over 12 semesters of full-time study.

Text-only version of the program schedule


Year 1

Semester 1 Semester 2 Semester 3
SOPR*6000 Social Practice and Transformational Change1  
SOPR*6200 Methodologies Lab2  
Advisory committee selection Qualifying Exam preparation
Development of Individual Development Plan (IDP) and research proposal
Community of Practice
Progress reports completed each semester

1SOPR*6000 meets bi-weekly in both Semester 1 and 2
2SOPR*6200 meets weekly in Semester 1 and students do independent work in Semester 2


Year 2

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

Year 3

Semester 7 Semester 8 Semester 9
Ongoing research
Community of Practice
Progress reports completed each semester

Year 4

Semester 10 Semester 11 Semester 12
Ongoing research Thesis defence
Community of Practice
Progress reports completed each semester


Amanda Buchnea

What are your research interests? I am interested in the ways communities collaborate and organize themselves to transform systems to prevent and end homelessness. This builds on my ongoing professional work in the national and international movement around youth homelessness prevention.

Why did you choose the SOPR program? I was looking for an interdisciplinary program grounded in social justice that would create an opportunity to deepen my knowledge of theory and research methodologies/methods, while actively and reflexively putting it into practice.


Rosa Duran

What are your research interests? I am interested in understanding what it means to decolonize spaces with healing and belonging as part of the process. My intention with this work is to counter colonial approaches that gave rise to social, ecological and economic inequities and offer a new lens to view community development, urban planning, and public health.

Why did you choose the SOPR program? I chose the program because of its interdisciplinary nature and critical and innovative focus, and its centering of decolonizing approaches, Indigenous knowledge systems, methodological innovation, and community-engaged scholarship. This enables a nuanced engagement with the interlinking of structural barriers and social change.


Hannah Fowlie

What are your research interests? My work is focused on artistic research into death, dying and bereavement, particularly grief and remembering through digital storytelling. I also have a lifetime love and involvement in the arts, as an actor, director, and aspiring filmmaker and a background in social work.

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.


Amy Kipp

What are your research interests? My research draws on feminist and other critical theories to explore the everyday practices and experiences of care in a variety of contexts. I have explored community care in the context of COVID-19, community health care settings, volunteer tourism, and ethical consumption campaigns.

Why did you choose the SOPR program? I entered this program because I am committed to conducting research that contributes to meaningful social change and to thinking through and beyond traditional research practice. I was drawn to the program's focus on feminist and social justice praxis and to its interdisciplinarity.


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.


Indigenous health and social well-being, Indigenous masculinities, Indigenous feminisms


Critical community engaged scholarship, violence against women, social & criminal justice policy


Critical psychology, equity education, gender and sexual development, women's health


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, email


SOPR Program Director

Dr. Roberta Hawkins
Associate Professor
Department of Geography, Environment and Geomatics


Take the Next Step

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