American Indian and Alaska Native Concentration | Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis
Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

American Indian and Alaska Native Concentration

The American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) curriculum grounds students in the historical and contemporary issues facing Native populations from cultural, policy and practice perspectives.

Students study with renowned evidence-based practitioners and leaders in the field, including Brown School faculty affiliated with the Kathryn M. Buder Center for American Indian Studies, regarded as one of the nation’s preeminent centers for academic advancement and study of American issues related to social work.

Graduates develop the knowledge and skills to serve Native communities and individuals: understanding the extent, effects and causes of issues facing Native Peoples; gaining awareness of tribal governance and institutions; and learning best practices for evaluating and intervening with communities. A special emphasis is placed on cultural competencies and using strengths-based perspectives.

The concentration has three tracks to choose from: 

Direct Practice: Trauma Informed: for students who plan to work with AI/AN communities coping with trauma through a direct practice lens

Direct Practice: Behavioral Health: for students who plan to work with AI/AN communities experiencing mental health and substance abuse conditions through a direct practice lens

Community Track: for students who plan to work in community building, capacity development, leadership and asset building in AI/AN tribes and communities

Curriculum requirements are detailed below.

Concentration Requirements: 21 Credits

  • Indigenous Knowledge, Values, and Cultures (3 credits)
  • AI/AN Social Welfare Policies and Administrative Practices (3 credits)
  • Indigenous Mental Health Practice (3 credits)
  • Social Policy Analysis and Evaluation (3 credits) or Evaluation of Programs and Services (3 credits)
  • Community Development with American Indian and Other Indigenous Communities (3 credits)
  • Leadership Management of Organizations (3 credits) 
  • One additional practice-focused course, to be determined based on your track of choice (3 credits)

You will also have 9 elective credits, which can be used to broaden your expertise through courses such as:

  • Fundamentals of Community Organizing (1 Credit)
  • Differential Diagnosis (3 credits)
  • Core Concepts in Trauma Treatment for Children and Adolescents (3 credits)
  • Theoretical Approaches to Interpersonal Violence Across the Life Course (3 credits)

Concentration Practicum

The MSW program requires 600 hours of concentration practicum (in addition to 360 hours of foundation practicum). The concentration practicum must take place in an AI/AN-related setting.

Sample AI/AN practicum sites include:

  • American Indian Community Housing Organization (Duluth, MN)
  • Cahokia Mounds (Collinsville, IL)
  • Cherokee Elder Care/PACE (Tahlequah, OK)
  • Denver Indian Family Resource Center (Denver, CO)
  • Haskell Indian Nations University (Lawrence, KS)
  • Indian Health Services Behavioral Health (Various locations)
  • Intertribal Council of Arizona (Phoenix, AZ)
  • Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center (Minneapolis, MN)
  • National Council for Urban Indian Health (Washington, D.C.)
  • National Indian Child Welfare Association (Portland, OR)
  • National Native Children’s Trauma Center (Missoula, MT)
  • Navajo Nation Division of Social Services (Window Rock, AZ)
  • Oneida Aging & Disability Services (Oneida, WI)
  • Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin (Oneida, WI)
  • Patina Wellness Center, Native American Connections (Phoenix, AZ)
  • Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation Social Services (Mayetta, KS)

David Patterson

Concentration Chair

Pamela L. Begay, PhD, LCSW, (Diné Nation), chairs the American Indian and Alaska Native concentration, serves as Director of the Kathryn M. Buder Center for American Indian Studies and is an associate professor of practice. Her work focuses on curriculum for the AI/AN concentration, supporting the mission of the Buder Center and building collaborations with American Indian tribes. Her research interests include mentoring in academia, trauma/trauma treatment modalities with AI/AN populations and issues surrounding Native women. She teaches graduate-level social work courses and maintains a clinical private practice focusing on treating trauma while infusing psychodynamic therapy in a culturally appropriate way. Dr. Begay is an alumna of the Brown School’s MSW program. She received her PhD in clinical social work from Smith College-School for Social Work, and her BA from the University of New Mexico.

Matthew Frank

Featured Graduate

“I went into public health and social work because I wanted to connect practice and theory with my own lived experience in order to create positive social transformations within Native communities. With this training, I’m confident that I will be able to offer valuable solutions to tribal nations and communities, with compassion and respect.”

—Matthew R. Frank (Navajo Nation), MSW/MPH ’16, Evaluation and Research manager, Native American Rehabilitation Association of the Northwest, Inc.