Launch of New Social Work Minor: Emerging Technology, Media, and Society (EMS)

June 3, 2019 @ 2:07 pm

The Columbia School of Social Work has announced a new minor for social work students: Emerging Technology, Media, and Society (EMS). The EMS minor seeks to train 21st century social workers by providing courses, tech sector engagement, and research opportunities, as well as network development opportunities, that:

  1. raise awareness of existing and emerging technology tools;
  2. engage key stakeholders and institutions in the private, non-profit, and public sectors involved in technology innovation, development, and policy;
  3. provide the social, conceptual, and technical fluency necessary to explore applications of artificial intelligence (e.g. machine learning, natural language processing) and other emergent technologies (e.g. virtual reality) to complex social issues; and
  4. explore critical and innovative applications of media to pressing social issues.

Students who participate in the EMS minor will examine how social work practice intersects with advancing technology, media, and society’s most pressing problems (e.g. poverty, violence, racism, systemic bias, mental health, privacy, safety).

Our goal is to create a paradigm shift in which emergent technologies and efforts to steward public interests leverage the contributions, values, and ethics of social work. We also aim to help social work students identify their roles within and contributions to emergent technology development, application, and other forms of engagement. Going beyond the infusion of ethics into technology, the course will work to ensure technology development and applications are firmly grounded in the principles of social justice, which includes integrating social work students into various technological domains.

Course Requirements

To be awarded the minor, students must complete at least three (3) courses within the field of study. Students are required to take Introduction to Emergent Technology, Media, and Society (EMS) in the School of Social Work.

We strongly recommend students select their remaining two (2) courses from the following:

  • Statistical Thinking with Python Lab (Statistics)
  • Independent studies in partnership with Rlabs (VR/AR/Digital Media)
  • Hacking for Social Impact
  • Communications Policy in the Digital Age
  • Data Science and Public Policy
  • Media for Social Impact


Faculty Directors:
Desmond U. Patton (bio), Associate Professor (
Courtney D. Cogburn (bio), Associate Professor (