Ted Boughter: Relating “Small Things with Big Things” to Make an Impact

In the spring of 2016, a series of alumni profiles were written for Bryn Mawr College’s Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research.

Read the article on Bryn Mawr’s website

“One big takeaway for me has been learning to relate a theory to bigger issues and apply skills at the macro and micro levels,” said Ted Boughter, MSS ’17. “I’ve had a lot of diverse experiences, which have helped me make the connection between social determinants and large societal systems and how they can either disenfranchise or help people.”

A part-time student in his first year at the Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research, Boughter was placed at the District 1199C Training & Upgrading Fund for field education. The Training Fund serves over 5,000 Philadelphia students annually and provides access to career pathways in healthcare and human services and builds the capacity of the Delaware Valley’s healthcare industry.

He began his placement working in an administrative capacity, compiling the organization’s annual report and organizing a health career fair for high school students. But during the spring semester, Boughter began working intensively with the GED to college program. Students in the program are typically aged 17-24 and face a variety of challenges, including homelessness, trauma, drug and alcohol issues, housing insecurity, lack of work history and quality education.

“I started in the role providing individual and group counseling and then teaching some of the college preparation and subject matter classes, in addition to program administration tasks,” Boughter said. “There are not too many things in the GED program that I haven’t touched in some way. And I’m continuously amazed by the resilience, intelligence and talent of the students.”

Cheryl Feldman, MSW, executive director of the Fund, said the goal is to embed social work students in the program and with staff members to give them a full experience in a wide variety of settings.

“We’re wanting students to see the importance of innovation, in terms of delivery of practice,” she said. “What you learn in individual and group counseling needs to be reflected in program administration and development. Program development needs to come full circle in impacting and providing structure and support to the individual and group students: a continual feedback loop.”

Boughter was able to put the “feedback loop” into practice when several of the students Boughter knew well through the GED program were facing a “hard-exit” and were going to be asked to leave the program for academic and/or behavioral infractions.

“I felt very comfortable talking to Cheryl about everything, and I would always bring research articles from my classes for discussion in weekly supervision,” he said. “The number of students in our program who faced severe trauma was shocking to me, and I’d learned that people who are traumatized deeply need to have within the systems they’re working representation and voice because their entire lives they’ve been voiceless and marginalized and not part of the communities they’ve existed in.”

In a staff meeting for the GED program, Boughter advocated for an open dialogue with the students about expectations and a negotiation about how to move forward in the program. His approach has been adopted and it has been successful.

Boughter has been asked to continue his work at the Fund during the summer, after his field placement has ended. In the fall, he’ll start field education at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, specifically working to improve patient care for the LGBT community.

“What this experience at Bryn Mawr has taught me is how the big things relate to the small things,” Boughter said. “Be appropriate and contextual and understand why people are the way they are and just give them a chance.”

Photo credit: Bryn Mawr College