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Sarah Coughtry

M.S.W. Class of 2011

Before coming to Smith I had been working in the eating disorder field in Massachusetts for over three years. This work was challenging and rewarding, but after a while my desire to move in a more global direction pulled me away. I was becoming more and more interested in international relations and macro-level social change, and decided further education was necessary.

You may wonder why I chose a clinical school if I was interested in the macro work, but I wouldn't have it any other way. My passion for social change has always been balanced by a strong interest in clinical work, and I was immediately impressed by Smith's approach to both. I had worked and travelled in Africa and Ireland, and was encouraged that Smith had an international placement in Thailand. The two most appealing aspects of the program were the experiential approach to learning, and the opportunity to travel nationally for each field experience. The scholarship assistance I received from the school sealed my decision, as I may not have been able to afford it otherwise.

The classes have been intense, rigorous, and transformative on a personal level. My first field placement was at the Asian Counseling and Referral Services in Seattle, where I worked with immigrants, refugees, and citizens in the Asian American Pacific Islander community. The combination of individual, adult, youth, and group work, along with groups for domestic violence aggressors, left me feeling well-rounded and wanting to do more. This year my field placement will bring me to the town of Gulu in Northern Uganda, to work in an HIV community health center. Another student and I worked with Professor Joanne Corbin on her research in Uganda and we will now be spending our second placement there as a result of our interest in her work and this area. We are proud and excited to see this project moving forward, and to see Smith expanding its international program.

This next year in Uganda will undoubtedly shape what I choose to do with my Smith degree. I hope to work internationally in a community-building and empowerment capacity, and I also have a strong interest in working domestically with queer youth. The great thing about social work is you can do almost anything with the degree, so perhaps I'll be lucky enough to do both.