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Though it began only three years ago, the Master of Science in applied behavior analysis (MS ABA) program in the Department of Psychology at Arizona State University is thriving.
The MS ABA program was founded in partnership with local behavior analysis professionals and uses an innovative curriculum that extends beyond the boundaries of ASU’s campus.
“We are recognized by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board as a Verified Course Sequence, and practicum hours are embedded into our curriculum,” said Adam Hahs, program director and clinical assistant professor of psychology. “Our program produces behavior analysts who are ready to enter the field and make an immediate impact.”
So far, the MS ABA program’s passing rate for the behavior analysis certification exam exceeds the national average by almost 25 percent. The placement rate for graduates of the program is 100 percent. In the recent graduating class, three students were accepted to doctoral programs in behavior analysis or related fields, and the remaining 15 students acquired jobs in behavior analysis in and out of Arizona.
The program’s success is supported by many community-based partners throughout the state. The partners provide opportunities for in-the-field training for the students.
In a few weeks, current MS ABA students will present their research at the annual meeting of the Association of Behavior Analysis International in San Diego. The students submitted a summary of their study and were chosen to participate in a symposium or present a poster.
“I will be presenting my research project about data-based decision-making in a symposium at the ABAI conference,” said Liz Singer, a second-year MS ABA student who plans to pursue her doctoral degree after graduating from the program. “In my field, working with children with developmental disabilities, data-based decision-making means using the learner’s data on a daily basis to make important program decisions that foster the most conducive learning environment for the child.”
Singer worked with MS ABA faculty member Don Stenhoff on her project. Another research project of Singer’s, which looked at staff involvement with students during recess at a special education school, will be presented by a first-year MS ABA student at the ABAI conference.
In addition to the successes of the MS ABA students, the program faculty are also garnering attention.
Stenhoff, clinical assistant professor of psychology, was appointed by the governor to a four-year term on the Arizona Committee of Behavior Analysts. The committee reports to the Arizona Board of Psychologist Examiners, which oversees the licenses that allow psychologists and behavior analysts to practice in the state.
The process began over a year ago when Stenhoff was nominated by the Arizona Association for Behavior Analysis to be considered as a potential committee member and was appointed by the governor. He will serve a four-year term in the position.
“My role on the Committee of Behavior Analysts is an honor and also benefits the MS ABA program at ASU,” Stenhoff said. “Part of our curriculum focuses on ethical considerations, including licensing in the state. My relationship with the committee indirectly provides students with access to licensing and ethical issues they might face.”
Hahs was recently elected president of the Arizona Association for Behavior Analysis for a one-year term. The association has one of the highest membership rates in the country, as 80 percent of certified and licensed behavior analysts in the state are members. Hahs said one way the association benefits the MS ABA students is by inviting experts in behavior analysis and related fields to speak to its members concerning topics relevant to the practice of behavior analysis in Arizona.