ASU psychology alumna has a passion to serve


Robert Ewing

When you have free time in your schedule, what do you do? You might enjoy Arizona’s outdoor activities like hiking beautiful terrain, or when it is too hot outside, you might just find yourself reading a favorite book while enjoying the air conditioning.

Reyna Rivera, a 2017 Arizona State University alumna, sees life differently.

“To decompress and relax, I spend time serving my community through volunteer work,” said Rivera, who graduated with the master's degree in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) that is offered through ASU’s Department of Psychology on the Tempe campus. “It seems like a strange answer, but volunteering really helps me refocus my energy back onto my goal of helping other people. I guess I am just passionate about helping future generations.”

Students enrolled in ASU’s ABA master's degree program graduate as Board Certified Behavior Analysts.

“Reyna and the other MS ABA program graduates represent the future of the science and practice of behavior analysis. In service of that, we wanted to develop a program of high rigor, nurturing scientific inquiry concerning socially-significant behavior,” said Adam Hahs, director of the ABA master's degree program.

“Graduates of the MS ABA program have a BACB exam pass rate that is about 20 percent higher than the 2017 average pass rate, making them extremely competitive as they seek job placements," Hahs said. "Dr. Don Stenhoff and I are really excited about the work we’re doing in and for the Department of Psychology at ASU. It’s a great place to be.” 

What sets ASU’s program apart is the over 1,500 supervised practicum hours that are required for state licensing are already built into the intensive curriculum. Rivera credits the program for translating her passion for helping people into action.

Rivera is a licensed and board-certified behavioral analyst whose expertise includes autism spectrum disorder and children with behavioral issues. She works both in homes and in clinics.

Rivera also regularly speaks to local high school classes about autism and the benefits of Applied Behavior Analysis services. Rivera has organized back-to-school backpack drives for children in Title 1 schools, collected hygiene products for homeless students and their families, and she volunteers with her church by preparing hot meals over the holidays.

As an undergraduate student at ASU, Rivera maximized her experience, graduating with a bachelor's in psychology in just two-and-a-half years. While working toward her degree, she was heavily involved with the Leadership Scholarship Program and served as the vice president of Children’s Hope at ASU's West campus.

“I was drawn to psychology and ABA because I wanted to make an impact on the lives of others. I knew psychology would open the necessary doors in order for me to accomplish this goal,” Rivera said. “Being an ASU alumna means that I have a family for the rest of my life. I have a support group and a network. Although I have graduated I still always feel like an ASU Sun Devil!”

In the future, Rivera wants to introduce ABA to as many families as possible in the valley, particularly in the Hispanic and Latino communities.

“Unfortunately, many Hispanic and Latino families who have children with autism are not receiving adequate services in their native language,” she said. “I want to deliver quality ABA services to these families and recruit bilingual students to become service providers and future behavior analysts.”

Video of Reyna Rivera, MSABA graduate with a passion to serve