California State University Fresno Interview

We recognized California State University: Fresno for offering one of the Top 23 Best Master’s in Psychology Degrees with an ABA Track, adding them to our list of top recommendations for students in the area.

We were excited to hear from Marianne L. Jackson, Ph.D, BCBA-D, a faculty member at California State University: Fresno who took the time to answer a few questions about how the school works to create a great student experience that helps prepare graduates for a career in applied behavior analysis.

Program Name:

  1. Master’s Degree in Applied Behavior Analysis at Fresno State

Professor/Faculty Name:      Name: Marianne L. Jackson, Ph.D, BCBA-D

Tell us about the types of students you see come through your program. Are you seeing more non-traditional students and career changers coming from other fields?

Marianne:  We see a variety of students coming through our program, with usually 1-3 who are bilingual. We have a returning student on average about every 2 years, and all of our students work during the program (in a practicum placement). Many have heavy family responsibilities (often with parents and siblings but sometimes with own children) and receive financial aid.

What areas of practice are you seeing graduates going into? Do they tend to find jobs in the local school districts or more often join private practices?

Marianne:  About 1/3 of our students have gone on to PhD programs. 1-2 each year work for school districts and the others all join private practices.

What are some of the things you love most about the ABA program at your university – the kind of things you’d like future students to know about as they consider their options?

Marianne:  We have a diverse student population and accommodate a student’s life circumstances as much as possible. Our students follow a cohort model so we encourage tight social support and have a supportive and involved faculty.

What do you feel are the most pressing issues in ABA today, and how does the program at your school prepare graduates to address these issues?

Marianne:  I think one of the most pressing issues is maintaining the quality of our field. As the demand for qualified BCBA increases, and various ABA companies are at least partially owned by larger companies, there is a real threat of drift from the science. We require all students to complete a Master’s Thesis and to participate in other research projects throughout their time. We also encourage frequent contact with the research literature in their practicum setting to instill an appreciation for research at all levels. We continue to have an in-house practicum that is overseen by faculty and provides high-quality supervision and training.

The ABA coursework program helps students earn BCaBA or BCBA certification. What are the advantages of offering this program strictly as a course sequence option?

Marianne:  Offering these as ‘course sequence options only’ (in addition to our degree offerings) allows students who already hold the pre-requisite degrees for examination eligibility to take the necessary coursework without having to complete a second degree. The students are fully integrated with those in our degree-seeking programs and are held to the same rigorous standards and expectations.

Students and faculty from your MA in Psychology—ABA Option program routinely present at state/national conventions. At which conventions would we likely see presentations from CSU students?

Marianne:  To begin with, we are now a Master’s degree in ABA and no longer an option (this has been approved starting Fall 2019).

We present regularly at ABAI, CalABA, and sometimes NABA

The university’s ABA program instructs students to excel professionally in several related fields. What fields are the most popular among your students?

Marianne:  The vast majority of our students go on to work with individuals with ASD or ID. Their practicum has a heavy focus on ages 6 through adulthood, so our students have a wide range of experience. They work within a social skills program, a problem behavior reduction program, and teaching a variety of skills to enhance independence and quality of life.

Do all of the ABA practicum hours take place at your Focused Behavioral Services site? 

Marianne:  Yes, all practicum is in-house at our campus-based Focused Behavioral Services, with supervision from in house BCBAs and oversight from three different faculty.


Check out our full interview series here to see what other professors and faculty are saying about their ABA programs.