Queens College of CUNY Interview

We recognized Queens College of CUNY for offering one of the 35 Best ABA Graduate Programs (Master’s and Doctorate), adding them to our list of top recommendations for ABA grad students.

We were excited to hear from Dr. Joshua Jessel, a faculty member at Queens College of CUNY 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.

Queens College of CUNY ABA Programs:

  • Master of Arts in Applied Behavior Analysis
  • Advanced Certificate Program in ABA (for those who already have a master’s)

Professor/Faculty Name: 
     Dr. Joshua Jessel

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?

Joshua:  We have a diverse population of students. In fact the ethnic and racial diversity of the Queens College student body is almost double the national average! In addition, the students in our master’s and certificate program in ABA come from a range of those just entering the field to more experienced individuals looking to advance their careers. Most students who come to us will likely be motivated to work with individuals with autism because of the scope of restriction in our state. We are very proud of the students we graduate who go on to provide services for children with autism by consulting in schools, supervising therapists, or starting their own clinics; however, the scope of restriction in New York tends to quash diverse applications of behavior analysis by requiring licensed behavior analysts to only work with one population. This does not limit the educational and research experiences the students receive at Queens College because we are an exempt setting and we make sure students understand that the operant principles apply to everyone. In fact, Dr. Emily Jones leads research in applied behavior analytic treatment for children diagnosed with Down syndrome and I have a pigeon laboratory. Therefore, the restrictions in New York may limit the types of students looking to earn a master’s degree in behavior analysis but many of our students will leave the program with the understanding that they can do so much more if given the opportunity.

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?

Joshua:  The area of practice tends to depend on if the students are graduating from the master’s program or the certificate program. Students graduating from the master’s program will often be looking and finding jobs in private practices that provide services at a clinic, in the home, or as school consultants. Those graduating from the certificate program are likely to have a career that will be enhanced with behavior analytic teaching and the BCBA. Therefore, prospective students come to us as speech therapists/pathologists, general education teachers, special education teachers, and school psychologists. The students then continue their career now synthesizing their previous training with the newfound knowledge of behavior analytic principles.

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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?

Joshua:  What I like most about the ABA program at Queens College is how well the faculty work together to provide the best opportunities for students to experience the true generality of behavior analytic procedures. We have established a university based clinic called QC ACES. QC ACES is an amalgamation of all of the faculty members’ expertise and gives students the opportunity to see multifaceted applications of behavior analytic principles. For example, Dr. Emily Jones runs SIBS Club, a program for children with autism and their families. Children receive behavior analytic instruction while typically developing siblings receive interventions to meet their needs, all the while teaching students in best practices. I am in charge of the Child Behavioral Health Clinic where we provide intensive services for children who exhibit problem behavior such as aggression, property destruction, or tantrums. Dr. Peter Sturmey also uses his extensive knowledge in parent and therapist training to maintain the quality of treatment implementation. Lastly, Dr. Patricia D’Ateno provides her expertise in fieldwork, ensuring students receive the necessary training to hit the ground running when they graduate. In other words, all the faculty members have diverse training that brings something different to the table and they work together in a way that is mutually beneficial to all involved.

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?

Joshua: I feel as though the spread of misinformation is having a lasting impact. Behavior analysis is growing. Those in other disciplines may see our growth as a concern based on a false narrative of who we are and what we do. We are seeing that in New York at the state legislature level as we fight to remove the scope of restriction and educate others on multiple applications of the principles of behavior analysis that can be used to help individuals with and without autism. At any rate, we teach our students to embrace growth and diversity and how to critically evaluate new research using the practitioner-scientist model to ensure our behavioral technology remains cutting edge. In addition, our students are taught that this isn’t just a job. The children and families we serve deserve applied behavior analytic services as a right and we need to actively participate in the dissemination of information on best practice while collaborating with other professionals outside of our field to ensure what they understand about behavior analysis is grounded in facts.

Beyond including the VCS required for state licensure and national certification, how does the CUNY MA in ABA program help students prepare for real world practice?

Joshua:  Students are encouraged the moment they are accepted into our program to apply for one of the dozens of fellowship sites we are associated with. So from day one, students should be working as therapists in schools, clinics, and in client homes. They even have scholarship opportunities at QC ACES, our on campus center. We have built strong relationships with some of the best service providers in New York City, which allows the students to have multiple opportunities to participate in practicums, internships, and fieldwork projects. Many of our students jump on these opportunities and I believe leave feeling well prepared for the real world.

Where could ABA students find on-campus clinical placement opportunities? What about off-campus locations?

Joshua:  Opportunities on campus can be found at our QC ACES and a list of the off-campus fellowship sites can be found on our website: http://aba.qc.cuny.edu/masters-program-in-aba/

How many credits are included in the Advanced Certificate in ABA program? How quickly can this program be completed?

Joshua:  There are 27 credits included in the Advanced Certificate program. This program can be completed in 1.5 years. The Advanced Certificate program is designed for those who have received a master’s degree in a related field and have found a calling in applied behavior analysis, it is never too late to join the team. We provide the necessary coursework requirements in classes with master’s students so that they are ready to sit for the BCBA or state licensure exam.

Please feel free to add anything else you would like potential students to know about your program and that would be good for them to consider before choosing a program.

With a population over 8 million, the excitement never ends in New York City. There is an endless need for good behavior analysts in New York and the Queens College Applied Behavior Analysis master’s program is here to help provide exemplary training in research and practice.

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

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