We recognized University of Central Missouri as one of the Top 57 Schools Offering Programs that Include the BACB VCS for BCaBA Certification, adding them to our list of top recommendations for students in the area. UCM also offers an ABAI-accredited MS in Behavior Analysis and Therapy that comes highly recommended for graduate students looking for a program that includes the BACB VCS required for BCBA certification.
We were excited to hear from Dr. Duane A. Lundervold, BCBA-D, LPC, coordinator of the University of Central Missouri ABA program, 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.
Programs: UCM Certificate in ABA (BACB VCS for BCaBA Certification); MS in Behavior Analysis and Therapy
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?
Duane: We have a mixture of traditional and non-traditional students being accepted to the program. At this point it is an equal distribution. We are also accepting more professional educators as well as students who want a solid foundation in behavior analysis and whose goal is to be accepted in a clinical psychology program. My sense is that the professional educators want to be more effective in the classroom and school environment.
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?
Duane: Because we have not had as many professional educators in the program, students completing the MS-BAT program accept positions in private practice settings. Since public primary and secondary educational settings typically require a teaching certificate to be employed in that setting, I am hopeful that the professional educators completing the MS-BAT program return to those public education settings and work as licensed and board certified behavior analysts. It would great for all parties concerned.
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?
Duane: I am proud to be a part of a diverse, highly skilled and dedicated PhD-level behavior analyst faculty. Each of the faculty member has a wealth of experience and is both a practitioner and scientist and provides behavior analytic services in different areas of application. Besides offering traditional behavior analytic courses, we also provide student with course work in Behavior Therapy and Behavioral Medicine which is quite unique. These courses broaden students view and skills.
While we are an online program, our mission and goal is to provide high quality, affordable education. To this end, we employ a synchronous online distance learning model. We have instructors in our distance education classroom with whom the students can see and interact in real time.
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?
Duane: From my view, there are three areas that need to continue to be addressed: broadening the scope of behavior analysis, ensuring that students are trained and committed to the philosophy of a science of behavior, and the interaction between quality education, ethical behavior and quality services.
Behavior analysis must continue to strive to define itself as a culture of caring. The current contingencies of reimbursement are driving the training of applied behavior analysts to work in the area of autism spectrum disorders. While this is a wonderful thing for all parties concerned, to some extent ABA has been defined as or gained stimulus equivalence with autism. Behavior analysis has much broader application. For example, I have students with criminal justice education whose goal is to bring ABA to criminal justice settings. This is great!
With respect to the philosophy of science of behavior, ABAI/BACB has taken steps to address this challenge through the revision of its current Task and Knowledge list, though those content changes won’t be in place until 2022. However, programs like ours immerse students in the philosophy of science of behavior throughout the curriculum; it is not just one course.
The relationship between quality training, ethical behavior, and the delivery of high quality behavior analytic services is complex. Well trained behavior analysts acquire skills in the classroom and hone them in practice settings. But once graduating and becoming independent behavioral healthcare providers, the contingencies change. We know a lot about verbal behavior, especially rule-governed behavior. Much, if not all of ethical behavior is rule-governed. When professional service delivery action comes in contact with powerful financial contingencies, the quality and purpose of behavior analytic services is in peril. Continuing education in ethical and professional behavior is useful, but higher order more complex issues need to be addressed. But it boils down to values; how you as a behavior analyst want to be in the world. Are your actions guided by your values?
Are instructors for the online MS in Psychology-Behavior Analysis and Therapy (BAT) program BCBAs? What other ABA experience backgrounds do they have?
Duane: We have licensed and board certified (BCBA-D and BCBA) instructors in the MS-BAT program who are also licensed psychologists, school psychologists, neuropsychologists, and professional counselors. Each has experience working with individuals with developmental disabilities, in addition to expertise in other areas such as child abuse and neglect, older adults, clinical behavior analysis, e.g. major depression, and behavioral medicine.
Could you tell us a little about the thesis and/or research project MS-BAT students are required to complete – how are these different options well suited for different career paths?
Duane: We prepare practitioner-scholars who are well versed in the scientific literature and its application. Students are required to develop a research proposal and a self-management project as part of their course work. They must also prepare and present a controlled case study using an evaluation design or a research design that demonstrates functional relation as part of the practicum requirement.
While a thesis or research project is not required, some students who wish to pursue a PhD develop a formal research project including a prospectus. They then go on to conduct the independent research.
What are the basic admission requirements for the Master of Science in Behavior Analysis and Therapy program? Is there a coursework-only option?
Duane: We accept students who have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.00 or better and have had a minimum of one undergraduate course in learning, behavior analysis or applied behavior analysis with a grade of B or better.
Applicants with a master’s degree in education, psychology, or education and have a GPA of 3.00 or greater can enroll in MS-BAT graduate courses. At this time, approximately 18 credit hours of course work is needed to meet the ABAI/BACB education requirements to become a licensed and board certified behavior analyst.
Check out our full interview series here to see what other professors and faculty are saying about their ABA programs.