We recognized University of Florida as one of the Top 57 Best Schools Offering ABA Bachelor’s and BCaBA Courses, adding them to our list of top recommendations for ABA undergrads.
We were excited to hear from Jesse Dallery, PhD, a faculty member at University of Florida 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.
University of Florida Programs:
- Undergraduate and Doctoral Program In Behavior Analysis
Professor/Faculty Name: Jesse Dallery, PhD.
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?
Jesse: Our program is highly selective in that virtually every applicant we admit has: (a) several courses in behavior analysis at the undergraduate or graduate level, (b) laboratory experience in either basic or applied research, and (c) letters of reference describing exemplary performance in both of the above areas. Students who have had little or no exposure to behavior analysis in their undergraduate careers are highly encouraged to seek additional experience following graduation (we often send our own undergraduate students to one of several leading research programs around the country before considering them as graduate students), or to complete a Masters degree in behavior analysis having a strong research emphasis before applying to our program.
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?
Jesse: Since its beginning in 1970, the Behavior Analysis program has graduated more than 100 Ph.D.’s, with initial placements at Harvard Medical School, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Louisiana State University, Stanford Medical School, University of North Carolina, Walter Reed Medical Center, University of Kansas, among others. Most graduates find positions in traditional academic departments or in academic medicine. Some also find positions in clinical practice in a variety of agencies. Many graduates of the program now hold senior positions at their respective institutions, are Fellows in APA, serve on editorial boards of major journals, and have achieved national and international distinction. The Behavior Analysis Program has achieved international recognition by receiving the Award for Enduring Programmatic Contributions in Behavior Analysis from the Association for Behavior Analysis in 2002.
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?
Jesse: The behavior analysis program at UF is unique in that it combines all aspects of behavior analysis—basic, applied, and theoretical. As such, our program is not an “ABA” program. All students take seminars in each of these areas and individualize their programs primarily on the basis of their research. The faculty view research competence as the primary emphasis of training, although students acquire related skills during the course of their training through practica, research apprenticeships, and liaison work with off-campus research sites.
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?
Jesse: Marr (2017) recently discussed some of the challenges facing behavior analysis, and I’ll draw from his article. Some of these relate to ABA per se, but the perspective is more general. I’ll note how the UF program addresses each issue.
Basic versus applied behavior analysis. Marr notes that the “relative roles and positions of these two wings of the edifice of behavior analysis have been continuing sources of controversy for at least the last third of a century or so.” As noted above, our program combines all aspects of behavior analysis, and views all aspects as mutually informative and vital.
Training in behavior analysis, natural science, and quantitative analysis. Marr notes that, “quality Ph.D. programs to train academicians—basic or applied—have dwindled to a precious few—at least in the States.” We are one of the few. He also notes that many student lack quantitative skills, which are essential in any natural science (i.e., behavior analysis). The UF program was perhaps the first to offer a formal class in Quantitative Analysis to address this issue. Students in our program have also taken coursework in a variety of other disciplines here at UF, including Health Education and Behavior, Journalism, Public Health, Business, Computer Science, Aging, to name a few. Indeed, a strength of the program is the fact that it is housed at UF, which is ranked as the 8thtop public college or university in the nation.
Isolation. Marr and other have noted behavior analysis’s “self-imposed isolation from others whose interests and concerns we might better have diplomatically and collaboratively cultivated.” Within the Department of Psychology, which houses five specialty areas, behavior analysis faculty have collaborated with faculty from Behavioral and Cognitive Neuroscience, Developmental Psychology, Counseling Psychology, and Social Psychology (i.e., all areas). Outside of Psychology, faculty have collaborated with scientists from Education, Medicine, Nursing, Aging, Computer Science, Health Education and Behavior, and others. We also collaborate with scientists at a large number of academic and clinical institutions across the nation and world, which are too numerous to list here. In addition, faculty work with a variety of local clinical agencies, schools, zoos, and animal shelters.
Support. Marr notes that “The core concept of behavior analysis is contingency, and contingencies affecting our survival are embodied in such elements as job demands and opportunities, proper training, criteria for academic success, productive collaboration, and research support, among others.” We have been successful over the years in placing our students in academic posts, and in clinical agencies. The demand is present and even increasing for such positions. Although securing grant funding is challenging, as Principal Investigators Behavior Analysis Faculty have garnered over $23 million in extramural support from multiple sources (federal, state, contracts, etc) over the past 15 years. Funding opportunities exist in many areas including behavioral gerontology, substance abuse, developmental disabilities, autism, language development, behavioral safety, performance management, behavioral economics, and animal learning, husbandry, and conservation.
Can you tell us the difference between the specialization track available to UF psychology majors and the BACB VCS open to all UF students?
Jesse: The specialization track is open to full-time UF Psychology majors. The curriculum includes coursework in behavior analysis, psychology, statistics, mathematics, and biology. The specialization also allows the option to conduct a senior honors thesis. The behavior analysis coursework includes a Behavior Analysis Certification Board (BACB)-verified course sequence (VCS) that prepares students to sit for the BCaBA exam after graduation. Students who successfully complete this sequence will automatically meet the coursework requirement to qualify for the exam. In addition to this coursework, the student will have to complete a minimum of 1000 hours of supervised practical experience in behavior analysis to fully qualify for the exam. The course sequence is open to students in any major, and just consists of the course sequence.
What kind of research opportunities are offered to students enrolled in the behavior analysis graduate program?
Jesse: Research activities span a diverse range of settings, from laboratory to applied and business settings. Human laboratory research involves choice and decision making, behavioral economics, substance abuse, cigarette smoking, and other topics. Applied research includes behavioral processes (preference, response acquisition, stimulus control) in disorders of learning and behavior, contingency management to promote health behavior, functional analysis and treatment of problem behavior, performance management, behavioral safety, and school-based interventions. Students work closely with one or more of the faculty in developing a continuing research apprenticeship and routinely publish their thesis and dissertation research in major behavioral journals including the Journal of Experimental Analysis of Behavior and the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis. The consistent productivity of our students and faculty has earned our program the #1 ranking among universities and research institutions in publication frequency in behavioral journals (Shabani et al., 2004).
Check out our full interview series here to see what other professors and faculty are saying about their ABA programs.