University of Nevada—Reno Interview

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We recognized University of Nevada—Reno among the best schools for ABA undergrads and graduate students, giving them a spot on several lists of our most highly recommended programs:

We were excited to hear from W. Larry Williams Ph.D., BCBA-D, LBA(NV), a faculty member at University of Nevada—Reno 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 Nevada—Reno Department of Psychology, College of Science Programs:

  • BA in Psychology – Behavior Analysis
  • MA in Psychology, Behavior Analysis Specialization
  • Ph.D. in Psychology, Behavior Analysis

Professor/Faculty Name: 
W. Larry Williams Ph.D., BCBA-D, LBA(NV)

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?

Larry:  We have a large spectrum of students. Masters Clinical ABA types seeking the BCBA, Doctoral level Clinical students seeking BCBA_D status, to start or join service type organizations and perhaps an equal or larger number of students seeking the PhD for academic and research jobs at both the theoretical and basic research levels. Our satellite programs also train all of these types of interest at the masters level world wide.

We have seen clinically interested MA students switch to Ph.D. theoretical interests, and many more basically and theoretically trained students working in applied settings after graduation. Faculty’s expertise in the areas cultural behavior analysis and organizational leadership have attracted an increasing number of (national and international) doctoral students. Some students with very little undergraduate training in BA have become educational and clinical service leaders.

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?

Larry:  Both but more in private practice (at least locally) who also often work in the school system. Several are seeking Gerontology or Acquired Brain Injury services but these are MIA in our state. Some have started significant educational services for regular school kids. A significant number of our students with interests in behavioral systems analysis, basic and theoretical areas of behavior analysis are working in medical settings, global energy companies, and academia.

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?

Larry:  Significant training in Theoretical, Basic and Applied Behavior Analysis. Our graduates all have experience in how to run a behavioral service business( be it clinical, educational, or business OBM).Our Masters graduates are all working successfully or are applying to Ph.D. programs including ours and our Ph.D. graduates are ready for anything, and currently are found in many National leadership positions in the field.

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?

Larry:

  • The pros and cons of the rise in the Autism App, and the threat of a possible decline in basic and theoretical academic interests.
  • The need for more Ph.D. programs and systemic funding for behavioral research.
  • The growing “legalization” of ABA (largely related to autism) and the very real challenges of legislative/ business vs educational/clinical influences on decision-making.
  • The lack of a tangible/politically significant Behavior Analysis of the performances and outcomes that will be necessary to address “Green” behavior before its too late or at least to stop total annihilation of the planet.
  • The need for gerontological training and major Behavioral services for the elderly Now.
  • The need for interdisciplinary collaborations with other scientific groups.

Our Lab groups all promote both “Heady” discussion and realistic problem solving.

How do satellite behavior analysis programs deliver educational instruction to locations off-campus?

Larry:  Most often through in person live instruction and hands on training. This general approach also takes advantage of technology to “teach” different people in different places and at the same time. The programs have also been a rich opportunity for our own students for developing effective materials, procedures, and teaching skills in general.

The behavior analysis program is largely funded through self-capitalization efforts. How does this funding model motivate faculty to advocate for students?

Larry:  Actually, we are no longer a self-capitalized funded program (All of our Faculty are fully university salaried for over 10 years now). However having entrepreneurial roots has resulted in many creative ways to fund graduate students. Essentially, all of our students have funding opportunities, most of which are ABA related training. There are also ample opportunities for teaching assistantships and scholarships, etc.

Does the school’s Behavioral Education and Consultation Services (BECS) facility play a role in ABA training?

Larry:  Yes, to date it has been a major applied training resource in clinical ABA as well as health services related OBM training. We have a varied clientele and different general service delivery settings/protocols (e.g., home, school, hospital/clinic) We have also been able to conduct human operant research and clinical work on conditional discrimination issues.

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.

  • Decide if your interest is in “just helping” the clientele of Behavior Programs, or the effectiveness and efficiency of the programs.
  • Make yourself aware of the recent advances in theory and demonstrations in basic and applied Behavior Analysis, and get interested in fully researching the newer methods, protocols, and explanations as they will define the future scientific basis of our Field. It is important to acquire the skills needed to work with other scientific disciplines.
  • The graduate program at UNR is expanding the applied and basic training to promote dissemination of behavior analysis through interdisciplinary collaborations with biology, medical education, education, and engineering.

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