University of Northern Colorado Interview

We recognized University of Northern Colorado among the 62 Best Schools with Online ABA Master’s and Certificate Programs, and for offering one of the 32 Best Master’s in Education Programs with an ABA Emphasis.

We were excited to hear from Michelle Athanasiou & Tracy Mueller, faculty members at University of Northern Colorado 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 Northern Colorado Programs:

  • Applied Behavior Analysis Graduate Certificate
  • MA Intervention Specialist (Behavior Emphasis)
  • Ed.S. School Psychology (ABA Emphasis)
  • ABA coursework can also be completed as elective courses in the Ph.D. programs in school psychology and special education

Professor/Faculty Name:     Michelle Athanasiou & Tracy Mueller

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?

We designed our program as a collaborative effort between the Department of School Psychology and the School of Special Education. The majority of our students, therefore, are currently studying school psychology and special education (e.g., MA Intervention Specialist). In addition, we offer an Applied Behavior Analysis graduate certificate. Students pursuing the certificate tend to be non-traditional students who are adding an ABA credential to their current licenses/certifications.

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?

I would say there is a relatively equal number of program graduates who work in local school districts and agencies that provide behavior analytic services.

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?

We have a series of very well-done online classes that include a large amount of instructor contact with students, a variety of learning activities, and appropriate rigor. We have recently received a 5-year Federal grant that allows us to infuse cultural/linguistic diversity content into our course sequence.

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?

Pressing issues include providing ABA services in a culturally responsive manner, applications of ABA in inclusive settings and services with autism (medical coverage). Our grant allows us to train students in cultural issues as they apply to ABA services, and we are including related content in our coursework. We also currently cover inclusion and autism services in our applications course.

The Special Education MA—Intervention Specialist: ABA Emphasis program is an online program. How does this format facilitate accelerated coursework delivery?

Our program consists of a series of 8-week online courses, which allows ABA graduate certificate students who begin the course sequence in a fall semester to complete the coursework in 4 semesters (fall, spring, summer, fall). Our goal is not to offer the program that can be completed quickly as much as it is to ensure quality education that results in students feeling prepared for and passing the BCBA exam.

Does the MA—ABA program offer students any preparation tools for the BCBA examination?

Yes, our program requires use of the Behavior Development Solutions CBA Learning Module Series, which students later use to study for the exam. Our pass rate for the BCBA exam is currently 100%.

Can the ABA Graduate Certificate be combined with degree programs offered at UNC? If so, which ones?

Yes, as stated, this program can be added to both the Ph.D. and Ed.S. programs in school psychology, as well as the Ph.D. program in special education. The Master’s Intervention Specialist program has the ABA coursework built in to the program.

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

The program is taught by highly qualified and experienced instructors, most of whom are tenured or tenure-track faculty. Students and instructors have a great deal of contact during coursework, even though it is online. Our emphasis on cultural/linguistic diversity sets us apart from other programs. Finally, although we do cover ABA applications to students with autism, we take a broad view of ABA, including its uses in fields such as mental health, geriatrics, and industry.


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