University of The Pacific Interview

We recognized University of the Pacific for offering one of the 23 Best Master’s in Psychology Degrees with an ABA Track, adding them to our list of top recommendations for psychology grad students.

We were excited to hear from Carolynn Kohn, PhD, BCBA-D, a faculty member at University of the Pacific 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 the Pacific Programs:

  • Master’s in Behavioral Psychology – with specialization in Behavior Analysis

Professor/Faculty Name: 
     Carolynn Kohn, PhD, BCBA-D

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?

Carolynn:  The structure of our program tends to draw applications from traditional students from all across the country. Our program is a brick-and-mortar, full-time 2 to 2.5 year program with a required empirical thesis. In addition to coursework and thesis research,
we also provide paid supervised clinical experience which meets the current requirements for the BACB’s intensive practicum and will meet the requirements for Concentrated Fieldwork under the new supervision standards required beginning in Jan 2020. Occasionally we have nontraditional students who are changing careers apply to our program and if our program is a good fit we absolutely consider their applications.

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?

Carolynn:  We see graduates from our program going into a number of different areas. Many have joined private practices and agencies, some have started their own practices and agencies, others have gone on to work in public and private school districts, and others have gone on to somewhat unique positions, such as working as research associates at prominent research universities and head of operations at tech start-up companies. Our program also has a doctoral preparation focus, and several of our graduates have been accepted into doctoral programs in behavior analysis, school psychology, or clinical psychology.

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?

Carolynn:  An especially unique aspect of our program is the financial package we are able to offer. Over the past 15 years we have been able to provide all of our students with 75-100% tuition coverage in addition to the salaried stipend they receive for their supervised clinical work.

We also are quite excited that in our program we have the freedom to focus on the science of behavior analysis and the application of behavioral principles to a wide range of human behaviors. Our academic coursework and research experience give students the opportunity to learn about the philosophical underpinnings of our science, and the application of our science to a wide range of world problems and populations. Several of our students have had their thesis research presented at regional and national conferences and published in peer-reviewed journals such as Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, Behavioral Interventions, Behavior Analysis: Research and Practice, PLOS ONE, and Frontiers in Psychology.

Our supervised clinical work gives students the opportunity to apply behavioral principles to many different types of behaviors in a wide variety of populations, including typically developing children, children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders and/or developmental delays, and adults diagnosed with chronic mental illness.

Our program is somewhat unique among Master’s programs because of its small size and mentorship model. Each faculty member accepts one or two students each year and in total, we accept five to eight students per year. Most classes are small, typically ranging in size from five to fifteen students. Faculty work closely with their students throughout their time in our program providing advising, mentorship, and thesis research supervision. As mentioned earlier, all students in clinical placements are supervised in-house and all faculty are directly involved with the supervision of clinical work. Perhaps because of this model, we have a very high pass rate on the BACB exam and to date, all students who have applied to doctoral programs have been accepted.

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?

Carolynn: There are several pressing issues in ABA today. First, as licensure continues to expand in the U.S., BCBAs will be able to broaden the scope of their practice to include working with typically developing children and adults and broaden the settings in which they practice (e.g., primary care, behavioral health). Our program’s broad focus on the theoretical underpinnings of behavior analysis and application of behavioral principles to a wide range of populations and problems helps address this issue. Second, as behavior analysis expands, BCBAs are being asked to work more closely with a broad spectrum of other professionals, paraprofessionals, and laypeople, all of whom are working with the same individual. Our academic and clinical training focuses on helping students become consummate professionals, able to effectively communicate and collaborate with a wide audience (e.g., teachers, case managers, physicians, parents) with regard to treating their clients.

How many credits comprise the BACB® Verified Course Sequence featured in the MA in Psychology—ABA Specialization track?

Carolynn:  All students are required to complete 30 semester units in our program comprised of six 4-unit courses (24 units), 4 units of thesis (2 units per semester), and two supervision/supervisory skills courses (1 unit each).

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Does the MA—ABA program offer clinical experiences that will help students qualify for BCAB certification? If so, what are some examples of locations and types of experiences past students have had?

Carolynn:  Yes, we offer clinical experiences that will help students qualify for BACB® certification. One of the aspects of our program of which we are most proud is that all of our clinical experiences are supervised in-house. We have a group of Master’s level BCBAs, a Master’s level BCBA clinical director, and three faculty with BCBA-Ds, all of whom are involved in the supervision of our graduate students who work our contracted settings.

Our current contracted sites include public schools, non-public education agencies, group homes for children with severe problem behavior, outpatient treatment for adults diagnosed with chronic mental illness, and regional center funded cases where the clients’ problem behaviors are interfering with the on-going treatment.

Which regional and national conferences have past ABA students had opportunities to present research at?

Carolynn:  ABAI, CalABA, BABAT, CNC (CSU Sacramento)

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

The Psychology department offers a program of graduate study leading to the M.A. degree in Psychology with a specialization in Behavior Analysis. The program has two primary goals:

(1) Applied Behavior Analysis (BACB® Verified course sequence and practica):  Students interested in sitting for the BACB® certification exam and practicing as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst at the master’s level or applying to a doctoral program in Behavior Analysis. 

(2) Doctoral Preparation:  Students interested in significantly improving their chances of being accepted into a doctoral program at other institutions in behavior analysis or behavioral clinical/counseling psychology.

Pacific’s Psychology program provides graduate students with extensive experience in:

  • Behavioral assessment
  • Behavioral interventions
  • Research design and evaluation
  • Theoretical and applied coursework

All students complete an empirical thesis and at least a one-year research apprenticeship.

Faculty.  Graduate students in the Psychology program benefit from close relationships with passionate professors dedicated to students’ professional development. Our faculty members have been recognized for their teaching and research excellence and expertise in behavior analysis and behavioral psychology.  Faculty research in behavior analysis currently includes: physical activity and health coaching (Dr. Matthew Normand), honesty and problematic speech (Dr. Corey Stocco), and college student drinking and methodological replications (Dr. Carolynn Kohn).

Tuition and Stipend Assistantships

In a typical year, all Psychology graduate students receive a substantial amount of financial aid that includes 75-100% of tuition costs and supervised hourly clinical work.

  • Students take 7-8 units per semester of coursework.
  • Salaried clinical work pays approximately $13,000 per year.
  • In the past 15 years, 100% of our graduate students received tuition coverage and a stipend.

To learn more about our program, please follow the links below:

To learn more about individual faculty members, follow the links below:

Matthew Normand:

Corey Stocco:

Carolynn Kohn:

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

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