University of Washington Interview

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We recognized University of Washington among the 62 Best Schools with Online ABA Master’s and Certificate Programs, adding them to our list of top recommendations for ABA grad students.

We were excited to hear from Nancy Rosenberg, a faculty member at University of Washington 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 Washington Programs:

  • University of Washington Applied Behavior Analysis Program (BCBA VCS and optional Master’s in Special Education)
  • MEd in Applied Behavior Analysis
  • Doctoral Program in Special Education: Applied Behavior Analysis Option


Professor/Faculty Name: 
     Nancy Rosenberg

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?

Nancy:  We see both traditional and non-traditional students in our program.  In our on campus program, we tend to see more traditional students: students who are able to take two years out of their life to attend graduate school full time.  Most of these students have worked in clinics as behavior technicians before coming to our program. In our online program, we see students in all stages of life.  We have had many teachers in our online program, taking the program while also continuing to teach full time.  Many of the teachers want to become BCBAs; others just want to become better teachers. Other students in our online program are more traditional, coming to our program straight from an undergraduate program, having worked as a behavior technician in an ABA clinic.  The mix of students with varied experiences makes for particularly rich discussions in class.

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?

Nancy:  Both.   We have many students who go to work for private ABA agencies or clinics.  Some of our students who take the program as teachers move to a behavior analyst or behavior specialist role within their school district.  We also have students that cross over – students who previously worked in agencies that decide to work in schools and teachers or other school-based educators who decide to move to agencies after graduation.

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?

Nancy:  There are so many things I love!  The focus in our program is preparing students to work with individuals with developmental disabilities and we have a strong, continual emphasis on ensuring that quality of life for these clients is always foremost in our students’ minds as they utilize ABA to improve lives. We also want students to understand that ABA services can be helpful for people across the lifespan, not just for preschoolers with autism, and we are always working to provide more practicum opportunities and course content about working with adults with disabilities.  I always really love our focus on collaboration.  We want to make sure that our graduates are ready to work openly and collaboratively with families, schools, and other community stakeholders.

Thinking about our online program, I love it that our program is synchronous, meaning that the professor and the students all meeting together online each week for class, just as they would in an on campus program.  We try to have as much participation and interaction as possible; we believe this is the way students learn best.  I love it that the students and I can have in-depth conversations about the topics and that I can see where they are struggling or are confused about a topic and can immediately address it.  We also have a focus on building community in our online program.  We have seen how close the students in our on campus program get, going through all of their classes together, and we are constantly trying new ways to build that same sense of community in our online program.

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?

Nancy:  I think the issue of collaboration is one of the most pressing issues. Historically in my experience, behavior analysts have not been perceived as particularly collaborative. I think that has hindered the acceptance of a behavior analytic approach, particularly in schools.   Helping individuals with developmental disabilities is a complex endeavor, involving many types of expertise, and to be truly valuable, behavior analysts need to learn to work collaboratively on a team with people who may think differently than themselves. So training in collaboration is a focus of our program.

Another really pressing issue right in ABA right now is cultural responsiveness.  ABA services are now available much more broadly in our country, and that is a very good thing, but it means that each of us needs to be prepared to work with families and clients who may come from cultures very different from our own.  This is not an area where ABA has been particularly strong in the past and I think understanding what it means to deliver ABA services in a culturally responsive manner is a critical issue for our field.  We have tried to embed a focus and discussion of these issues throughout our ABA coursework.

What kind of course load and class schedule can students applying for the On Campus Master’s in Special Education—ABA program anticipate?

Nancy:  In 2020, our on campus program is becoming a two year program. Students will take three classes a quarter during those two years.  Classes meet once a week in the late afternoon, so students can expect to be on campus three afternoons a week.

Can students that participate in the online version of the Master’s in Special Education—ABA program still participate in practicum activities? If so, how does this work?

Nancy:  Yes – for students who do not have other options for obtaining their supervised experience, we offer a limited number of spots for students to obtain their supervised experience through us.  For students who are not local, supervision is done through online technologies, both online meetings and observations, supervision, and coaching through video technologies.  Local online student will receive both video and live observations.

How does the MEd—ABA degree help facilitate a smooth transition for students interested in the UW ABA doctoral program?

Nancy:  We have had a number of students from our MEd program enter our doctoral program.  We ask students interested in our ABA doctoral program to practice as a BCBA for two years before applying.  Many students in our doctoral program receive funding through supervising the practicum experience of our master’s students and thus, we want doctoral students who have sufficient experience as a BCBA before entering.

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.

Our mission statement is a good statement of what the priorities of our program are: https://education.uw.edu/programs/graduate/special-education/aba/mission-statement. We want to train technically competent BCBAs, but we also want to train BCBAs who are collaborative, culturally competent, and who will always use quality of life for individuals with disabilities and their families as their guiding principle.  We also have a strong stance of inclusion for individuals with disabilities in our program, and work to train our BCBAs in how to promote inclusion for their clients and students.


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