Masters program approved


Jose VegaContributor

For several years, a new master’s program in applied behavior analysis has been underway. Now that it has been approved by the Board of Regents at the university will being starting fall 2021.

Department of Special Education Meghan Brahm said the ABA coursework will help to prepare students to work in all the different fields that will require the skills learned throughout the program.

“Area of focus or expertise can be tailored based on the student’s clinical experience,” said Brahm. “You will regularly find behavior analysts working in fields such as sports/health and fitness, prevention and intervention in child maltreatment, behavioral gerontology, organizational behavior management, sustainability, substance abuse disorders, brain injury rehab, animal behavior, et cetera.”

College of Education Dean Stephen Hegedus was one of two who presented the program to the BOR, noting that there is a great need for Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) licensed personnel and consultants in Connecticut and across the United States.

The program’s mission is to prepare students to use the applied skills learned in the educational and/or therapeutic environments with individuals that may or may not have disabilities. It will also prepare them to pass the BCBA exam and apply to become a licensed Behavior Analyst in the State of Connecticut.

The field of behavior analysts has grown considerably in popularity. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were only 400 certified professionals in 2000, 10,000 in 2012, and 40,000 in 2020.

Bilingual elementary education major Alexis Woods, an undergraduate, said at first glance, the program seems to have a lot of versatility and gives the chance to work towards helping students understand the world around them.

“I think it’s important we think of ways to increase their knowledge and understanding,” said Woods. “This new program will be a great way to benefit those who are special education majors, psychologists, etc. to further enhance their knowledge and provide better improved students experiences in and out of school.”

The approved program will align with the university’s mission of serving the public good and creating professionals who can affect change in their communities and help different institutions reach their goals.

According to the Board of Regents agenda, “Southern’s commitment to liberal arts and professional disciplines means an applied science of learning, used to support a variety of individuals, is an excellent fit.”

Elementary education major Olivia Zembruski, junior, expressed her interest in the program, saying it will help her and others like her better understand the behaviors of children who might be facing mental and physical obstacles with their education.

“I want to work with critically ill children in a hospital education setting,” said Zembruski. “I can see that doing my Master’s in that would help me understand and be able to help a lot of the social/emotional pieces of long stays in the hospital, as well as help the children adjust to life outside those walls.”

Brahm said with interest primarily being shown by private companies, she is enthusiastic about spreading the news of a new masters program and said they are in the process of expanding into undergraduate studies in the future.

“We hope to start talking to students as SCSU about the MS opportunity,” said Brahm. “We are also in the process of creating an undergraduate ABA option for students at SCSU and hope that will be available within the next few school years.”

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