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Reflecting on MSP’s First ABA Graduates

Ruth Anan, PhD, BCBA-D was instrumental in initiating and developing the Certificate in Applied Behavior Analysis that began fall semester 2017 at MSP. Now, two years later, Dr. Anan reflects on the success of the program so far as we graduate our first MSP class of ABA graduates.

Group photo of students in front of MSP building.

July 25th marked the 37th graduation ceremony held by the Michigan School of Psychology. But it was the first commencement to include students meeting the educational qualifications to sit for the examination to become Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs). Twelve MSP students completed a rigorous course sequence in applied behavior analysis (ABA). These classes, totaling 21 credit hours, have been designated by the Association for Behavior Analysis International as a verified course sequence covering the content of the Behavior Analysis Certification Board®’s most updated, 5th edition task list.

In the fall of 2017, the students in MSP’s first ABA cohort excitedly embarked on their adventure. As their professor for the first three of their six ABA classes, I delighted in getting to know each of the dozen students. While some had previous experience working in ABA clinics, for others the field of behavior analysis was brand new.

After getting some coursework under their belts, students began to accrue experience hours in various agencies. Many students worked in outpatient ABA clinics with individuals with autism spectrum disorders. Others served in public schools, working with children and adolescents with a variety of developmental, emotional and behavioral challenges. One student worked in an inpatient psychiatric hospital under a BCBA tasked with using behavior analysis to decrease the need for mechanical restraint and sedative medication. Still others students provided behavioral treatment in settings serving patients with traumatic brain injuries.  Many students were paid while they accrued their experience hours in ABA.

Beth Pollatz, a BCBA employed at Hawthorne Center, joined MSP as an adjunct faculty member in the fall of 2018. She taught the second half of the ABA coursework, refining students’ skills and knowledge and preparing them to enter the profession of behavior analysis.  The first ABA cohort gave Beth rave reviews!

This cohort still has one remaining hurdle to cross. They must pass a rigorous, international examination required to become BCBAs. This exam is also required for the new licensure as behavior analysts in Michigan.

The BCBA credential opens up a plethora of job opportunities for MSP graduates. According to the Behavior Analyst Certification Board, the demand for BCBAs in the US has increased approximately 800% between 2010 and 2017. In the Detroit area, the average starting salary for BCBAs ranges from $52,000 to $68,000 and experienced BCBAs command salaries of $86,000. There are numerous BCBA job opportunities in many states as well as in other countries.

As I watched MSP’s first cohort of ABA students walk across the stage at commencement, I couldn’t have been prouder of all the hard work and effort they put forth over the last two years. I was particularly delighted to see one ABA student, Tamika Davis-Moore, win the Marjorie Scott Scholarship for Excellence.

MSP’s first cohort of ABA students have already accrued a total of more than 10,000 experience hours working with a variety of populations. I feel a bit like a proud parent launching offspring into the word where they will help numerous vulnerable individuals obtain socially significant goals and gain greater independence. 

I bestow my hardiest congratulations to MSP’s first cohort of ABA students: (ABA Certificate Only) Evy Murray, Marzena Rossner, Cheyenne Turner-Hadzlett, Katherine Williams, (MA with ABA Concentration) Sarah Clemens, Tamika Davis-Moore, Holly Doerr, Stacey Pallis, Kristofer Picano, Cherie Tocco, Robert Wilson, and Fatamatuz Zohura. I wish you all the very best in your future careers as behavior analysts!

Ruth Anan, PhDRuth Anan, PhD, BCBA-D, is the Director of Applied Behavior Analysis Program at MSP.