Current Job Title:
Salve Regina University
Describe your current job:
I am an Assistant Professor at Salve Regina University, a private liberal-arts school in Rhode Island. At SRU, I teach graduate courses in the Applied Behavior Analysis program within the Department of Psychology. In addition to teaching courses, I get to supervise practicum experiences and applied research. The research and clinical work that I am primarily interested in is the assessment and treatment of challenging behaviors.
What is the most rewarding and the most challenging part of your job?
The most rewarding aspect of my role as Assistant Professor is that I get to introduce students to the science of behavior analysis and teach them to wield that knowledge to positively impact society. Many of the students I teach work with children and youth with autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disabilities. By learning to effectively use the science of behavior analysis, students can significantly impact the lives of the clients they work with. The most challenging and exciting part of my job is finding and improving opportunities for the students to apply the information they learn in the classroom to clinical settings. While didactic instruction is crucial throughout education, I believe the immediate and ongoing application of that information in clinical settings is the most valuable experience a student can get.
What activities, resources, or people helped you prepare for your career?
While at WMU, I thought the faculty and staff in the Department of Psychology were all incredibly helpful and generous with their time. This was especially so with Dr. Stephanie Peterson who I met and began working with as an undergraduate when I took a research methods class with her. During that class, Dr. Peterson taught me to think critically about treatment/interventions used with populations that I was interested in and excited me about the possibilities of applied behavior analysis. Because of that class, I sought out other opportunities to work with Dr. Peterson like volunteering to assist on research being conducted by her graduate students and joining a practicum she supervised. After I graduated with my bachelors, Dr. Peterson continued to stick by me and provide mentorship which eventually led me to apply and join the master’s and Ph.D. programs in behavior analysis under her tutelage. While working with Dr. Peterson throughout my education the activity I found to be most beneficial was one of her practicums, Psychological Assessment and Treatment Services (PATS). PATS is a partnership between WMU and the Kalamazoo Community Mental Health program that allows students who are interested in psychology/behavior analysis to learn to provide high quality services to youth and adults with developmental disabilities and/or mental illnesses who engage in challenging behaviors. Through participating in that practicum my love of behavior analysis was solidified and my desire to help teach others was born.
What advice do you have for others pursuing a career similar to yours?
First off, if you are interested in being a behavior analyst, congratulations, because the hardest part is already over. You are currently enrolled at the best university you could possibly be for learning behavior analysis. Western’s behavior analysis program is widely regarded as being the premier training center for behavior analysts. You will be taught by renowned professors, you will have an opportunity to assist in cutting-edge research, and you will have opportunities to connect to leaders in the field through alumni and faculty connections. The only thing you have to do is apply yourself. Take the vulnerable step to ask professors to help them on their projects. Make the sacrifices necessary to clear enough time to participate meaningfully when you do get opportunities. And finally, stay connected to the professors and graduate students you work with.