May 25, 2019  

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Applied Behavior Analysis Program Reaches Milestones

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The Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) master’s degree program at The University of Southern Mississippi is marking a variety of accomplishments, just two years after it was established.

Housed in the USM Department of Psychology, the ABA graduate program provides students with the knowledge and skills necessary to become Board Certified Behavior Analysts and deliver services for individuals diagnosed with autism and other disabilities. Graduates of the program may also pursue doctoral education in psychology, behavior analysis, or other related fields.

It offers a curriculum approved by the Behavior Analysis Certification Board (BACB) that meets the educational requirements to sit for the BACB exam. The program graduated its first cohort this year, with a total of nine students completing its requirements.

"This first cohort set a high bar,” said Dr. James Moore, director of the program. “We've had 100 percent job placement, including positions at the Early Learners Institute at Michigan State University, Canopy Children's Solutions, Pine Belt Mental Healthcare Resources, Will's Way Behavioral Psychology, the Learning Tree, and Boswell Regional Center. Two others were accepted into the Ph.D. program in School Psychology here at Southern Miss.”

ABA students have also had research papers accepted in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis and Behavior Analysis: Research and Practice, and the program logged more than 6,000 clinical hours in the spring 2017 semester, a 64 percent increase from the same time last year.

“Members of this group published research articles, book chapters, and presented at top state, regional, and international conferences,” Moore said. “To see such success so early in the life of a program is a testament to the quality of students who apply and enroll in this course of study."

Michaela Harper of Clinton, Miss. is currently completing her second year in the ABA program. Her career goal is to become a board certified behavior analyst and serve children and families of children with disabilities by providing direct and indirect services grounded in behavioral principles to help children reach their full potential.

“The ABA provides me and my peers a quality education and opportunities for hands-on experiences, equipping us with the tools to provide help and hope to so many families throughout the state of Mississippi," Harper said.

Crystal Toche of Taylorsville, Miss., an alumnus of the program who now works at Boswell Regional Center, said within the first year the cohort experienced a variety of clinical settings to work and with varying different populations to work with.

“The success of the program is not only due to its students, but also its mentors. They've worked tirelessly to secure clinical/practicum placement,” Toche said. “I've spoken with colleagues who attended other schools in ABA, and they were not as prepared for the licensing exam as I was, or have the breadth of experiences I’ve had. That’s a source of pride for me and everyone involved with the program.”

For more information about the ABA Program at Southern Miss, visit