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Psychology recognized for behavior analysis program

Published on February 15, 2024

Psychology recognized for behavior analysis program

Professor Krebs teaching
Professor Chris Krebs teaching a psychology class

A new recognition for the behavior analysis concentration in Eastern Connecticut State University’s Psychology Department is “a real mark of distinction for the University” and will attract incoming students to the program, said James Diller, professor and department head.

Eastern is the first university to receive the recognition, Tier 2b for bachelor’s and undergraduate programs, from the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI). Programs at other universities are currently under ABAI review for Tier 2b.

The ABAI reviewing committee agreed that Eastern’s program “has a history of producing graduates who are well qualified for graduate-level training and has strong faculty who offer good behavior analysis training at the undergraduate level.” The ABAI's Tier 2b recognition is intended to “convey information about a training program’s comprehensiveness, rigor, quality and transparency,” according to the association.

Students in the concentration often go on to master’s programs, Diller said. “We give them a strong foundation in scientific psychology, along with key skills. The (ABAI) reviewers were impressed with the work we have done helping our students make professional presentations and publishing in scholarly journals, too.”

Among the alumni of the concentration are Megan Ryan ’22, who works at the Kennedy Krieger Institute for neurodevelopmental disabilities as she completes her master’s degree at the University of Maryland; Christina Hayes ’22, who works for West Hartford public schools while studying for a master’s degree at the University of Saint Joseph; and Zané Chase ’22, working at the Fred S. Keller School in New York while completing a master’s degree at Teacher’s College, Columbia University.

The courses in the concentration are primarily taught by Diller and Christopher Krebs, assistant professor. Because they both trained as behavioral pharmacologists, they can offer a specialized course in that subject, something you do not see at most undergraduate institutions, Diller said. Krebs added, “It’s the quality of the program they’re evaluating, not just the classwork.”

The behavior analysis concentration currently has about 15 to 20 students and around 50 to 60 alumni. Students with behavior analysis training often work in education settings, at clinics or with school districts. Trained graduates are in high demand as a growing number of people with autism spectrum disorders require behavioral services.

Eastern’s recognition stops short of full accreditation. The missing component, the ABAI said, is experiential learning. Diller said it would be difficult to add to the 60-credit concentration to provide the 45-hours of supervised, on-site experience that this would require.

Students who complete supervised experience hours, usually with an employer, and take an exam can become board-certified assistant behavior analysts. 

Working toward ABAI recognition started last summer and was “quite a process,” Diller said, including virtual site visits with the review committee and meetings with faculty, the dean, the provost, students and alumni. Eastern submitted its letter of intent in September 2022, shortly after the recognition program was established.

The recognition “reflects well on the work of all of my departmental colleagues,” said Diller.

Written by Lucinda Weiss