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Applied Behavior Analysis: New Opportunities for a Growing Field

Mary Jane Weiss, Dean of the Institute for Applied Behavioral Science
Endicott’s new Institute for Applied Behavioral Science widens the scope of opportunity for students.
With the recent popularity surge of the science of applied behavior analysis—or ABA—Endicott College’s new Institute for Applied Behavioral Science couldn’t have come at a better time.

A longtime program at Endicott, ABA originally fell under the Van Loan School before moving briefly to the School of Education, and now finally blooming into its own standalone institute. 

Mary Jane Weiss
, Dean of the Institute for Applied Behavioral Science and Director of the Ph.D. ABA program, said the creation of the institute highlights the existence of ABA within the College. “We are excited about introducing a wide variety of students to behavior analysis, so that they may see its potential relevance in the context of their own course of study. It’s a fun time with a lot of possibilities.” 

“The creation of the ABA Institute under the learned guidance of Mary Jane Weiss is a major achievement for Endicott College and its students,” said Peter Gerhardt, Executive Director of The EPIC Programs in Paramus, N.J., a faculty member and doctoral advisor in Endicott’s program. “Not surprisingly, it also represents a significant contribution to the field of applied behavior analysis both as a science and a profession.”

Originating in the 1960s, applied behavior analysis is the science of teaching and learning and, in this capacity, can be used to affect behavior change in a wide variety of environments, including marketing companies to affect buyer behavior; by teachers, athletes, musicians; organizational behavior in companies; sustainability efforts; and even animal training and conservation.

Weiss explained that ABA has always investigated all human behavior and the wide range of issues facing humanity, but has been best known for autism intervention and special education. In the past 20 years, autism intervention has grown exponentially, with all 50 states now requiring certifications to practice, and insurance companies beginning to recognize it as a treatment worth covering.

“The growth of autism intervention has, in my opinion, really highlighted ABA as a discipline and as a science,” she said. “I think we’re at a very unique moment—we have an industry now with lots of different certified and licensed professionals, and those changes have created opportunities beyond autism and special education, so we can highlight all those other threads of the discipline that have always been there.” 

That’s where the expanding curriculum of Endicott’s ABA program and the cross-disciplinary ties of the institute come into play.

Currently, Endicott offers M.S. degrees in ABA, a Ph.D. in ABA, and an ABA certificate. Graduate students choose from a variety of concentrations like autism, mental health, organizational behavior management, and childhood clinical, but there are plans to expand offerings to include addiction, sustainability, and possibly animal training. 

An undergraduate minor in ABA will relaunch in September and will be aligned with the bachelor-level credential Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst®. Weiss notes that the ABA minor coordinates with Endicott’s graduate programs, for students who wish to pursue higher-level credentialing, but also serves as an opportunity for students looking for an additional set of skills to increase their marketability. 

“One of the really nice things about the institute and about the field, in general, is that it doesn’t really replace any other expertise, it’s supplemental,” Weiss said. “It’s truly opened things up in a way that creates a lot more bridging for us with other disciplines, and increases opportunities for students and gives them additional options.”

Endicott’s ABA programs have long been a successful part of the College’s offerings. Now, Endicott is ready to build on that success in order to increase enrollment in the institute to meet the employment needs of a growing field. 

“Our unique model includes affiliate faculty in our doctoral program which has allowed us to create a program with experts at the top of their field. We also are a primarily online program, so we have a lot more reach in terms of faculty who can influence and advise our students.”

Nicholas Orland, Ph.D.’21, said the program opened doors for him, and he is now an adjunct professor and senior clinical leader at one of the largest special needs centers in the Middle East. 

“At Endicott, I learned how to be a researcher, a teacher, and a more astute behavior analyst,” he said. “But more importantly, I learned to be a more compassionate and humbler leader through the mentorship of some of the finest behavior analysts in the field.”

Learn more about the Institute for Applied Behavioral Science