In its continuing efforts to help meet the marketplace’s needs, Midland University is announcing Applied Behavior Analysis as a new major, beginning in the fall of 2021.
ABA uses a scientific approach to discover environmental variables that influence behavior. Procedures derived from the principles of behavior are applied systematically to improve socially significant behavior. Behavior analysts work with individuals with autism or other developmental disabilities, children with behavioral difficulties, adolescents with mental health concerns, and other areas where teaching skills or changing problem behavior is important.
Midland University is the only undergraduate program in Nebraska to offer ABA as a major. Dr. Jamie Simpson, Associate VP for Institutional Effectiveness and Dean for the College of Health Professions, said the demand for qualified individuals was a driving force behind the addition of ABA as a major. “Applied Behavior Analysis is a rapidly growing area, and we’ve heard from employers there is a need for this training in our community,” she said. “This aligns with Midland’s vision to be relentlessly relevant. This major allows students to pursue a unique academic pathway at Midland, gain exceptional hands-on experience, and be well prepared for a meaningful career upon graduation. The ABA program meets an important need in our community.”
ABA has been offered as a minor at Midland since 2007. The new major is verified by the Association for Behavioral Analysis International (ABAI), which allows Midland graduates to sit for the nationally recognized board certification exam and begin working in the field immediately upon graduation. “ABA is a specialized subfield of psychology,” Simpson said. “Creating a distinct major has allowed us to create a unique curriculum that allows students to focus on the specific skills for a career in this field.”
A partnership with the Munroe-Meyer Institute at the University of Nebraska Medical Center will continue through a practicum where Midland students will spend 24 hours per week over two semesters at the Munroe-Meyer Institute, working with Board Certified Behavior Analysts to implement behavioral programs. “During the past 14 years, we’ve had a wonderful partnership with the Munroe-Meyer Institute,” said Dr. Connie Taylor, Midland professor of psychology. “It’s been a beneficial relationship for both of us because they love having our students, and our students have gained valuable experience.”
Dr. Steve Taylor, an adjunct professor with Midland, spent nearly 20 years working as the Director of Psychology at the Glenwood Resource Center in Iowa. He believes Midland adding ABA as a major will help raise awareness about a field of study that continues to see steady growth. “There are more than 150 behavior analysts in Nebraska and more states now license behavior analysts, which means that behavior analysts are getting more recognized as a profession,” he said. “I think one of the hurdles is that people haven’t heard much about ABA. Students don’t always go through high school thinking about becoming a behavior analyst, but it’s something they might discover once they take a class in college. We want to make people more aware of what ABA is and what opportunities exist for them.”
He also sees a wide array of options in the professional world for individuals with an ABA degree. “There are school systems and government agencies in need of behavior analysts, as well as physicians and businesses,” he said.
Over the past 14 years, Midland has produced many qualified individuals in the ABA field. Connie Taylor said whether those students choose to continue their education or accept a job following graduation, they are well-prepared for their next steps. “It’s a challenging curriculum, but I know in talking with some of our students who went onto graduate school, they felt so much more prepared than many of their classmates,” she said. “Following graduation from Midland, they have to pass an examination to become a Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst, and so far, every one of our Midland students has passed that examination on their first attempt.”
She added that with the growing demand for analysts, the hope and goal is for Midland to continue to grow the program. “We hope that having this as a major will get more students interested,” Taylor said. “Our students are highly sought after, and the demand for those providers is greater than ever, especially in the rural areas.”
Through Midland’s mission of inspiring people to learn and lead in the world with purpose, Connie Taylor believes students will be even more prepared to make an impact after graduation. “Midland has a strong reputation across the country for behavior analysis,” she said. “There is such a demand for individuals who have these skills and educational background. This will be so beneficial for students.”