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Letter to prospective_grad_students


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Letter to prospective_grad_students

  1. 1. Dear Prospective Grad Students, The Behavior Analysis Training System (BATS) at Western Michigan University (WMU) isone of the best MA-level behavior analysis service-provider training programs in the world. Wespecialize in training behavior analysts to work with pre-school autistic children, and thistraining readily transfers populations.Western Michigan University’s behavior analysis graduate program is one of the best behavioranalysis programs in the world and was one of the first of ten programs to be accredited by theAssociation for Behavior Analysis (ABA). Plus, WMU’s Psychology department was the firstprogram to receive the award for Enduring Programmatic Contributions in Behavior Analysisfrom the Association for Behavior Analysis.In addition, our curriculum has been pre-approved by the Behavior Analysis Certification Board(BACB), which means it’ll be easier for you to become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst(BCBA). (Malott, R. W., Vunovich, P. L., Boettcher, W., & Groeger, C. (1995). Saving the world byteaching behavior analysis: A behavioral-systems approach. The Behavior Analyst. 18, 341-356.)BATS is untraditional and probably differs from what you’re used to and might anticipate; sohere’s some info to help you decide whether BATS would be a good fit for you:BATS trains students to be autism practitioners, not researchers.  Why? Because most people end up being practitioners, rather than researchers, even if they were trained to be researchers, and even if they earn a PhD. Essentially no one with an MA degree ends up being a researcher. (Malott, R. W. (1992). Should we train applied behavior analysts to be researchers? Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis. 25, 83-88.)BATS mainly trains MA students, not PhD students.  Why? Because there is a bigger need for behavior analysts with MAs than with PhDs, and most other faculty members concentrate on training PhDs.  However, BATS does admit a new PhD student every year or so, usually from the students who have gotten their MA with me.  A fair number of my MA students do enter PhD programs, after their MA, either at WMU or elsewhere.  Incidentally, BATS admits up to 15 MA students each year.BATS MA students do an MA project rather than an MA thesis.  Why? Because the MA project is designed to help students acquire practitioner skills, whereas an MA thesis is designed to help students acquire researcher skills.
  2. 2.  Incidentally, doing a project rather than a thesis seems to neither hinder students from later entering PhD programs nor slow them down in getting their PhD degree.  Incidentally #2, BATS students almost always get their MA degree in 2 years, which is at least one year less then most other MA students get their degrees, largely because they do the MA project rather than a research thesis.  Incidentally #3, this means BATS does not provide the opportunity for either basic or applied experimental research at the MA level.Typically the MA project consists of teaching an undergrad seminar in behavior analysisfor two semesters. Sometimes the students only teach for one semester and do some other sortof project in the other semester.  Why? o Because by the time you have taught behavior analysis for a semester or two, you have really mastered the subject matter, a mastery you can’t get by merely being a student. o Because, you’ll learn our behavior-based instructional and performance- management technology. And eventually, most of you will end up managing and doing staff training as part of your job, so you will then be able to make excellent use of the training you will be receiving here.  In addition to teaching the seminars, the MA project consists of an R&D project, involving the supervision of an undergrad Psychology Honors assistant.You will start your WMU grad experience with Behavioral Boot Camp, an intense 9-weektraining program that starts in early June and ends in early August. In this seminar we cover twocourses: Psy 6100 and Psy 6710.  Why? o Because, by early August you will have a better conceptual understanding of the principles of behavior and their relation to applied behavior analysis than the majority of PhD behavior analysts in the Association for Behavior Analysis. o Because, you will be way ahead of most everyone else in the other behavior analysis courses you take during your first year in the MA program. o Because you will then be ready to teach the undergrad behavior-analysis seminars in the coming fall. o Because you will have an opportunity to bond with your BATS cohort.  We meet 3 hours/day, 5 days/week, including July 4th.  As soon as it is available, we will post on info on how to register for Psy 6100 and Psy 6710, along with their syllabi.What’s the workload? Heavy.  Most world-class professionals in any field work about 60 hours a week. And that’s what we would expect of you.  During our Behavioral Boot Camp, you will have time for nothing else.
  3. 3.  During the first year, you will have time for little else than your MA project and your courses, though you may be able to squeeze in some sort of 10-hour/week job, if one comes your way.  During the second year, you will probably have a little more breathing space, depending on the courses you take.What’s the WMU financial support? Close to zip.  Usually nothing’s available for MA students.  There might be an occasional paid opportunity to work with an autistic child in an in- home program.  Also, if you qualify for financial aid, you also qualify for a paid work-study position, and I would encourage you to apply for such a position. BATS has a lot of work you could be involved with and make a little money, at the same time.  In addition, a few of our students occasionally manage to get a grad assistantship in another department.What are the MA-training goals? BATS trains people in autism, with a sub-specialty inorganizational behavior management (OBM) and behavioral systems analysis (BSA).  BATS also encourages all the autism-specialty students to get a strong background in OBM and BSA, because, with an MA or PhD degree, you will probably be doing a lot of staff training and management, and will be involved in designing, administering, and evaluating an autism program (system) wherever you work.  Although no longer designed for students whose primary interest is OBM, BATS also encourages students interested in OBM and BSA to get a strong background in autism. o Because that’s where the jobs are, o Because our current economy is making jobs in business and industry much more scarce than a few years ago, o Because their OBM training really sets them up well to work in human services/education settings (e.g., autism) training and managing staff, o And because autism may be the area where they and behavior analysis can have the biggest impact on improving the quality of the lives of the most people.  Incidentally, BATS practica provide most of the staffing for the preschool-autism, discrete-trial classroom in our intermediate school district’s Croyden Avenue School. This is an excellent program and a wonderful autism and OBM training opportunity. And this is where you will be doing your autism practicum.  Therefore, all BATS MA students dual track with a specialty in autism and a sub- specialty in OBM/BSA. This means BATS students do a 750-hour autism practicum and a 150-hour OBM/BSA practicum. In addition, BATS students take at least one autism course and one OBM/BSA course, typically more in one of the two areas depending on your interests. And BATS students still graduate in two years, at least a year shorter than most programs.  As part of their training to be professional behavior analysts, BATS students attend all of our departmental colloquia, and the following four conferences/conventions: Mid- American Association FOR Behavior Analysis (MABA), Behavior Analysis Association
  4. 4. of Michigan (BAAM), Association for Behavior Analysis Annual and Autism Conferences.  In addition, BATS MA students must apply for the Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) exam before they graduate, so they can take that exam soon after they graduate.If you’ve already applied to the psych MA program, you might ask, Why you and Malott?  Most of you listed me as your first choice to be your advisor. So the answer’s obvious for you.  The rest of you listed me as an alternate choice or didn’t list me, but your first choices were unable to accept you. Our faculty want to make sure that as many good applicants as possible get a chance to attend WMU; so I looked at the promising applications that might be a good fit with me and BATS. And you looked like an excellent fit.  Some of you may have applied to the PhD program, though you don’t have an MA. That’s cool, but I admit students into the MA program first; and then go from there, later helping them enter a PhD program, either with me or someone else at WMU or elsewhere.  Some of you may have applied to one of our WMU Psych programs other than Behavior Analysis. That’s cool, but because they were not able to take you into that program, I wanted to give you a chance to consider the Behavior Analysis Program, as your interests seemed to be equally compatible with that program, and you should be able to get the training you’re looking for.  BATS also provides MA students with the opportunity to obtain the Temporary Limited License to Practice Psychology in the State of Michigan. This is an option for individuals wishing to stay in the state of Michigan after obtaining their degrees.If you receive an offer from WMU, in addition to replying to the Psychology departmentconcerning your acceptance of this offer, please promptly email the following info  Full name  Current/temporary address  Permanent address (e.g., parent address)  Current phone number  Permanent phone number  “Accept”, “decline”, or “still considering” the offer for admission into our MA program in Behavior Analysis.One last point: students who join BATS need to have a laptop computer with Microsoft Office,including PowerPoint.If you have questions, please feel free to contact me by email ( orphone (269-372-1268).I do hope it works out that you’ll be joining us. We’ll work hard, learn a lot, accomplish a lot,and have a great time.
  5. 5. (Might read this before you start Boot Camp) Principles of Behavior 5th ed. (formerly EPB)Sincerely,Richard W. Malott, PhD, BCBABehavior Analysis ProgramDepartment of PsychologyWestern Michigan UniversityKalamazoo, MI 49009DickMalott@DickMalott.comFax: (269) 387-4550Phone: (269) 372-1268