University Series 004 | Western Michigan University, Part 1

Join Operant Innovations for Part 1 of their interview with Western Michigan University. This week we will be speaking with Dr. Stephanie Peterson about the On-Campus Behavior Analysis Program.

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Dr. Stephanie Peterson -

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WMU Department of Psychology -


Shauna Costello (00:01):

You're listening to operant innovations, a podcast from ABA technologies. We are so lucky to have had the opportunity to speak with some wonderful programs. And over the next few weeks, we will be highlighting Western Michigan university. I had the opportunity to speak not only with their on-campus behavior analysis program, but also their hybrid program, their IOBM program and their clinical behavior program. This week, we'll be hearing from Dr. Stephanie Peterson, as she elaborates on the on-campus behavior analysis program. Dr. Peterson is both a professor and the chair of the psychology department at WMU. She earned her doctorate in special education at the university of Iowa in 1994. And her primary research interests are choice-making, functional communication training, reinforcement based interventions for children with problem behavior, and concurrent schedules of reinforcement and the treatment of severe problem behavior, and in functional analysis of problem behavior. She also has interests in applications of behavior analysis to educational interventions and teacher training. We are here with dr. Stephanie Peterson, the department chair at Western Michigan university. Thank you, Stephanie, for meeting with me.

Dr. Stephanie Peterson (01:18):

Sure, no problem, I'm glad to do it.

Shauna Costello (01:21):

And we have a very nice plethora of faculty members that we will be talking to at Western Michigan university. Um, but with you, I wanted to talk to you more about the on-campus behavior analysis program and the experiences that students can get. What is the overview of the behavior analysis program at Western Michigan?

Dr. Stephanie Peterson (01:48):

Sure. So, uh, we teach behavior analysis at pretty much every level at Western. Um, we have two undergraduate majors, one, we call general psychology and one, we called behavioral science and the both of them really prepare students to go into graduate programs. Um, however, when people come through our general psychology program, we tend to think of those as people who are going to go into graduate programs may be related to other disciplines like, uh, social work or other healthcare, um, areas. Mostly the behavioral science program is really geared for people who want to go into graduate programs of psychology at a later time. And, um, so while both of them sort of have a behavior analytic orientation, the behavioral science one is definitely heavier in behavior analytic orientation, and it requires an additional research methods class that really covers both single subject and group designs. And then there's some extra, um, practicum or research assistantship that's required for that major. Um, there's also a professional development course that's required for that major, where we help students get their resume and together and think about applying to grad school and all the steps that they have to take to be ready for that. So that's the undergraduate programs. And then at the graduate level, in behavior analysis specifically, we have a master's program and we have a PhD program. The master's program is either a thesis or project options.

Dr. Stephanie Peterson (03:34):

So some of our students decide to do the non thesis option. They do a project and those tend to be our terminal master's students who think they want to get their board certification and go out and practice in the area of autism is typically what they're going to do, although some people do other things. And then there's the thesis option for people who are thinking they would like to continue their graduate studies either here or somewhere else. And, um, and then they might come into our PhD program. We also accept people from other master's programs into our PhD program. And, um, you know, it's your typical doctoral training program with all the courses and dissertation and so forth.

Shauna Costello (04:18):

Awesome, and I know that from my experience from Western, um, I know that I've told you this, but I fell into it and I didn't really, I just kind of assumed that it was like any other psychology program, uh, when I was an undergrad, but when I took it, it was almost all behavior, it was all almost behavior analytic in nature. And, but there is even for the undergrads. Um, I think that there is a really good array of courses that you can take from behavioral pharmacology to behavior systems analysis. I know that I can't remember what it was called now, but, um, I believe it was, uh, Aubrey Daniel's performance management book for one of my undergraduate courses back in the day to go over picnics and things of that nature to get the OBM side of it. Uh, but then we also had, you know, assessments learning what a functional analysis is and stats, and it really is a, a very good well rounded program and has a lot of electives as well. And that goes for the same for the graduate program. I know that, you know, some of us go into behavior analysis, but they might be taking courses with the clinical students as well, if that's what they're interested in.

Dr. Stephanie Peterson (05:37):

Yeah. Um, you know, so all of our undergraduates here, regardless of which of the two majors they are in are required to take psych 1400, which is our behavioral principles class. And so every, every undergraduate who comes through our program takes that class. And now we also have a required rat lab that is for all majors across both areas. And I think we just added it for the minors or we're in the process of doing that. I can't remember where we are in the process of that, but, um, so everybody comes through the rat lab course as well. So that, I guess we like to say everybody gets a taste of behavior analysis at the very least. Um, and then as you said, students can advance through a bunch of electives that are in many different areas. We do have undergraduate systems analysis courses. There's a variety of practicums that students can take both at the undergraduate or graduate level.

Dr. Stephanie Peterson (06:34):

And actually there's a very symbiotic relationship between the graduate and undergraduate level practicums. Um, typically anybody here who has a graduate level practicum, uh, also has undergraduate students enrolled in that practicum as well. And you know, one thing that I don't know if it's unique to Western, but we operate on a very mentorship model here. So when you apply to graduate training programs here, you are really applying to work with a specific faculty member in the department. You aren't just applying to some cohort, uh, that's divvied up among different faculty in the department and you're assigned to somebody it's, it's right from the get go. You and the faculty member are sort of choosing to work with each other. And so, uh, people come in wanting to study in very specific areas and faculty have pretty much, I'm trying to think. I think everybody in the department has some sort of practicum that they operate with their graduate students.

Dr. Stephanie Peterson (07:34):

And so I'll give an example from my lab. Um, I have a practicum that we call the PATS practicum, P A T S, which stands for the psychological assessment and treatment service. And we provide, uh, behavioral assessments for adults and children who either have developmental disabilities or mental illness issues and have significant behavioral issues. So my team will go out and help conduct a functional behavioral assessment of those problems, help write a behavior support plan for the individual. We will train the staff if the person lives in a group home, or we will train the family to implement that plan. And then we provide ongoing longterm followup to make sure the plan's working well. Um, so that's a contract that I have with Kalamazoo community mental health. And I have some of my grad students that are funded on that contract. So they actually, they have a graduate assistantship to help me operate that contract.

Dr. Stephanie Peterson (08:40):

And then at the same time we offer a practicum. So people who are not paid to be on that practicum can say, I'd like to get an experience like that. And so they sign up for my practicum and my paid, uh, graduate students who are typically board certified help provide BCBA supervision for those students who are taking the class, uh, as a practicum so that they can get some supervised hours. And then we very often have undergraduates who come in as well and provide assistance to all the graduate students enrolled in the practicum. So they may go out and be data collectors and they bring their data to the team meetings where we all review the data and talk about how, how the clients are doing. Um, and so while there's this mentorship model between the faculty and the graduate students, there's also a real mentorship model between the graduate students and the undergraduate students.

Dr. Stephanie Peterson (09:34):

So it's all kind of working together in this network. Uh, and I would say pretty much every faculty member here has a situation like that in their labs. So there's a variety of different practicum opportunities that both graduates and undergraduates can get involved in. The focus of each of those practica is going to depend on the focus of the faculty member who's operating it.

Shauna Costello (09:58):

And I know that I got to experience that personally when I was at Western, because even when I was in an under my undergrad, I got to kind of test out working within different practicum sites and with different labs, grad labs to see. And I think that that actually really helped me decide who my top choices would be for my graduate school when I was applying to graduate school. So I think that that also helped me and, you know, you get that, you can have that experience of jumping around, but what are some of the other practicum sites that Western has?

Dr. Stephanie Peterson (10:34):

Oh, I probably won't be able to give you an exhaustive list. Um, so I have the one I just described with Kalamazoo community mental health. Uh, Jessica Frieder has some with Van Buren, in the school district. So they're doing a lot of work out in the schools, both, uh, on behavior management issues, but also on instructional issues for children who are sort of struggling instructionally. She used to have a contract doing similar things as what I just described in my, uh, practicum, but in a different County. And we do still have that practicum, but dr. Jonathan Baker has taken that one over. Um, he also has the practicum site, uh, at the, in the next County with an autism center, uh, that's down there. And then he also has some practicums here in town with local nursing homes, for people who are interested in behavioral gerontology.

Dr. Stephanie Peterson (11:31):

Dr. Dick Malott and Kelly Kohler have practicums out at, uh, an early childhood center here in, in town that offers early behavior, early intensive behavioral intervention for preschoolers, so they do that. Um, let's see, Al Poling has practicums also out at Kalamazoo regional education service area in, um, uh, there's two different sites that he has one that's called the young adult program. So those are young adults who have developmental disabilities and who are kind of transition age and are getting ready to leave the school environment. So he's got a practicum out there and then he has another practicum with another site that's called Valley center, which is for children who have more, uh, emotional behavior disorders, not necessarily developmental disabilities, but who have a lot of really significant problem behavior. Dr. Peetra offers a practicum that is with our local humane society. Uh, she and Lisa Baker have both kind of helped establish and run that practicum.

Dr. Stephanie Peterson (12:42):

But, uh, that's a really cool practicum because they work with dogs who, uh, are not very adoptable because they have some challenging behaviors themselves. They're not, they don't necessarily work with dogs that are really aggressive, but rather dogs who, you know, don't work, walk on a leash really well or jump up on people a lot. Uh, so they try to, um, they have both graduate and undergraduate students in that practicum who work with those dogs and teach them to be more polite and so that they will be more likely to be adopted by others. Um, dr. Lisa Baker has more of a, um, behavioral pharmacology lab where, so that's mostly working with nonhuman animals, uh, looking at drug effects on behavior. So she's got both undergraduate and graduate research labs for that. Uh, dr. Van Houten has, uh, practicums that are more in traffic safety, so people can come and help his students with their research on traffic and pedestrian safety.

Dr. Stephanie Peterson (13:49):

And then dr. Anthony DeFulio is, um, he doesn't have a formal practicum yet, but he's got some research projects up and running that students can take research assistantships with him, um, dealing with, you know, folks who are, uh, he's got a couple of different projects. One of them for folks who are like HIV positive and who need to take there's a medication now that if you take that and you have unprotected sex, you won't infect the other person. So one of the challenges is to get people to take that medication. So they're doing research on keeping people medication compliant. Um, he's got some things in the works with the VA center in battle Creek, but that's has its own challenges. So we don't have that up and running yet. That's not even counting the IOBM, uh, program and it's not even the clinical there's whole lot of other ones out there too.

Shauna Costello (14:44):

Yes and yep. I spoke with dr. Scott Gainor and dr. Heather McGee about those practicum sites and those research opportunities as well, and they're very informative. And I mean, just in the behavior, just within the, I guess the behavior analysis with my, you know, air quotes going, because it's all behavior analysis with the, um, just within this line of the program, it, there's a very wide array of experiences that the faculty are offering. And I think we heard about most of the faculty there and some of their research interests, um, because I know that those vary as well.

Dr. Stephanie Peterson (15:27):

Yeah. I actually forgot a couple, uh, like Wayne Fuqua way. He's got a practicum with a local autism center as well. Uh, and then he's working on a lend grant right now with some folks. So they're working on just sort of interdisciplinary health issues. And then dr. Denise Ross is doing some work in the schools with literacy. I'm sure I forgot somebody else too, but yeah, a lot of students will tell me, it's kind of like being in a candy store when they come here, because there is so much cool work going on in the different labs. And it's very hard to choose sometimes how you're going to allocate your time and energy. What I think the advantage it offers is folks can, um, get a chance to dabble in some different areas and see what areas really make them click, especially, you know, at the undergraduate master's level where folks haven't really figured out yet what direction they want to go. It's nice for them to have those opportunities. And, you know, personally, as a faculty member in the department, for me, it's just incredibly reinforcing to see what all my colleagues are doing and where they're applying behavior analysis to solve all kinds of really important problems. And, you know, so it makes going to colloquium and research day, very interesting and engaging. And I always feel really proud of all the work that people are doing here. It can be kind of emotional sometimes when you see it all put together what everybody's doing.

Shauna Costello (17:01):

Yeah. And I know you just mentioned the colloquium and research day, and I know that after we're done talking, you're running off to a colloquium. So can you tell us what that is and how that works at Western?

Dr. Stephanie Peterson (17:15):

Yeah, so for us colloquium is it's not something that happens every week and it's, it's a somewhat irregular schedule, but I would say it tends to end up being about every like twice a month, at least, we have colloquium and they're usually on Fridays at four o'clock. So today's an outlier cause it's not Friday, but, um, um, but it, and it happens a variety of ways. Typically what it is is somebody who's on campus, whether it's an alum who's coming by for a visit, or sometimes we invite people to come and, um, we pay travel expenses and they come and give a talk, um, something that they're interested in or research that they are doing. So that'll usually be from like four to five o'clock. And then we typically have a social after hours where people go out and have a beverage together, and then we usually take them out to eat as well.

Dr. Stephanie Peterson (18:08):

They often, our colloquium speakers, will also do what we call a Brown bag, which is basically a lunch. Um, we call it a Brown bag cause it's like, bring your Brown paper bag full of your lunch to eat. But which is kind of funny, cause we usually provide the pizza. So people don't actually have to bring their lunch with them, but, um, so people can come and have lunch and it's a more informal discussion with the person who is visiting. And there's often a topic that they will provide to get things going. And then the students get a chance to really interact with them, um, on that kind of level. So like I said, we have that about every other week here on campus, it seems like, and then.

Shauna Costello (18:49):

I know that, um, if people go to the Facebook page, the psychology Facebook page, they can also stay up to date on those as well.

Dr. Stephanie Peterson (18:59):

Yep, we tend to put up a post when we have one coming up so that people can learn about it. And then a lot of times we have photos of the event after it's occurred as well. And often those are for CEs as well for any of the local behavioral analysts that might need a little bit more motivation to get out there. And yes, we are an ACE provider. So we offer CEs for all of those events, if they're behavior analytic in content, which almost always they are. And um, sometimes we stream them, we do our best to try to stream them to our Metro Detroit cohort so that they can participate as well. And we've been trying to come up with a way that we can offer them, like to people who aren't here via some kind of webcast or something like that. But we haven't quite figured out how to manage all that yet.

Shauna Costello (19:56):

It's a lot, trust me, I completely understand that. And all the intricacies that can go into into it, but that is just a wonderful extra opportunity that you offer to your faculty and your students. And, um, I know from experience that after these events, there's often extra food in the psychology, in the office, in the psychology office.

Dr. Stephanie Peterson (20:20):

In fact, there's some down there right now.

Shauna Costello (20:24):

There's usually always food and always candy that are there for the students. So,

Dr. Stephanie Peterson (20:32):

I can tell you about research day too. I know you asked me about that. Um, so when we do interview weekend, um, one of the things we do is the Friday of interview weekend, which is part of the application and interview process to get into our programs. We do what's called research day. And so it always curves on Friday and it's rather than just being at four it's all day long from like 9, 8:30, 9 in the morning until about 4 o'clock in the afternoon.

Dr. Stephanie Peterson (21:01):

And, uh, what it is, is a bunch of the students who are in the program will present the research that they've been working on. So very often it's people who have completed their thesis or dissertation or in the process of completing their dissertation. Although every once in a while, there's a couple of presentations in there that are, I call them just for kicks and giggles. They're just studies that people wanted to do. And it's not necessarily a thesis or dissertation, just a great question that they wanted to study. Um, and so they will give a presentation to the group and all of the people who are here for, to interview for our program are there, all of the students who are in our program are there, the faculty are all there. And a lot of community members who are behavior analysts end up showing up. Cause we also do CEs for that to get a lot of CEUs in one day for that. And it's just a great day, I think that the presentations rival anything you would see at our international association meeting. They're very high quality in terms of not, not just in terms of the research content, but in terms of the presentation styles of the presenters. So it's a really wonderful day.

Shauna Costello (22:13):

And I think that it's a really great opportunity to get more presentation practice the grad students as well. I know I can still probably remember, remember my favorite research day presentation. I can't remember if it was while I was applying or just after it, I was there helping run it. Um, but it was my, it was Eric's and he was talking about, this is a handful of years ago now, but he was talking about how he's running his research and he'd go through this entire description of like phase one and then at the end and he'd be like, and then it failed, and then phase two and through all of that, described absolutely everything about it, and then it failed and then phase three went through all of that and then it failed and it was just a really good, it was, it was fun. It was entertaining to show that all this hard work, like, even though you put in all this hard work, that yes, it still might fail, but this is what we're going to, how we're going to pivot from that as well. And, um, I know that you see a ton of different types of research going on, just like the faculty and practicum that you have described in all of those different types of fields, some fields of behavior analysis. So, um, I know that I've even seen some people come up to me and be like, I didn't realize that that research is going on in that lab. Is there any way I can maybe interview with that faculty now that I'm here at interview weekend? Um, we try to do some shuffling. I know that research day kind of kicks off interview weekend. Um, so what else should they expect from interview weekend and that process?

Dr. Stephanie Peterson (23:57):

Yeah, you're right. I mean, I think that research day provides a great MO for the rest of the weekend because it also gives the students who are there to interview, uh, something they can talk about with the others. You know, it can be nerve wracking, I think, to be here for interviews, but at least they can, they can talk about the research they saw or they could go up to the person who presented that research and ask some questions. Or a lot of times when I'm interviewing students, they will, um, you know, have heard my students give a presentation. And so it'll lead nicely into discussions about what kind of research is going on in the lab right now. So it's, uh, it sets the occasion for lots of good stuff for the rest of the weekend.

Dr. Stephanie Peterson (24:39):

And so that's Friday, and then usually Friday night, there is some sort of student event like our, uh, we have three graduate student organizations in the department and they usually partner together to like, have everybody go out to eat and get a beverage if they want to. And then the next morning they are back on campus again. And there's typically each of the programs kind of breaks out into their own areas. And the faculty in each of those programs will kind of get up and share a little bit of information about their labs and what they teach. They take, you know, they're supposed to take like five to 10 minutes and a lot of them take 15. I know. And yeah, so it again provides good context for the people who are here for interviews to really get to know the program. We talk about what courses are required, um, what a student can expect as, um, as they move through the program.

Dr. Stephanie Peterson (25:37):

And then after that, they get to the students who are here to be interviewed, get to interview with different faculty. And typically they'll interview with two, three, four different faculty, quite often they would interview with the faculty. And then some, a lot of times the current graduate students will also spend some time with them and interview them and also give them interviewees a chance to ask questions that they want to know about the lab and whether this is the right place for them. And then typically at the end of the day, there's some other sort of, um, event. Yeah, I think it varies a lot. Like, um, people who are here interviewing with me will usually come over to my house and I feed them at night. So they get to spend a little more time with me and, and the students of my labs. So we can all get to know each other, other faculty handle it differently. Some faculty just take the interviewees out to dinner somewhere so that they can have more private time with them without their grad students there. Um, just so that they can allocate more time to the interviewees, so it just kind of depends on the different labs. They handle it a little differently.

Shauna Costello (26:45):

And then I know too, something that, uh, is a little bit is I think it's nice is that when the interviewees are coming into town, it's often an option to be hosted by one of the current graduate students in the, one of the top labs that you're applying for.

Dr. Stephanie Peterson (27:05):

Yes. Yeah, so when people apply to our program, they there's an application form that they fill out. And so there's the form. You attach your Vita, you attach a personal statement, your transcripts, all that good stuff. And one of the things that's on our application is a place where you are asked to state which faculty you are interested in working with. And so there are four slots that you can fill with different faculty you're interested in, and we consider that a rank order. So whoever you put in the first slot is your number one choice. Whoever you put in the second slot is your number two choice and so forth. So if you're applying to four different people, the faculty will review the application and all four of those faculty will definitely review it and determine if they want to interview the student.

Dr. Stephanie Peterson (27:56):

So let's for the sake of argument, say that, um, you were applying to the doctoral program and all four of the faculty you listed say, yes, I want to interview you. You're going to interview with all four of those people and possibly their labs or the students that are currently in there, um, working with them. And quite often what we do is we consider that person, you listed, number one is your primary person of interest. And, um, so you would probably spend the most time with that individual, if you were applying to my lab and I invited you in for an interview, uh, I would ask my students if any of them would be willing to host you. And some of my students will do that. And some just can't like I had a student once who was married and had three children and he's like, yeah, like probably doesn't make sense for me to host somebody, but, uh, so it's completely voluntary on the student's part.

Dr. Stephanie Peterson (28:51):

And very often they will offer to host people. Although it's of course always an option to stay in a local hotel if people prefer that because they want their privacy or aren't comfortable with that. But, you know, I think people understand that interviewing for graduate school is not cheap and we appreciate that folks are willing to make the trip here. And so we try to do whatever we can to help minimize those costs. And so that's why the students will typically volunteer space in their home. And then we try to provide some of the meals while people are here too. So there's always food out, you know, on the Saturday morning of interview and of, um, you know, the day after research day. And then we provide lunch that day and, uh, individual faculty members tend to provide dinner night. So we try to help minimize the costs for people because we are sympathetic to that.

Shauna Costello (29:46):

Yes, and I know it's much appreciated. Um, and I know that from experience that most of the interviewees actually do end up taking up the offer to stay with a current grad student, because I think that they can kind of give them a little bit of a, you know, they can see how the graduate students they're living and where they're living and, um, kind of see what's going on as well. I know that when I applied, I lived right down the road, so I was right in the area. So I didn't need to stay with anybody. Um, but I know that that's a great option for, um, for the students.

Dr. Stephanie Peterson (30:19):

Yeah, I think it gives them a chance to see, you know, what kind of housing is available and they can talk, talk to the current students about what it costs to live here. Um, and then even if students don't stay with one of our students, like let's say they opt to stay in a hotel. Um, uh, like if, if that person was interviewing to come into my research lab, uh, one of my students would still be assigned to that interviewee as sort of like a buddy and would meet them and make sure that they walk them to the different places they have to be and go to the social events with them so that they don't feel like I'm walking in there all by myself. And I don't know what to do and where to go.

Shauna Costello (31:03):


Dr. Stephanie Peterson (31:04):

Just like as if they were staying in their house, but you know, they'll go pick them up or meet them.

Dr. Stephanie Peterson (31:10):

Yeah, so before I get into some more of the personal questions on Kalamazoo and how you like it and things like that, is there anything else about the behavior analysis program in general that you can think about? Well, I guess one thing, you know, I've worked at different universities and I've been very blessed to have worked with a lot of really amazing behavior, analytic colleagues and amazing programs.

Dr. Stephanie Peterson (31:37):

And everyone that I've worked in has had amazing strengths. One of the things that I think is a strength about this program is that the faculty here are very collaborative and collegial. There's not a lot of turf issues. So if a student, like I had a student in my lab a few years ago, who was really, really interested in basic research and because my training is very applied, I was not feeling very comfortable in being able to mentor her in basic research. So, you know, she said to me, would it be okay if I talked to dr. Poling about doing some things with his lab? And I was like, sure, that'd be awesome. What a great experience for you. And so she ended up hanging out with their lab quite a bit and doing some collaborative research with them. And it was really great because she brought the skills, she learned there back into my lab and helped everybody kind of learn. So that's just an example of the kind of collaboration that people engage in here. And I think that's special. I think you don't find that everywhere. And it's something I really value about being at Western.

Shauna Costello (32:47):

Um, and I know that to be true, but I am going to call you out on one thing. There are, there are turf issues.

Dr. Stephanie Peterson (32:54):

Are there?

Shauna Costello (32:55):

After hours.

Dr. Stephanie Peterson (32:56):

Oh, maybe, that's probably true.

Shauna Costello (32:59):

For example, I was in dr. Jessica Frieders lab. And for those of you who don't know, dr. Peterson actually was dr. Frieders mentor through school. So our labs would sometimes get together and have little friendly competitions at ABA. We'll do whirly ball if it's in Chicago and we have the whole get-ups, we, all of our labs are matching. And just little, I know that even my lab did it with dr. McGee's lab as well, because our labs were neighbors. And so, um, but I wouldn't really say I'd call that a turf issue.

Dr. Stephanie Peterson (33:48):

I certainly think that we all work hard and we play hard.

Shauna Costello (33:52):


Dr. Stephanie Peterson (33:52):

So that's good, and there's enough friendly competition to keep everyone on their toes, both, both sort of academically and research wise, as well as recreationally, right?

Shauna Costello (34:05):

Yes. I know that there's a couple of other fun things that I'd want to, you know, comment on. Um, I don't know if it's still happening, but I know that BAGSO, it's a behavior analysis graduate student organization puts on events throughout the year. And while I was there, they did a prom in the winter. So I don't know if that's still going on.

Dr. Stephanie Peterson (34:26):

They still do it.

Shauna Costello (34:27):

Do they still do it? Okay. I think I still get invites to it, but it's in the it's always like in the winter and I'm, well, now I'm in Florida, so it's a little bit different. Um, but I actually think I went to one after the first one after I graduated, I think I actually went back for it. Um, and then also at the beginning of every fall, um, I know, I hope you still do it because I loved it. You and Lloyd actually usually host a pig roast.

Dr. Stephanie Peterson (34:56):

Yeah. We didn't do it last year, but other than last year we've been doing it. Um, yeah, it's a, it's a fun get together out at my house. And also every fall now, all of the all three graduate student organizations do like a welcome activity together so that all the students go hang out somewhere and depends like one year, I think they had a slip and slide or something at a local park. I don't know. And sometimes they do softball, you know,

Shauna Costello (35:24):

I, um, I've taken in, um, the IOBM students welcome one year, which was a nice mixture of kickball and other recreational activities. Um, so that was a lot of fun. Um, but yeah, there's always a lot of activities going on that the students can really get involved in that really creates this homey family-like atmosphere. Even though the program is relatively large, you, you still really get to know most of the people in the program, just because of, like you said, how, how everybody works so well together and is so willing to help even across, you know, the clinical or IOBM or behavior analysis, whatever they want to get experiences in or just have talks about or anything along those lines.

Dr. Stephanie Peterson (36:20):

Yeah, definitely the, the clinical students have a chili cook off every year. The IOBM students have the Jack Michael golf scramble every year. And you know, people try to participate across those programmatic activities. And then, um, this year the clinical students are having a book read every other week. They're going to have meetings to discuss a book that they've chosen on diversity issues, fun and interesting. And then other times people have just had other like reading groups where they've chosen articles. They want to read and go have a discussion about the article. So sometimes the graduate student organizations will facilitate organizing those as well. So, yeah, it's a, you're right, we have a lot of grad students, I think we have almost a hundred or 200 now across all of the programs. And so, yeah, it's a very large program, but it doesn't feel that big to me ever because of the way the students interact, get to know each other. So well.

Shauna Costello (37:19):

Yes, and I agree. So now what about your thoughts on the Kalamazoo Portage area?

Dr. Stephanie Peterson (37:28):

Well, I really like it here. You know, I've been here 10 years now. Um, and I don't know, I was talking to my husband about that a while back saying, I, I just like, I liked this place immediately when I came for my job interview, I think because it's about the same size of town that I grew up in. Um, I grew up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and there was a little town right next to it called Marion, you know? And you could hardly tell when you left one and drove into the other and in Kalamazoo, you've got Portage, which is similar.

Dr. Stephanie Peterson (38:00):

Um, you don't know when you've left one and gone to the other. And it's, uh, I think I want to say the Kalamazoo Portage areas like 125,000 people or something like that. So it's not huge, but it's big enough to have, you know, enough of the stores that you don't feel like there's no shopping here or nowhere to eat. There's, there's a lot of really good restaurants here. This is one of the microbrewery capitals of the world, and they're very proud of that. And since you've left Shauna there's, I bet you there's five times the breweries that were here when you were here. And so each of them has great food and, um, the university here actually has a sustainable brewing major for undergraduates.

Shauna Costello (38:44):

Yeah that was established right when I was leaving,

Dr. Stephanie Peterson (38:46):

Which is a, it's actually a very challenging major. I know it sort of sounds like underwater basket weaving, but it's not because it's a combination of a biology and chemistry major,

Shauna Costello (38:56):

Wow, makes sense.

Dr. Stephanie Peterson (38:57):

And it's really about, you know, brewing in sustainable ways. This university campus is very proud of it's focus on sustainability. So, um, so there's a lot of great places to eat. There's festivals all the time downtown on the first.

Shauna Costello (39:13):

Wasn't it just rib Fest, that just happened?

Dr. Stephanie Peterson (39:15):

Yeah we just had that last weekend, where they had bands playing at the band shell and all these people that cook ribs and have the people come and sample all the ribs and vote on which ones are the best, uh, there's food truck Fridays downtown. I don't know if that's in the summer or the fall. I can't remember. Um, there's first Friday, downtown every month where there's art on display and the.

Shauna Costello (39:42):

The wine stroll or whatever that's what I called it.

Dr. Stephanie Peterson (39:48):

Right, and all the stores have free wine and snacks. And so you can stroll around downtown. That's always really nice. Um, and we're right at the, you know, interstate 94 runs right through town. So we're just really close to Chicago. You can get to Chicago in like two and a half, three hours. You can get to Detroit and just a couple hours, so you can get to some pretty awesome Broadway shows. Um, we get some of those here on campus too, but, um, you can also travel and we have Amtrak, so you can hop on the train and get to those places easily. So I don't know, for me, it's a really good fit there's Lake Michigan with beaches and just tons of lakes and woods, if you like being outside to hunt and, um, and kayak or, you know, ski, water ski, you've got all of that. There's some downhill skiing too. It's nothing like Colorado, of course. But, uh, so I haven't skied since I've been here, but we ride motorcycles a lot and it's just a great place for motorcycle riding. So many beautiful County roads that are like tree covered County roads that are kind of windy and up and down Hills. It's like absolutely beautiful.

Shauna Costello (41:01):

I know a lot of times people will go, um, up or down the coast of Lake Michigan as well, just because there's a lot of little towns and in the fall you start seeing all the leaves change and then you go North there's Traverse city and there's Mackinaw and like Petoskey and lots of different options in the state.

Dr. Stephanie Peterson (41:28):

And fall is probably my favorite season here because, um, well, summer's great too. Cause you got blueberry picking, strawberry picking, there's cherries, but then in the fall you get all the Apple orchards opening up and huge pumpkin farms, which when I lived out West in Idaho and Utah, there were really no pumpkin farms and having grown up in the Midwest myself, I totally missed that. So when I came back here, I was like, oh, this is awesome. And so the Apple orchards will have Apple picking and Apple cider and fresh donuts and corn mazes. And it's just a, I don't know, the weather is awesome. And it's just a great time of year to be in Michigan, I think.

Shauna Costello (42:10):

Yes, and I agree. I know I moved at, like, I moved down here to Florida in October of this previous year and that was probably one of the first things I looked for was a pumpkin patch,

Dr. Stephanie Peterson (42:26):

Good luck.

Shauna Costello (42:26):

Yeah, they don't exist. Um, so yeah, that was, that's a new thing for me fall, isn't really fall down here. So, um, and I know I've talked to other faculty members about the seasons and the snow, and I know that, um, Western is notorious for being in the Lake effect snow. So sometimes they can get pelted.

Dr. Stephanie Peterson (42:48):

We do get a lot of snow. I mean, um, you know, if someone's coming up from Florida and they haven't lived in snow, that'll be a big culture shock for them. However, I've had lots of students who are from areas where they don't get snow. I had a student here from Israel for a few years and you know, she was just like, this it's so different, but she really did a great job of, you know, getting out in the snow and playing in it because then she went back to Israel and you know, it doesn't get to experience that anymore. So it was fun, you know, for awhile, right?

Dr. Stephanie Peterson (43:23):

I don't, I don't know. I think the older I get, the more I mind the snow, it's not so much the snow, it's the cold, I don't know. Around Christmas time, I'm always excited to get the snow and.

Shauna Costello (43:34):

There's a lot of Christmas activities to do in Michigan though, too.

Dr. Stephanie Peterson (43:38):

Yes, for sure. So my first year here, I remember, I think it was in January. I was walking up to wood hall and for those who aren't familiar with Woodhall, it's a very large building, but there's a courtyard inside. So like when you first walk in the front door of the building, all you see is glass in front of you and you can see to the outside in the courtyard. And I remember it was a bright sunny day, which is unusual for January. The sun was out and yet there were all these little snow or ice crystals kind of floating around in the air.

Dr. Stephanie Peterson (44:15):

I'm sure it was Lake effect of some sort, but they were all sparkly and they were just like floating around. And when I walked in the building, I could see them in the courtyard also just floating. And I turned to somebody and I said, oh my God, I just walked in, and I live in a snow globe. Like, I feel like I'm living in a snowglobe right now. It was very pretty. Um, so that for me kind of makes up for some of the days that aren't so great.

Shauna Costello (44:39):

Yes. Yes. I'm a, I'm an outlier, uh, dr. Baker and I, when they hear it, we both talked about how we like it. So we like the snow. I like the cold.

Dr. Stephanie Peterson (44:50):

I, I think what I like are this, I really like living in a place where there are four seasons. Um, I just enjoy the change of seasons. I enjoy fall. I enjoy summer. I enjoy, I think spring's probably my least favorite. I enjoy the cold winter more than I like spring when, when it's like 50 degrees and raining. I don't care for that as much, but that's what makes you appreciate summer even more. So,

Shauna Costello (45:15):

Yes, it makes you appreciate the nice days. And I know, I know that just this previous year, I don't know if it was on the West side of the state, but on the East side ofthe state, they almost had no snow until January on the East side of the state. And I know I came home for Christmas, which is also on the West side of the state and we barely had a white Christmas this last year, barely. Um, so it really does fluctuate on how bad it is or how bad people think it is. But I know where I know you're getting close to your colloquium time. Um, is there anything else that you want to say about Western?

Dr. Stephanie Peterson (45:53):

Ah, I guess I would just say if people are interested in our programs, to please feel free to reach out to me or any of the faculty here. If students are interested in coming here, one of the things I would recommend that they do is to go to our webpage and on the left, there's a menu of different things you can click on. And one of them is faculty, or maybe it says directory. I should probably look and see what it says, it says directory. And if you click on directory, it'll give you a list of all the faculty and staff in the department, under each person's little contact information, and picture it'll have a link that says like more information. And if you click on that, it'll give you a little bio of that faculty member, but there will also be a link to that faculty member's personal webpage. And so if you go visit their personal webpage and check out some of the research that they're doing, most people have information about their labs on those webpages. And I would say to the interested applicant to go check those out, read some of those faculty members research and then reach out to the faculty member and see if you could schedule a time to have a phone conversation with them, or if you're going to be at a conference that maybe that faculty member is also going to.

Dr. Stephanie Peterson (47:18):

So like if you're going to be at ABAI, most faculty in our department go to ABAI. We also tend to go to the behavior analysis association of Michigan conference. Um, and then a lot of our faculty tend to travel to some of the regional conferences to present. So I would say don't be afraid at all to reach out to a faculty member and ask if they're going to be at a conference, if they could spend some time with you. I think pretty much everybody on our faculty would be more than happy to sit down with a student. Who thinks they might be interested in coming to Western and just talk with them a little bit about their lab and their research and what it's like to be at Western. I know I've done that many times with students, and it's a great way to just sort of get to know the faculty member a little bit more.

Dr. Stephanie Peterson (48:03):

And then when you put in your application and you're listing the people who you're interested in working with, I think it's really helpful for faculty to hear what you have to say about why you want to work in their lab and what things you think you could contribute to that lab. So I think the less competitive applications are one that's where the student hasn't, you know, let's just assume they have some background in behavior analysis and good grades and all that. But so what makes an application stand out? I guess I should say is when the faculty member has had a chance to talk with that student before the application comes in and the student has a really solid understanding of what that faculty member does and has reason and interest to be applying to that lab. I guess that that would be the, some of my closing remarks is just to say, we'd love to see applications from people who are interested and the faculty here really love the students. I mean, they really enjoy working with the students. That's why we're here, right? We love behavior analysis, and we love teaching other people about behavior analysis and we love doing research on how to solve important problems using behavior analysis. So don't be afraid to reach out we're all just people and we love interacting with the students, so, and prospective students.

Shauna Costello (49:25):

And then, yeah, just a couple other things I will make sure to put the website on the description. So anybody wanting to look at the directory and really reach out to see or find out what some of, you know, find more out about the faculty members, make sure you visit. And then is the application deadlines still mid December?

Dr. Stephanie Peterson (49:44):

I think we've moved it up to December 1st, um, to give people a little more, uh, time to, to give our staff more time, to get it all together, to get us the information before everybody runs off on Christmas break, I should say winter break. Um, so that people have more time to review applications.

Shauna Costello (50:04):

Wonderful. So yeah, and if you guys have any questions, feel free to reach out to dr. Peterson or any of the other faculty, especially if you're interested in working with them or asking them questions. Um, I know that they are always happy to help and answer questions and they've all been great during this process. And I am biased.

Dr. Stephanie Peterson (50:25):

I am too.

Shauna Costello (50:25):

I will, I will say I put that caveat out there that I'm maybe a little bit biased, but it is a wonderful program. And I know that I had, um, during my time from undergrad to graduate, I had a wonderful time at Western and loved the Kalamazoo area, snow or not. So,

Dr. Stephanie Peterson (50:43):

I would say I'm probably biased too, but like I said, I've been here about 10 years and I still sort of feel like one of the new kids on the block around here, because we've had faculty who've been here for so long. They're so seasoned. We have some faculty have been here 40 and 50 years. And so it's a real honor and a privilege to work around them. And so I still feel like I can kind of brag it up because I still feel like I'm like one of the new kids going, this is such an awesome place.

Shauna Costello (51:13):

I know. And I was just speaking with Jose this past week actually and he had, he was talking about how Western was one of the first programs and it was even somewhere he was looking at going. I don't even know in like the seventies, I think is he, when he was talking about,

Dr. Stephanie Peterson (51:31):

I think we started our doctoral program in the seventies.

Shauna Costello (51:35):

So it was right before you started the doc program, because that was actually the reason he decided to go to West Virginia university was because Western did not have a doc program at the time. It might have been even earlier than the seventies. So it's been around for like a few other of the big names Western has been around for a very long time.

Dr. Stephanie Peterson (51:56):

We've been here in behavior analysis since 1966 is sort of the year we say it really officially got started here. Um, so we just celebrated our 50 year anniversary of behavior analysis a few years ago. And the programs who've been around a little longer than us are, um, is Kansas, the university of Kansas. I think they are 10 years older than us, if I'm mistaken and um, and I think West Virginia is about 10 years younger than us, but they may have had a PhD program before we did. I don't know.

Shauna Costello (52:28):

Um, and then, um, I'm gonna thank you for your time. I know that you have a colloquium to runoff to, um, and good luck with everything, especially with the new semester starting shortly and yeah. Good luck with everything. And thank you so much.

Dr. Stephanie Peterson (52:47):

Thank you for featuring us. I think it it'll be nice for Western to get some positive press. So we appreciate that.

Shauna Costello (52:53):

Yes, of course. Thank you for joining us for our first week at Western Michigan university, but we're not quite done with Western yet. We will be speaking with dr. John Baker regarding the hybrid program, dr. Heather McGee to speak about the IOBM program and also with dr. Scott gainer to talk about the clinical behavior program. And as always, if you have questions, comments, or suggestions, please feel free to reach out to us at


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