University Series 004 | Western Michigan University, Part 4

Join Operant Innovations for Part 4 of their interview with Western Michigan University. This week we will be speaking with Dr. Jonathan Baker about the newest addition to WMU's elaborate program - the Hybrid Program.

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Dr. Jonathan Baker -

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WMU Department of Psychology -

WMU Behavior Analysis Hybrid Program -


Shauna Costello (00:01):

You're listening to operant innovations, a podcast by ABA technologies. This week on the university series, we're wrapping up our trip to Western Michigan university by talking with Dr. Jonathan Baker about the hybrid program, the newest addition to Western Michigan university's elaborate program. Dr. Jonathan Baker is a clinical faculty specialist and oversees the hybrid program. Prior to joining WMU, he was an associate professor and coordinator of the gerontology certificate program, as well as a faculty member in the behavior analysis and therapy program at Southern Illinois university. He received a certificate in gerontology from the university of Kansas, a master's in applied behavior science from the university of Kansas and a PhD from Western Michigan university. So please join us as we speak with dr. Jonathan Baker on the WMU hybrid program. So we're here with dr. Jon Baker, and he's going to tell us just a little bit about himself, and then we're going to dive into the Western Michigan university's hybrid program.

Dr. Jonathan Baker (01:08):

Well, thanks. Uh, so yeah, I'm, uh, Jonathan Baker, uh, currently a faculty member at Western Michigan university. Uh, I've been here since 2015 before that I was faculty at Southern Illinois university, uh, for about six years and, uh, received my PhD from Western and my masters from university of Kansas. Um, and, uh, have been working here at Western as the coordinator of our hybrid master's program for the past three years and was involved in the, the hybrid master's program for the year before that, and then also taught at SIU in both the on campus and off campus programs for the behavior analysis and therapy program, as well as the gerontology certificate program.

Shauna Costello (01:56):

Wonderful. And so I know that, I know that when I was there, when you were kind of, when we're interviewing and seeing who's going to come back, and I know that you were kind of excited to get, to come back to Kalamazoo and to Western from my understanding.

Dr. Jonathan Baker (02:12):

Absolutely. I'm, uh, from the area and, uh, not only that, but having done my undergraduate and PhD at Western, it was always the, um, one of those top programs that, uh, I looked at the faculty there and thought, man, wouldn't it be amazing to be kind of on that level and doing that sort of thing. So to have a chance to come back and, and be a part of the faculty and, and be involved in the program has been spectacular.

Shauna Costello (02:39):

And so I'll ask you some more about, you know, the area and getting all the faculties thoughts on the area and what to do, and this and that later. But what about this hybrid program there is we hear about these, you know, these on campus programs, these fully online programs that are sprouting up everywhere now, but what is this hybrid program? And, you know, what is making westerns different than some of the other hybrid programs that are out there?

Dr. Jonathan Baker (03:09):

So a little bit of history about the program itself, it came about as a result of a grant that, uh, dr. Stephanie Peterson, dr. Wayne Fuqua received from the Michigan department of health and human services, where the goal of, of that very large grant is about four and a half million dollars was to increase the capacity to provide behavioral analytics services in Michigan. And at the time that they secured that grant, there were not as many well-established training programs on the East side of the state, as there were more towards the middle or the West side of the state. So what they proposed as part of that grant was to establish a hybrid program. And what they defined as a hybrid program was a graduate master's program in behavior analysis, where courses involved some amount of face to face interaction with faculty and some amount of online activity.

Dr. Jonathan Baker (04:06):

And the way that it was proposed was that once a month, the faculty and students would meet on a Saturday for class, and that's the in-person component. And then in between then, uh, each week, there would be some level of activity online. I don't know that there was necessarily a clear idea of what that would look like, but kind of what it has become is a number of the faculty hold weekly meetings. Uh, some of those are required meetings. What I tend to do is what I call my office hours. I set up different times that I'm available and I'm online and students hop on and we have a discussion about content in the class, answer questions about study objectives, that sort of thing. I also record lectures that are available for each week's content. So they have a chance to watch me talk about it.

Dr. Jonathan Baker (04:53):

And then when they meet with me, it's not, it's not electric to discussion. And I think that that's the way that most of our faculty have kind of set up those in between meetings. Um, so what we also do that, you know, you asked what makes ours a little bit different in the fall and spring semesters, we have that more traditional hybrid setup, uh, during the summer, the courses that students take are fully online, but they come here to Kalamazoo and we spend, uh, several days in what we call our intensive practicum experience. Uh, and it started out being a full week. We've actually pared it down to about three days and it's pretty intense. The students get here and we started at about 8:00 AM the first day. Uh, and we go through until 5:00 PM and then go out to dinner with the students and then start up the next day at 8:00 AM, uh, till five and then dinner.

Dr. Jonathan Baker (05:50):

And then, uh, by mid to late Friday, they're, they're pretty fried and, and ready to go back. Um, but what we do during that, uh, during that time is we actually work on, um, right now we focus a lot on, uh, developing, um, sort of an understanding of evidence based practice and applying that to their, their practice, as well as reviewing literature and developing some of those skills that are really difficult to establish without interaction and without very quick feedback from a faculty member on, on what they're doing well and what they need to focus on. Um, and it's stuff that we've really identified doesn't necessarily fit into any of the courses. So they might have a course that talks about best practice, but in that course, the faculty member doesn't have enough time to say, here's the scenario you've been, uh, you know, you've been asked to work with this client, what's the decision process just on whether or not you'll take that client.

Dr. Jonathan Baker (06:50):

And then what's the decision process on selecting the intervention. What's the decision process on, uh, continuing to work with them. So we've actually established that as, uh, one of the activities that we do with our second year students, once they've had all the core courses to kind of try and bring it back together and let them see how a behavior analyst does what they do. Uh, cause we found that over the years, our students had a number of skills, but they weren't kind of putting them together, kind of that classic. They had a number of tools in their toolbox, but when presented with a, you know, some sort of tasks that none of the tools seem to fit, they were, they were struggling a little bit. So we said, well, that's a part that we can do during that intensive week. So they have an intensive week in the first year and in the second year, and our program runs from January to December and then January to December.

Dr. Jonathan Baker (07:39):

So it's a two year program, but starts in January as opposed to, uh, in fall. I think one of the other things that makes our program unique is, uh, related to the practicum experience. Uh, so all of our students are, for the most part in Michigan, we do have some that are in Indiana and Ohio, but they have to be close enough that we can get to them and they can come to us. So it's really gotta be within about three or four hours of Kalamazoo, um, or Detroit. Uh, and those students are working somewhere more often than not. Uh, they're working in a center that's providing autism services. Uh, they may be working for a company that provides in home services. It might be a company that does both in home and center-based, and then we have some students that are working in, uh, more medical settings and we collaborate with their sites, uh, on their practicum.

Dr. Jonathan Baker (08:33):

Our students actually accrue their hours under the current, um, university practicum category. Uh, and that means that our faculty are regularly involved with that practicum experience and some of the supervision, but we're not at their site. So we can't give them direct supervision about their clients. So, uh, dr. Amanda Karsten who joined us in 2017, uh, I believe, um, has spent the past two years doing this amazing overhaul of what our practicum once was and what it is now, and has established a curriculum that we go through in our group supervision that they do with us and establishing a connection between that supervision and the supervision that they get at their site. Uh, so our students continue to work at the site that they're at, um, and get supervision both from that site and from a spectacular star faculty member and some of the doc students that work with dr. Amanda Karsten.

Shauna Costello (09:36):

Yeah. And I know that I have a little bit of experience with some of my previous supervisees where it was one of, one of their programs. I can't, of course remember exactly which program it was now, but I actually had to be, our site had to become, it was either they were going to be the supervisor for that site. Or I, me at the BCBA, there would have to be like the approved supervisor for them to do that, to qualify as the university practicum option. 'Cause this wasn't, was still a couple of years ago. Um, so is that something that you're doing with their sites, as well as making sure that, you know, everything like their sites are qualified, the supervisors that are they're qualified and everything like that?

Dr. Jonathan Baker (10:21):

Yeah. So, uh, the, the process, uh, that we've developed at this point is that, uh, during the week we do our interviews in the fall and that's where we first find out is, is a student even at a site. And if they are, are they at a site that we've worked with before, or are they at a completely different site? So just getting an idea of what the workload's going to look like to be able to do this. And then it's in the spring that, uh, dr. Karsten does what we call a, pre-practicum working with the students on understanding, what are the things that you need to know when you're accruing hours towards your, uh, towards becoming a BCBA, uh, understanding the experience verification form and what you can count, what you can't count during that time she's working with the sites. So if it's a site that we've never worked with before, uh, she's going to go out and visit the site.

Dr. Jonathan Baker (11:14):

She's going to interview with the person that would be the, uh, the approved or main supervisor. Um, and then also I interact with anyone who might provide supervision to that student. Uh, she's gonna look at the systems that they have in place for supervision. Um, one of the things that I don't think you'll probably be too surprised to find out is that some sites are spectacular providing clinical services, but do not have the capacity to provide supervision. And they really need to have both, you know, we don't want a great supervisor where nothing good is happening and we don't want a great site where no one supervising, we need to have both of those. So we bring on a site, uh, we, we bring them on and what we call a kind of a probationary period. And, um, practicum starts in the summer. The students are already working there, but we don't actually count hours towards practicum until summer.

Dr. Jonathan Baker (12:08):

And, uh, during that time, Amanda's still meeting with them, still checking on documentation, getting feedback from students, getting feedback from supervisors, making sure that everything is working well. And if so, by the end of the summer, that site comes off of the probationary status and we're working with them. Um, it's possible though, that during that time we find out this just is not gonna work and it's our job as faculty to protect those students. So even though that student, you know, they may say this, this is my job. This is my my site and say, if you want a solid training experience, we have to tell you this isn't the site that you want to be at and we'll help you find another one. We'll help you work with that. And maybe you come back to this site once you're trained and continue to provide those great clinical services that they're doing here.

Dr. Jonathan Baker (12:54):

But when it comes to training students, we want to make sure that the site has the capacity to do that. And it's really not at this point, like we don't have a straight questionnaire that we can ask and get those, get those answers, you know, uh, dr. Karsten talks about, you know, just the feel of walking into a site and looking around, seeing what people are doing, you know, can identify who are the people in charge versus who are the people who are, who are working with the clients. Who's, you know, person giving me the tour, interacting with people. You know, it's just those, a lot of those intangibles that right now, she's got a checklist that she's going over, um, as she's visiting those sites and really starting to think about, is this going to be a good training site for one of our students?

Shauna Costello (13:38):

I noticed from my training at Western, that I took a lot of the processes, a lot of those, a lot of that training and how I was trained into running my program, whether it was in home in schools or in the clinic. And when I actually ended up having some Western undergrads come over and start working for me and they fell into the process just flawlessly because it was so they, they were just like, oh yeah, I know what, I know what I know what you're doing here. Like, this is very, I mean, you know, there are of course tweaks and stuff to make it individualized to our program, but the overall general process on how things work, the expectations, the, all of those were there. Nice to see that it's still holding to the high standards because to create those supervisors and cause they're going to take that with them. Yeah. I do have a question though, about you brought up, you know, when you bring the students on campus in the summer for this more intensive practicum experience, I know some people have different ideas about, you know, when they hear the word practicum. So are you guys running, is it more of like simulations and role playing or are you throwing them into, you know, some of the actual sites that Western has or what kind of, what does that, that on camp like when they come to campus, what does that kind of look like?

Dr. Jonathan Baker (15:02):

The original idea was that they were going to come to campus and actually be, uh, brought into work at a clinical site, Kalamazoo autism center. What we've found out pretty quickly was that logistically that's almost impossible. Uh, you know, just to get the, the, the clearances to be able to have them work with clients. Uh, and then they're showing up at a site where they've, they don't know anyone they've been doing it differently at the site that they're at. So we, we realized very early on that wasn't going to be something that, that would work. So it's more simulation based. And it's actually, it's a combination of, there's some amount of lecture, there's some amount of practice and activity. Um, we do take them, we do bring in a couple of guest speakers. Uh, we have them do, uh, the rat lab for that we have here at the university. Over the past two years, we've actually had dr. Al Poling come in and give a history of his own experiences in behavior analysis, kind of here's how he got from point a to point Z.

Dr. Jonathan Baker (16:07):

And I think that probably one of the greatest benefits of that and students have rated that they really enjoy that is our students in many cases had never heard of behavior analysis until they started working with children with autism. So it wasn't that they knew about Western or that they knew about behavior analysis and then pursued this career. They found that tech level, uh, you know, uh, direct care specialist sort of role. And then somebody said, hey, the way that you do this right is behavior analysis. So, okay, I'll go ahead and do that. And then oftentimes what we have is students that, uh, kinda we get word of mouth within a site. So we get a student at a site, they go through the experience, they start telling people, you should do this, this program. So then we get another student. So when they get here, they really know nothing about the history of Western or, you know, kind of why this might be a good choice for them. They just know somebody said that they should do it. So having dr. Poling go through and talk about his experiences really kind of opens their eyes to how much has happened at Western.

Shauna Costello (17:10):

Well, and I mean, even with just my experience, dr. Poling, if you start looking at like dr. Van Houten, because I mean, dr. Poling is known for something, you know, right now, and it's more EAB stuff. It, you know, dr. Van Halen right now is known for more of his like behavior based safety stuff. But if you actually look at their history of even their publications, what they did, it's absolutely insane the amount of different things that they have done within the field of behavior analysis.

Dr. Jonathan Baker (17:41):

It really is. And I think that's, that's just great for them to hear about that, but also to know how broadly applicable this, that this isn't, you know, just, uh, just, I, I say with my fingers in air quotes there, a treatment for autism, and there's nothing wrong with behavior analysis, working with individuals with autism, that we need a lot of that we need way more than what we currently have, but there's a lot of other areas that that could benefit. And just exposing students to that in graduate school, I think is, is, uh, an important thing that graduate programs should do, you know, you're, and I know I'm kinda going off from answering this question, but, uh, to, to get to areas, you have to understand that there is research in other areas, if have, look into that research and then seek out supervision. So if you've never been exposed to that, you're never gonna know to look for it. So we see value in presenting that while they're here in the program,

Dr. Jonathan Baker (18:34):

Getting back to that, that intensive. You know, and we've actually played around with not even calling it a practicum anymore, because as you said, people have that, that connotation of what that is. And really, as we tell the students, you're already in practicum, you're doing that out of your site. What we're doing is just more of an intensive Kalamazoo week. So we've played around with just calling it the intensive Kalamazoo week instead. And that gives us a little more, little more leeway, but we also have, uh, we have, uh, dr. Gina Kerber from the great lakes center, come in and talk about billing and understanding billing codes and billing activities. And our students have said, I had no idea that that was going on at my sites or, or what that, what that involved and part of that is, we've talked to sites and we said, what would you like students come out with?

Dr. Jonathan Baker (19:19):

What would you like them to understand? We, uh, go over different ways to kind of walk through that, that behavior, behavioral consultation process identifying whether or not a client is some somebody that would benefit from your services and what you have to look at within your own context to identify whether or not you have the capacity to provide those services, how you're going to provide those services and evaluate whether or not it's being effective. And at what point do you, um, uh, kind of, you know, go into maintenance and then eventually potentially terminate, uh, some of those services. So right now, what we've identified, we have our students do a master's project. So they don't do a thesis, they, they do it as a project. And it was, um, really data from that project over a number of years, uh, critical thinking, evidenced based practice area was something that they weren't getting in their practicum and they weren't getting in their classes.

Dr. Jonathan Baker (20:16):

And we thought that's the best thing then to put into that intensive week, something that they need, but they're not getting anywhere else. Initially, that distance was a major issue. And I'm not going to say that it isn't, but, um, we're seeing people setting up study groups and, uh, really interacting more. And it starts with that first time that they're in Kalamazoo, they've gone through classes together, but they probably didn't get a chance to interact with everyone. You're stuck there for three days, you're going to interact and, and we move groups around, so you have to interact with different people, and that really starts to build it. So it's, it's really fun to see the second years, um, where they they've turned into this really tight knit group and you can see how they're working together. And, um, the experience is really fun and what we do, you know, so we do that the full day on campus working on things.

Dr. Jonathan Baker (21:08):

But then, um, the first day we go out to dinner and back. So our graduate student organization for the behavior analysis program, uh, encourages students who are members to show up. So we get some, some kind of interacting of on campus students and off campus students. And, and the, the hybrid students really, really enjoy that as well as interacting with faculty. And then, uh, on, on day two on Thursday, uh, I have the students over to my house and, uh, we do it, we do a cookout, uh, there, and the, and the students have said that that's just another enjoyable experience to get time with me and dr. Karsten and be able to ask us questions and find out that we're, we're actually just kind of human beings. We're not just, uh, professors.

Shauna Costello (21:50):

And I honestly think that that is something that, you know, I took away from Western, um, you know, I was on campus, so I got it a little bit different, but just, I know that I can go back to any Western faculty. Um, I know that I can contact them and it's really just a close knit community in Kalamazoo and at Western in general.

Dr. Jonathan Baker (22:11):

It is, yeah, and I think we've, we've definitely embodied the, the junior colleague, uh, sort of approach to faculty mentorship. We've tried to build as much as that as we can into the hybrid program we just don't have the same number of contacts. Uh, you know, so that you can kind of establish that, that relationship. But it's absolutely something that I remember noticing as an undergraduate. I remember experiencing as a doc student, and I want to make sure that we continue here.

Shauna Costello (22:38):

Yeah, and I mean, it sounds, I mean, it sounds like you're doing almost everything you possibly can because I know that for the campus students, uh, dr. Peterson, she holds a pig roast every year. So I know that we have a pig roast every year, and it's almost the same thing you are doing at your house with the hybrid students every summer. It sounds like you're really embodying everything that the on campus program is. And trying to make sure that the hybrid students are getting those same types of experiences.

Dr. Jonathan Baker (23:05):

That's our goal.

Shauna Costello (23:06):

Getting back to, you know, the program and the classes and the coursework who are the faculty, you know, that they should be expecting to see, or what can they expect from their coursework.

Dr. Jonathan Baker (23:17):

Yeah. So we have a predetermined, uh, course sequence. Um, and we've done that in part based on kind of the milestones that we want students to go through, but also faculty availability. And one of the important things that, uh, dr. Fuqua and Peterson said from the very beginning was that they wanted Western faculty teaching these courses. So that students that are taking a course, uh, in the hybrid program are getting the same faculty that they would if they were on campus. So, um, at this point in their first semester, our students are taking the conditioning and learning help course taught by Anthony DeFulio. And, uh, this fall, I believe is he's going to be teaching that on campus as well. So now we have same person teaching on campus, who's teaching it off campus. Uh, they'd also take ethics in that first semester, and that's taught by dr. Fuqua.

Dr. Jonathan Baker (24:08):

Uh, and he's the one who teaches it on campus and teaches it, uh, as similarly as possible. Uh, in the off campus, we have just undergone our transition to our fifth edition course sequence. So students that have started now are in our fifth edition of course sequence. And, uh, with that, they take our experimental analysis of behavior course during their first summer. So we make sure that follows right after concepts and principles, and that is taught by dr. Al Poling. Uh, so they get, uh, they get a chance to meet him when they're here for intensive Kalamazoo week, and then they have class with him for the rest of the summer. Um, in the fall they take, uh, the, uh, research methods course, and I'm the faculty member who's teaching that. And then they also take our behavioral assessment course. And that's taught by dr. Denise Ross who teaches that course on campus.

Dr. Jonathan Baker (25:01):

In the spring, they'll take, uh, our course behavioral approaches to treatment, um, which is, uh, I guess the assessment and the behavioral approaches to treatment course, are new courses that weren't there when, when you were, uh, at Western, but you probably knew them by slightly different names. What we found was that we had courses in autism and developmental disabilities,

Shauna Costello (25:23):

I was just gonna say developmental disabilities,

Dr. Jonathan Baker (25:25):

But really, uh, what those courses had kind of turned into was, uh, kind of skill acquisition procedures and assessments, autism, and then behavior reduction, uh, and assessments for DD. So we just kind of took those and separated them out. Um, so they'll take that behavioral approaches to treatment course in their spring. And that's when they also start their masters project. Um, so they, they have a lower course load and their second year, because we're bumping up masters project and that involves, uh, regular meetings with dr. Amanda Karsten over the course of the next year. So they do the behavioral approaches treatment course in the spring, in the summer, they take our new course ABA in supervision. Uh, and I'm the faculty member who teaches that on campus and in the hybrid program. And then in the fall, they'll take the Skinners behaviorism course taught by Anthony DeFulio. Uh, and what's great is that then we have a little bit of a book ending where Anthony is teaching their first course, their concepts and principles, and then he's got them again at the end teaching Skinner's behaviors. So he knows what they've learned as far as concepts and principles, and kind of knows how to push them to that next level. Uh, so right now, those are the courses that our students are taking and the faculty that teach those.

Shauna Costello (26:50):

There is one thing that I wanted to mention to anybody who will be listening to this. I know that Western is unique in how they title their semesters. Western has a fall, a spring and a summer, but from my understanding from just talking to some other people, they usually call it fall winter in summer. So people in Michigan like to avoid winter as much as possible, but we don't even label our semesters as winter, just like it would be fall winter and then summer, if you're used to hearing it like that.

Dr. Jonathan Baker (27:31):

Yes, and we have two summers, we have summer one and summer two.

Shauna Costello (27:35):

Yes, and they're just cut in half.

Dr. Jonathan Baker (27:37):


Shauna Costello (27:38):

A little bit shorter. Well, you kind of mentioned in the beginning where some of the hybrid students are getting their practicum hours at, um, and I heard you say a couple that were, that might be just kind of unique.

Dr. Jonathan Baker (27:51):

Um, yeah, so there's, uh, there's at least one hospital in the Metro Detroit area that has behavior analysts. It's not, it's still a center based service, but it's in the context of a hospital. Um, and then, um, we have a number of students that are at different center locations, some are university-based. Uh, so we have, we actually have some students that are at other university based, uh, centers, cause they they're looking to hire folks as well. And then, um, some that are at a single standalone center and some that are a part of a medium sized company, some that are a part of a statewide or even a couple that are a part of multiple States. But for the most part in the hybrid program, the majority of students are receiving their training doing early intensive intervention with children with autism, typically six years or younger, we've had a couple of students that have ventured into different areas.

Dr. Jonathan Baker (28:52):

And we've actually had a couple of students who are close enough to Kalamazoo that they've actually opted to work with faculty at one of their sites. So one of our hybrid students actually worked with me at one of my aging sites. Uh, and then another one that we currently have is working with, uh, dr. Jessica Frieder at one of her school sites. Um, those are a little bit more rare, uh, and in part, because like I said, a lot of people find us because they're working at a site and are told to check us out and they're just not close enough to, to come to Kalamazoo

Shauna Costello (29:25):

Just to know that that is an option is good to know, because I know that you just called yours an aging site, but I know it's easy when you hear, you know, dr. Jessica Frieder she's in schools. Um, that's kind of a, okay. That's more understandable. What is it when you say an aging site?

Dr. Jonathan Baker (29:44):

Well, that's probably a misnomer cause everyone's aging, right? Uh, it's specifically, it's a, it's a day program. Uh, that's open from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM. And, uh, uh, anyone who's over the age of 40 can actually attend as long as they are receiving some sort of social security or Medicare Medicaid, uh, support tends to be folks over the age of 65. Um, and the majority of them have what we call neurocognitive disorder, formerly known as dementia. So Alzheimer's disease, vascular dementia, those sorts of things. So it's really, it's like a respite program. So they may live at home with a family member. Who's taking care of them, but they come to the day program for the day. And, um, this day program is unique because, uh, it was started under the idea of let's create a day program that can provide services that no other day program is able to provide.

Dr. Jonathan Baker (30:44):

In fact, um, it was started in part with a number of faculty, but dr. Linda Leblanc was one of the faculty who started when she was once faculty at Western and in the journal behavior modification in 2011, she published a description of the day program and kind of the way that it was established. Um, and we're kind of like the last stop as far as supports before someone's going to have to go into probably a nursing home. We'll work with folks who have more challenging behavior, uh, aggression, incontinence, wandering, uh, disruptive vocalizations that any other day program or adult day center would discharge somebody for. So they come to us and then we've got a graduate student, a doctoral graduate student who supervises master's students and undergraduate students in a practicum working in that setting. So we do functional assessment, function-based treatment, skill acquisition, uh, staff training, running the whole gamut there. But, uh, all with folks who are, who are older,

Shauna Costello (31:48):

That's really awesome. That's really, really awesome. Yeah. I know that there's a lot of different opportunities, so I want to make sure that we get to talk about all of them, but yeah. So what else, is there anything that we haven't covered yet about the program itself that you would like to make sure that people know about?

Dr. Jonathan Baker (32:05):

Yeah. I think one of the things that I really like about our program and students report after the fact that they're not, they're not fans of it during, but after they, like it is the master's project. So our master's project involves two different activities. One is a, what we call the applied project. So the student has to come up with something that they're going to do a database activity working at their site. This could be working directly with, uh, the, the children that they work at the site, or it could be a staff training sort of protocol. We've had a little bit of a split there, but most students tend to be working with, um, some of the learners that they're working with at the sites. So the applied project involves, um, a nomination process. And I kind of mentioned that a little bit. Uh, Dr. Karsten starts working with them in the spring. They identify what it is they want to work on, identify literature that supports what they want to do, work with their BCBA to make sure that it can be done, write up the protocol, get that approval they'll then actually run the project, collect the data. We don't require that they have to use any major experimental design when they do that. But what we do is throughout the process, we anchor the, the applied project to the seven dimensions of applied behavior analysis and in their defense that they would do in the fall. They talk about their project in the context of each of those seven dimensions to knock the analytical part out of the park, but they have to understand what they can tell from what they did, and can't tell. So you don't have to have used reversal design, but you have to know if I didn't, here's what I can't say about my data and here's what I can say. I think that that's unique in that, um, it allows students to do something that works for their site. We always tell students, this has to be something that benefits the site they're at, but it allows us to get into more detailed than we would if we tried to hold everyone to the same standard. So that's one part of their master's project at the same time. Um, we do a task item defense. So the task item defense right now, what we do is we have them select one task item off of the, uh, we're using the fifth edition task list, one task item that they feel comfortable with and one task item that they don't know, and they're going to spend the other part of their time from spring, until fall researching those. And we see a couple of reasons why we want to do that.

Dr. Jonathan Baker (34:38):

One is we want to be able to evaluate that vocal verbal repertoire around behavior analysis, and we get some of that in the applied project. We get some of that in the task item defense. It also is an opportunity for them to learn how to study for the BCBA exam, because they take something that they don't know, and they have to figure out how do I learn about it? They're going to have to defend that orally. And that defense of those task items involves telling us what the task item it is, defining that, giving an example, giving a non-example, and talking about how it's relevant to their practice as a behavior analyst from there, dr. Karsten, and I have free range to ask any questions about that task item.

Shauna Costello (35:21):

That's dangerous

Dr. Jonathan Baker (35:24):

It is, it absolutely is, and she, and I, we can just give each other a look and we know what we're going to, we're going to focus in on. And our students actually do a practice defense of summer early on into the fall. They get feedback on it, and then they do the actual defense towards the end of the fall. But what we really like about that, and what students have talked about is, you know, number one, they get to talk about a project. They did that applied project and tying in the seven dimensions of applied behavior analysis. But then also they get a chance to test their own knowledge. You know? So what are those task items they say they're comfortable with? Well, let's see how you do when you have to talk to two faculty about that task item. Um, it kind of helps them reevaluate how well they know something.

Dr. Jonathan Baker (36:06):

And then that item that they didn't know, you know, we, we go over, how do you look into something that you don't understand? And, you know, when you look at some of the pass rates on the BCBA exam, um, where, uh, if you don't pass it the first time, the drastic decrease in performance, I think part of that is people don't tend to vary how they're studying, right. I'm going to do the same thing and I'm just going to do more of it. Well, it didn't get you there the first time, it's probably still not going to. So, expose you to something that you don't know how to study for, and then teaching you how to study for it to the point that you can defend it to us. I feel pretty comfortable that you've got the skills to be able to do that if you encounter something else. And is it okay if I talk about our pass rate?

Shauna Costello (36:52):

Yeah, of course you can.

Dr. Jonathan Baker (36:53):

All right. Um, so

Shauna Costello (36:55):

I was actually just pulling it up,

Dr. Jonathan Baker (36:57):

So if you look at our pass rate, you're going to see combined on and off campus. They don't separate those out, but we know the numbers, uh, between our, our on and our off campus. And, uh, actually give me just one second, so I am accurate.

Shauna Costello (37:12):

I know I was, I was literally pulling it up right now because I know that that was the debate when the program was getting up and running was if they were going to combine them or if they were going to go through the process of getting them as two separate programs.

Dr. Jonathan Baker (37:28):

Absolutely, and that was, and I very much understand some of the discussion there because it's different, you know, really when you look at the trained experience on campus versus off campus, I think, uh, dr. Karsten, I've done a lot to kind of bolster that training, but there's some things we just can't do. So, so to say it's the same as it's something that everyone has been quite a bit, uh, nervous about. Um, but I think that, and I, I just pulled up the hybrid numbers, but I want to get,

Shauna Costello (38:00):

I mean, in 2018, Western, you know, for both overall was 97%.

Dr. Jonathan Baker (38:06):

I was gonna say, I knew it was in the nineties, but I wanted to be careful. And I think that's only one or two people who didn't pass across those.

Shauna Costello (38:15):

I think it's out of 34, so yeah, it would have to be.

Dr. Jonathan Baker (38:19):

And obviously I can't say where that person was on or off, but we know, and, uh, we feel pretty good about, uh, some of that training. And, and obviously this is something that we stress with the students regularly. We're not training them to pass exam, passing the exam is a benefit of what we have trained them to. And we feel very confident that if we can get them on that defense, to where we want them to be and through all of their coursework and through their practicum experience. And we kind of bring that all together, um, the exam should just fall into place. And, and so far our data are supporting.

Shauna Costello (38:57):

So we've talked to a couple of the people from Western, kind of about the interview process. I know, and we've kind of mentioned it here too, but the hybrid program, the application deadline interviews, acceptance and start dates are all completely different from the on campus one. So can you talk just a little bit more about those dates and if students are interested what they should expect?

Dr. Jonathan Baker (39:25):

Absolutely. So, uh, traditionally, and I think it'll remain this way for the foreseeable future. Our application deadline is September 15th. We really we've looked at going earlier before, but sometimes people just aren't thinking about graduate school yet, or they're just starting to think about their applications for other settings. So we want to give a little bit of time so that as they're looking at different graduate school opportunities, we can be included in that, but we also can't go any later because we need to start them in January. So the application deadline is September 15th. We contact people within a week, uh, and let them know whether or not we're going to do interviews. And we actually hold the interviews typically either the last weekend of September or the first weekend of October. So the turnaround is breakneck speed to try and go through all that content. And then also the interview, so the, the hybrid program can potentially hold up to 20 students. We don't, we have not yet gone to 20 students. We always reserve the right to say, we're, we're just going to take on the number of students that we know we can handle and who we, we have the right settings for, but to interview for that, sometimes we hold 35, 40 interviews and it's just me and dr. Karsten, and then any other faculty member who's willing to enable, so what that looks like is we have a full day scheduled out at McComb community college, which is where we hold our, um, our hybrid meetings at. And,

Shauna Costello (41:00):

And that, just so everybody knows, that is in Metro Detroit.

Dr. Jonathan Baker (41:03):

Yes. So the way we schedule it though is, um, we have a half an hour interview and then about a five or 10 minute break, and then another half an hour of interview and then a five or 10 minute break. So students only come in for a half an hour interview. They don't come in with other students like we do with the on campus, one where it's like everybody's together. And it lasts for a long time, part of that is because you're, you're applying to work with a single mentor or, you know, two years you're going to be working within that lab. You know, you're looking for, is there, is there a fit? For us,they're at their sites. We just need to evaluate what is their knowledge about behavior analysis? What is the likelihood that they're going to succeed in the graduate program? What is the likelihood that they can handle the pressures and the challenges of the hybrid program. And we stress this a lot for students, it is not an easier program. It's a different program, it allows our students to stay where they're at and pursue their masters, but it doesn't go easy on them. Any of our students would be happy to contact anyone and say, yes, it's, it's still very intense.

Shauna Costello (42:09):

And I think that was part of the reason too, that when the faculty, you know, were debating when they're creating this hybrid program a handful of years ago, keeping it either combined or making it a whole separate program when it comes to those pass rates, because they wanted to make sure that they were still holding it to this very high standard, that Western has always tried to make sure that they're producing.

Dr. Jonathan Baker (42:33):

That is exactly how it went. I said, let's keep them a part of it. So we know that they've got a, they got to stay high, otherwise they're pulling all of our pass rates down. So it's a little bit nerve wracking at times to know that that's included. But I love that as part of the motivation to ensure that that we're doing, doing things well. Um, so yeah, we do those those half an hour interviews. We also, at this point, we're getting about as many applicants from the West side of the state as we are from the East side of the state. So in our first few cohorts, it was all Metro Detroit, but there've been other programs that have developed over there. You know what I mean, Michigan State, Wayne state, um, there's a number of options that folks have back on the West side. Uh, you still got central Michigan, you've got grand Valley, and then you've got Western, but Grand Rapids is growing.

Dr. Jonathan Baker (43:23):

Uh, and that's about an hour North of Kalamazoo. So we get a number of applicants from there. And then we get people from West of Kalamazoo closer to the shoreline. So we now hold a Kalamazoo interview day in addition to our Metro Detroit interview day. And then if that doesn't capture everyone, we'll hold additional meetings. Our goal is to make decisions on, uh, whether or not we're going to accept folks by early to mid November, we try to go early, but we tell everyone it could be mid. Part of that is just looking at the number of people that we have, if there's late applicants, that sort of thing. And then it's a start in January. Uh, so once, once you're accepted, we let you know when we'll actually, we let you know at the interview when the, when the class meetings are for the spring, because those do vary.

Dr. Jonathan Baker (44:11):

It's, it's been very challenging to try and just have a, this is always when we meet for the second Saturday of each month for those fall and winter or fall and spring semesters. But, uh, sometimes it doesn't work. Sometimes we have the behavior analyst association of Michigan, uh, conference that happens, uh, that second Saturday, sometimes here on campus it's interview weekend. Um, uh, sometimes spring break is in March. Um, we always let students know when the meetings, uh, will happen two semesters in advance, at least. So we know in the fall, um, when the spring and we don't meet in the summer, but we let them know when, when they come to Kalamazoo. So at the interview, they get all of that. And then early to mid spring semester, they're going to find out when the fall dates are, and then, uh, over the summer, we've already set the, the, uh, spring dates and that sort of thing. So, um, you get two semesters, but we kind of encourage folks to consider that, uh, over the next two years, um, maybe first and second Saturdays, probably not a great idea to schedule too much, although trying to convince other people not to schedule things has always been the bigger challenge, September and October appear to be great times to schedule weddings. So that has thrown students for a loop.

Shauna Costello (45:34):

All right. So now onto my favorite question, Kalamazoo.

Dr. Jonathan Baker (45:38):


Shauna Costello (45:38):

So tell me all about it in your own words and experiences. 'Cause I know, I know you're from the area and I know that you were happy, like I said before, you were happy to get back to the area.

Dr. Jonathan Baker (45:49):

Yeah. So, uh, Kalamazoo, I haven't lived a lot of places, but, uh, the two other places that I, that I have lived Lawrence, Kansas, and Carbondale, Illinois, um, there are people who come to Kalamazoo and say that it's a very small town, but, uh, if you get a chance to go to Carbondale, you'll find out that Kalamazoo is darn near metropolitan in comparison.

Shauna Costello (46:13):

Even my home, even my hometown, my hometown didn't even serve booze until about eight years ago.

Dr. Jonathan Baker (46:20):

Oh, wow. Yeah. Yeah, exactly. So I think that, I think the Kalamazoo has a large enough population to give you more than what you would get in a pure tiny college town. Um, but it's not so big that traffic is really ever a major issue unless you're trying to get through downtown and a train comes through,

Shauna Costello (46:42):

Or if your practicum site is in battle Creek.

Dr. Jonathan Baker (46:45):

I was gonna say, or if, or if you've got to get onto 94 to go across that terrible corridor, or if you're trying to get around on campus the first day of the fall semester, uh, you know, that's just going to be terrible, but overall, you know, traffic's pretty good. Um, we've got, I am a big fan of breweries and we have a disproportionately large number of breweries given the population. Uh, we have a really decent food scene downtown. Um, you know, is, is it like what you're gonna get in Chicago or Detroit? Absolutely not, but, um, still does pretty darn decent.

Shauna Costello (47:23):

You can probably find almost like one of something.

Dr. Jonathan Baker (47:27):

Exactly, exactly. It may not be the best, but you can find something of that. Um, you know, I think the town does a really nice job of blending, kind of a city life with a, you know, an outdoor opportunity to experience the really growing, um, sidewalks encouraging, uh, you know, using bikes. Um, we've got a number of natural spaces that you can go to. We are 40 minutes from South Haven, uh, which is, I was just there on Sunday. I just hopped over and went, uh, hung out at Lake Michigan. The water was 78 degrees. It was, uh, for us that's spectacular because today it's 52 degrees. Yeah, so our summers, we, we occasionally get some heat. Um, but today and yesterday and the rest of the week, we're in the low eighties and relatively decent humidity, our falls are spectacular. Uh, and if you don't feel like it's good enough, you can just go a little further North and get even better fall. I love our winters, not everyone does. Uh, and it does take a special person to enjoy a Michigan winter, but I think we're in agreement that they are spectacular.

Shauna Costello (48:41):

I love Michigan winters. And I think we're two of the craziest people for saying that because we did go to school in Kalamazoo.

Dr. Jonathan Baker (48:48):

Exactly, but you know, that was every one of the seasons was what I missed when I, when I moved to Lawrence. And when I moved to Carbondale was that I was used to fully experiencing each of the four seasons. Um, and I've talked to a number of people who, while they were here in graduate school, complained the heck out of everything, but they are very nostalgic for aspects of each of those seasons when they go back to, to wherever it was that they came from, or, you know, wherever they're going to be, our winter does tend to go a little bit longer than we might prefer, but what better establishing operation for, uh, enjoying all of the summerness than to have a winter that goes a little too long, you know?

Shauna Costello (49:35):

Yeah. And I mean, there's, there are days in winter where it can get to 80 degrees and then 30 minutes later it can be back down to freezing, but it happens. We get four seasons in one day sometimes.

Dr. Jonathan Baker (49:51):

Absolutely. Absolutely. We've had a couple of those this year. Yeah.

Shauna Costello (49:55):

Well, how's your family enjoying it now that,

Dr. Jonathan Baker (49:57):

They love it. The kids have learned, um, you know, winter sports, which they hadn't where we were at before. Um, they love the fall. In fact, my daughter, I was just saying yesterday because the weather's a little cooler today, just, it felt like fall and I'm getting excited for everything fall related. Um, uh, so, so they're enjoying it. Um, and I think our, you know, just kind of quality of life for us has really been, um, enhanced to get out and do the, that we wanted to do.

Shauna Costello (50:28):

But yeah, I mean, okay. Do you have anything else that you want to mention or that,

Dr. Jonathan Baker (50:35):

I think we've hit on everything.

Shauna Costello (50:36):

Okay. Cool. Well, thank you so much, I enjoyed learning. Even for me, learning more about the updates to the hybrid program and where it's been going and you know, where it's aiming to go.

Dr. Jonathan Baker (50:48):

Alright, thank you very much.

Shauna Costello (50:52):

Thank you for listening to this episode of the university series, next week we'll be taking a trip across the country to Georgia state university where we'll be speaking with Dr. Christopher Tullis to explore more about this urban university right in the heart of Atlanta. And as always, if you have questions, comments, or feedback, please feel free to contact us at


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