University Series 016 | Jacksonville State University

Join Operant Innovations as we talk with Dr. Paige McKerchar about the MS in Applied Behavior Analysis at Jacksonville State University.

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Shauna Costello (00:01):

You're listening to operant innovations, a podcast brought to you by ABA technologies this week on the university series. We're talking with Dr. Paige McKerchar from Jacksonville state university. Dr. McKerchar completed her PhD in 2006 at the university of Kansas under the supervision of dr. Rachel Thompson. Dr. McKerchar currently serves as chair of the psychology department at Jacksonville state university, executive director of the ALABA and the chair of the Alabama behavior analysts licensing board. Further dr. McKerchar directs the center for behavioral studies. The mission of which is to support faculty research while concurrently training students and providing the community with applied behavior analysis services. Dr. McKerchar regularly participates in events, hosted by ABAI ABBA and the BACB. And she serves as a guest reviewer for the journal of applied behavior analysis and is a former member of the editorial board for behavior analysis and practice. Most recently, her focus has been on promoting the practice of behavior analysis in Alabama through public policy and university training. So without further ado, please welcome dr. Paige McKerchar. Today, we are here with Paige McKerchar from Jacksonville state university, and we are going to learn a little bit more about the programs that they have and what they're doing. Um, so first, could you just give us a little bit of a broad overview of the program.

Dr. Paige McKerchar (01:35):

Of the program? Absolutely. Um, so we are a master's program, it is currently a master of science degree in psychology, although we've asked for it to be changed to a master's in applied behavior analysis. So we'll see if that, I think we'll hear about that in a couple of months. Um, it's a two year program. We have 39 credit hours. Um, it is a verified course sequence included in that we have moved to the fifth edition task list. So all students coming from now on we'll get that task list. Uh, we have a required practicum or thesis so students can choose to do either one.

Dr. Paige McKerchar (02:14):

The majority of the students choose the practicum option. Most of our students are masters. Um, like looking at master's degrees as their terminal degree, they were interested in going into practice. So they're not as interested in sticking around with us and doing research, although we wish more than work. Um, let's see, though, I think one of the unique things about our program's curriculum is that we require, um, a pigeon lab. So if a student comes without having had an animal experience in the past, then they would take this one credit pigeon lab. It's actually an undergraduate course that our majors and minors are all required to take in the psychology program. And so again, a lot of our students do come from the undergraduate program have had that course, but if they, if a student comes new, that is something that we add and is not, I always have to tell folks not a BCBA requirement, but it is definitely something that we find valuable. And it's one of those things that's just not around very much anymore. So as long as we can keep the chambers operating, we would like to give people that experience

Shauna Costello (03:15):

Well, and I mean, I would probably take it anyway. I, cause we had a rat labs at Western, but yes, but I I've never done a pigeon lab. So I would love to just do that anyway.

Dr. Paige McKerchar (03:25):

I know I should, if I had more time, I would work with the birds too.

Shauna Costello (03:28):

That would be, so that would be a lot of fun. Um, and so I know that you said that, you know, a lot of the students are coming in for the practicum options. Um, but what are they, what are some of the experiences that they're getting while they're in the program with those practicum options?

Dr. Paige McKerchar (03:45):

Sure. So they are, our practicums are all managed off site. So we, as like the faculty here don't actually supervise any of those programs or those experiences directly, um, there is our, my colleague, dr. Makenzie Bayles, she does the oversight of the practicums. So she's looking at folks paperwork. She, um, helps, you know, if there's an ethical conflict or something along these lines, she's very much there to help the student, but they're getting all of the training and the technical BACB supervision through the programs off campus. And those programs include, um, a place called the learning tree inc., Which it has both a residential program that has an on campus, like on campus school. Um, so students often will either work in that school setting or the residential setting. Um, they often also have a new clinic, so that is just an early intervention clinic.

Dr. Paige McKerchar (04:36):

Some students will work on that setting. Um, they also have a little what's called a little tree preschool and that preschool serves both typically and atypically developing kids. So some of our students are getting experience there. Uh, the others, um, are getting experience mostly at private jobs. So they're just looking for jobs in the area. Those jobs have increased significantly since I got here, what 12, 13 years ago. Um, so there's a lot more area businesses that need our students and are grateful for them. Um, most of those students have come out of programs nearby like Auburn university, Florida state university. So they're well trained and, um, we're really happy to have them supervising our students. We hope to develop those program practicums and see even more, um, I guess, hands on and experiences for our faculty because I think we're too far removed from it.

Dr. Paige McKerchar (05:31):

Um, and we would like more research opportunities and things like that. There's one other opportunity that our students often take, which is a on campus, although not through the psychology department, um, program, it is referred to as learning services, the department of learning services, they offer developmental coursework for students coming into Jacksonville state. So students who need additional help with reading, um, writing and math and our students use usually for some kind of combination of just traditional, um, applied behavior analysis principles and precision teaching to help those students along. And so, and in a unique way, three of the staff in that area, um, or instructors and staff are BCBAs. So they're getting supervised, um, in a unique setting with a unique population to some degree. Um, we actually had one of our graduates go work at Morningside Academy in Seattle, um, which was most of the students who work there want to go on to do that. It's hard to get a job. Many of them don't have the means to move to Seattle. Um, there's been, I think one organization fit opened in Atlanta. So that's somewhere else, I doubt we'll have very high turnover, but our students who are, you know, who are interested in that other approach to applying behavior analysis are really enthusiastic about that position.

Shauna Costello (06:51):

No, and that's, that's really cool to hear about some more of the unique practicum opportunities, because a lot of the times you don't really get like the precision teaching aspect, you know, cause you to get really get the hands on precision teaching aspect, you always learn about it. Um, but unless you're working with a specific faculty member, that that's what they do. So that's really cool that that is a completely unique practicum opportunity that a lot of students wouldn't normally get. Um, and so we're talking, we've heard about, you know, the pigeon lab, um, and that you're in the fifth edition. So, and now we've talked a little bit about precision teaching opportunities to, um, what are the, what's the new fifth edition course sequence looking like for you guys?

Dr. Paige McKerchar (07:40):

Well, it is likely to change and for a couple of reasons, one, we're just going through the first cycle now and we just don't like the order of the courses. Um, but also because we are looking to hire another faculty member. So one of our faculty left to start a master's program at another university in Alabama, which we are very proud of her to do and want her to go on and do that. But we have lost somebody. So we expect to hire for fall of 2020. And we would like for that person to be involved in this, you know, under whatever potentially redesigning the curriculum slightly. Um, but for now we have a principals, no, we have applied behavior analysis, um, one course, which is our principles course, um, functional assessments and the personnel supervision course in the fall. So the students first year, first semester, and then we have ABA two, um, research single, single subject research methods and conceptual foundations in their second semester of their first year. And then they take ethics in the summer to round out their BCS. So that'll be all the required coursework. And then they do their, um, elective coursework in the spring. And that typically includes but changes a bit, but it generally includes a course on child development, um, verbal behavior, developmental disabilities. Um, we have an experimental analysis of behavior course that's required for our accreditation. So all students take that and then that's when they're doing their practicums as well.

Shauna Costello (09:13):

No, it sounds, it sounds really good. I know that, um, I've seen a little bit of what Florida tech is developing for their fifth edition. And so I like hearing what everybody else has as well. So, um, there is, I'm looking at the website, right now, a. nd I'm noticing that on here, you guys make it very easy to explore graduate scholarships.

Dr. Paige McKerchar (09:37):


Shauna Costello (09:38):

Is that something that your students take advantage of often?

Dr. Paige McKerchar (09:41):

They, you know, often that is something that comes straight from our university that we've linked to. Um, I don't think we get a lot of students who get what would be considered just a traditional scholarship. Um, we've had students come in with like military scholarships, things like that, that they're bringing on their end. Um, but the thing, the learning tree practicum options that I mentioned, students can do that as we're referring to as a fellowship. And I took that term from another university that used it, but, um, where they had worked with the learning tree as well, but they come in and they could get that their coursework paid for through the learning tree when they sign an agreement to work for that organization following graduation.

Dr. Paige McKerchar (10:21):

Um, but it can get all of their tuition and fees covered up to more, more than it would cost to come here. So, um, and I think if you took all of your tuition and fees for the two years, you're here, you'd probably end up working for the organization for two years. Otherwise you'd make very, very little money in a year. So either way yes live very, very frugally, um, or plan to work for them for a couple of years. And many of our graduates go on to work for them anyway. So that is not an unusual circumstance. They have locations in Jacksonville, um, Tallahassee, which is near Auburn and mobile, which is a very Southern part of the state. And so you can also potentially still move and change if you wanted to, but you wouldn't necessarily have to do that. But it's a really good opportunity. This is the first semester we've had four students do that. Um, and they're all taking out all the tuition and fees so far, so we'll see how it goes, but that is, we're trying to do that fellowship option with other businesses as well.

Shauna Costello (11:20):

No, and that's a really good option as well, cause it helps not only you guys, helps the students, but also helps get very talented individuals then coming to work with them for a couple of years.

Dr. Paige McKerchar (11:35):

Yeah. They're very honest about that part.

Shauna Costello (11:36):

Yes, exactly.

Dr. Paige McKerchar (11:38):

It's much more helpful for them in some ways.

Shauna Costello (11:42):

Right, exactly. Um, so no that's a really good setup and it's nice to see that you guys really are going out of your way to try to provide such financial support for the students who are coming to JSU. So that's really, really cool. Um, and so I'll be honest, you are the first school in Alabama that we have talked to. Um,

Dr. Paige McKerchar (12:02):

There's not that many.

Shauna Costello (12:03):

I know, there's a few, there's a few though. Um, but what makes JSU unique? Like why, you know, people probably aren't as familiar with JSU and JSU's program. And so,

Dr. Paige McKerchar (12:17):

I was not familiar with it before I worked here.

Shauna Costello (12:20):

Yeah. Yeah. What makes it unique? What should interest people about it?

Dr. Paige McKerchar (12:25):

I think, uh, well it's in the South. So again, some people do come from the North and you would not have to live here forever, but briefly the weather is delightful. Um, I think most importantly though we are, I think we are a very small program. So as far as the student to teacher ratio, the amount of attention our students get, um, I think that is not necessarily unique to all universities, but we are in that category of, um, of universities and our faculty are relatively young for the most part. I'm very much interested in engaging students. Our, I think our networking is significant, so it's semi coincidentally, but, uh, three of our four graduate, uh, or behavioral faculty, I should say, um, got their degrees at the university of Kansas. So I think we're all very like-minded. We did not all have the same advisor at that university, but we, you know, went through the similar coursework, similar, um, whatever we all have similar mentalities when it comes to behavior analysis, which I think is really important.

Dr. Paige McKerchar (13:34):

Uh, and so we are, it's easily conveyed to our students. There's not a lot of disagreements. Um, students, aren't getting two different perspectives, that's very confusing. Um, so that helps. And again, we're just, I think we're very involved at the state level. So I helped, or helped, I pretty much did pass the licensure bill here in the state. So I was instrumental in getting that through and just all of the legwork, obviously I didn't write the bill. The BACB was very nice to provide a model. Um, but I worked on revisions and did all that stuff. Um, I chair that licensing board. Now I'm the executive director of the Alabama association for behavior analysis. So, you know, getting our students connected after they leave us is flawless. I mean, it's just, it happens very smoothly. They are, they end up in very strong positions, generally speaking.

Dr. Paige McKerchar (14:22):

Um, and they are, they continue to work with us afterwards, I think. And I that's always been important to me cause a two year program in a sense kind of freaks me out. I don't, I mean, it took me a long time to get to where I am. Um, and so thinking about getting all that information to students in two years is very, very difficult. Um, but they are all pretty active in the Alabama association. So I see them at the conference every year. And so I think that, that again, that I don't know, family feel or networking is really, I think unique.

Shauna Costello (14:55):

And I mean, building up that community and it's, it sounds like it's continued well beyond, after they leave and they graduate. Um, and I completely understand the two year things sometimes in my program, I was either like, Oh my God, time is flying by. Or I was like, this is legitimately this lowest part of my life. And I don't think this is taking forever. So

Dr. Paige McKerchar (15:19):

From the teacher's perspective, it's the fastest two years. However, I can imagine the student's perspective as well.

Shauna Costello (15:26):

And, and like I said, it flip flopped both just depending on the day probably, but, um, but well, who are the faculty and what are they researching or looking into what their interests?

Dr. Paige McKerchar (15:39):

Um, so just to give an overview of what we teach in our research, um, I teach ABA two and analysis of child development. So that's a first year course, a second year course. I see students once in both of those years, uh, whereas my extracurricular activities have shifted largely from research to serving in various administrative roles, um, at both JSU and at the state level. Um, but luckily I'm very fortunate to work with some other faculty who compliments a lot of the things I do, um, for, you know, the field of behavior analysis and whatnot at those levels. Uh, one of those individuals, Makenzie Bayles is an assistant professor. Um, she studied under Pam Neider and Claudia Dozier at the university of Kansas. Um, she teaches our ABA one course and our ethics course, those are both first year courses. And then she also teaches behavior analysis and intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Dr. Paige McKerchar (16:39):

Um, and then as part she's the graduate coordinator. So part of her responsibilities is also con um, overseeing the practicum courses. So students will work on their paperwork process with her. Um, she has recently published a study in JABA with a former thesis student, and that study looked at, um, the effects of praise on preschooler behavior, but her interests are much more broad than that. And generally really anything where she can apply behavioral principles to solving socially important problems. So if students have particular interests, she's more than willing to work with those. Um, William Palya is our most senior faculty member at JSU. He has been here, um, many, many years. He runs the pigeon lab. Um, he also mentors students in basic research with those pigeons. So we don't get a ton of students interested in that area, but we did have one recent thesis student who graduated in the spring and she studied, um, kind of the effects of IRT distributions on or given different reinforcement schedules, um, both the micro and the macro effects of that.

Dr. Paige McKerchar (17:48):

And that's something continuing to do at West Virginia where she's working on her PhD now with Angela tall. Um, and then Todd McKerchar, my husband is a full professor here, um, with a background in both basic and applied research and his, um, he doesn't actually teach currently at the graduate level. He's only teaching undergraduate courses, but he has taught our methods course in the past. And he's taught an elective on impulsivity and self control. Um, so he may do that again in the future. Our, our immediate future is up for grabs right now. Um, his research applies largely, um, behavioral economics principles to understanding human choice-making and decision make or choices and decision-making. Um, and so his approach now is more basic than applied per se. And so those are the faculty we have now. We also expect to hire somebody for the fall, so who that person will be and what their interests are, um, is unknown, but it will certainly help define the direction we go.

Shauna Costello (18:54):

Even from like the sounds of, it sounds like the students could have a potential to get involved, like really involved. Like you said, with the Alabama association with a lot of the work that you do at the state level, not a lot of people get to see how working within other systems goes. So I know that, um, when I was at Western, this was a handful of years ago now, but, um, when I was at WMU, they were getting the process going to start getting the state licensure and that just finally passed last year. So, um, I can imagine just what the process is and the continue the continuation of that process too.

Dr. Paige McKerchar (19:36):

Yeah, no, there's no doubt that our students have a unique perspective on this because they do, they saw me doing it. I mean, we even, but then even then as they watched the process, some of them upon graduating still didn't fully understand, like, what's the difference between licensure and certification and which ones do I absolutely need. And so it's also opened my eyes to how to communicate with the public in general, about what the requirements are. Oh, and I was going to say, we do like, we have two student reps on the Alabama association for behavior analysis. And, um, one of them is typically a JSU student and one is typically an Auburn student, because those are the two biggest masters programs in the state. Um, and, and I mean, that's really a nice position to be in. They get a hotel room for the conference, which is probably more than, you know, they make in a week or two.

Shauna Costello (20:29):

They're not cheap either.

Dr. Paige McKerchar (20:31):

No, it's not. And I think it teaches them a little bit about the inner workings of an association, which again, from the outside seems like, Oh my gosh, it's so expensive and why do they do this? And why don't they do that? And when you started, you know, when you've helped arrange it, coordinate it, I think it helps quite a bit.

Shauna Costello (20:49):

So what about Jacksonville?

Dr. Paige McKerchar (20:51):

So it is a small town. Um, we're about 13,000 people, um, and we are in Northeast Alabama. So we have, uh, we're nestled at the foothills of the Appalachian mountains. As most advertising around here will tell you, um, and we're really surrounded by, uh, state parks. So it's, if you're an outdoorsy person, it really is the perfect place to get all your recreational needs met. Uh, one of the biggest attractions that I think people know us for, uh, outside of the state, not even having to do with the university is, um, a bike trail called the Chief Ladiga Trail.

Dr. Paige McKerchar (21:31):

Um, and it is a 32 mile trail that runs from Anniston, which is a town slightly South of us, um, all the way to the Georgia border, where it connects with another trail, um, the silver comet trail, which continues another, I think, 60, 62 miles, um, to Smyrna Georgia. Um, so that's something that draws people from everywhere. Um, I guess probably most of our Airbnbs advertise that as the attraction, things like that, but it is certainly a great place for folks who like to get out and hike and bike and do those types of things. In town, uh, we have a number of local shops, restaurants it's, you know, with 13,000 people, it's very small. So there's a, um, what we call the square is our downtown area. Um, that area has a popular coffee shop, um, students and the community alike spend quite a bit of time there.

Dr. Paige McKerchar (22:24):

Um, and a new taco restaurant just opened in our old fire station cause we've had a recent move of all of our police and safety folks to, uh, South like more Southern area in town. So that area was, we wanted it to be built up and it was really nice that, um, that some folks opened that taco place. And what else there's, um, a there's a farmer's market on the square as well, that runs from may through October. Um, and it's pretty well attended in advertising there's farmer's markets and all the towns around here. So sometimes folks will go to those other areas as well. But in general, I think the most appealing parts of Jacksonville are that the small component. So it's very friendly, um, pretty close knit community, but one that's really inviting. Um, when I came here, I didn't have any connections to Jacksonville and I was really, really surprised at how well received our family was. Um, and then the low cost of living. So it's, you know, according to cost of living calculators it's probably somewhere about 20-22% cheaper to live here than a city like Atlanta. So for students coming in, that's obviously an important draw. They will not be spending all their money, all their zillions of dollars of loan money having to pay for rent and things like that.

Shauna Costello (23:46):

Yeah. And I do also want to bring up, I had on ask about weather because I'm looking up, I'm looking at a map right now, and though I've never like stopped and spent time in the area, you know, I've driven through it. I know I kind of know, you know, the surrounding areas, but you know, I've spent some time, a little bit North I've spent some time, a little bit East. Um, have I gone West? I haven't, I mean, a little bit West, I've been to like Memphis and a little bit into Mississippi, but I know that when you go a little bit North of you guys, there's snow.

New Speaker (24:21):


Shauna Costello (24:22):

And they get snow. So I know maybe sometimes when people think Alabama, they're thinking Southern warm, hot all the time. So what is the weather like in Jacksonville?

Dr. Paige McKerchar (24:35):

I think we are fortunate to have all of the seasons, although depending on what meme you see, some of those can be funny because it does our Springs and falls feel like extended winters and summers to some degree. But we do like as far as the leaves changing and all of those activities, the flowers coming up that happens, um, I'm originally from South Florida where there were definitely no seasons. Um, so in contrast to that, it is nice to get all those seasons. We occasionally have snow. Um, my children hope for more of it than we get, but we've even, I tell this story cause I was in Vermont before I came to Alabama. Um, and I actually did not have a white Christmas in Vermont and it has snowed on Christmas in Alabama since I've lived here. Uh, unfortunately I was in Florida visiting family.

Dr. Paige McKerchar (25:25):

So I did not get to benefit from that. Um, but we do get some snow and we've had, we, you know, often get ice. There was a big ice storm ice, uh, you know, snowpocalypse or whatever they called it. Um, now it's been a number of years, but anyway, that was a big deal between Birmingham and Atlanta. There was lots of traffic. Um, but for the most part, it is still the South. We get warm, humid weather in the summers. Um, but we do get a nice break in the, and the other times of the year.

Shauna Costello (25:57):

No, and that sounds perfect. Cause then you, yeah, you kind of get a little bit of everything and you know, I did just move from mid Florida, I guess you would call it central Florida. There you go. Um, and you don't get a break there, so I can just imagine how Southern Florida would have been.

Dr. Paige McKerchar (26:15):


Shauna Costello (26:16):

I'm very happy to be back in snow right now, actually it's snowing today. So I'm very happy to see snow again.

Dr. Paige McKerchar (26:24):

Well, and I didn't mention in my description, we do have, um, we are located about midway between Atlanta and Birmingham, um, like an hour and a half from each. So that also, you know, you have opportunities to get to pretty much anywhere and everything you want to do, whether it's getting out of the weather to get to different weather, um, or other entertainment shopping needs.

Shauna Costello (26:46):

Yeah. And I know that you brought up because like I said, I was looking at it. I pulled up a map and I know you said Birmingham and Atlanta, but also if you go a little bit North, you have Huntsville, you have Chattanooga. And if you want to go just a little bit further, you have Knoxville or Nashville too. Um, like I, like, I like to say I'm a Midwesterner, so I like to drive, we like driving. But I mean, there's still, you guys are centrally located for a lot of things.

Dr. Paige McKerchar (27:14):

And South., the beaches are South of us and it is a very popular draw, many, many families, students, I think the closest beach is maybe four and a half hours away. So yeah, it is, it's really, it, isn't an oddly central area and a lot of folks will take weekend trips to Nashville and Chattanooga. We love going to Chattanooga. Um, so yeah, those places are definitely not out of reach.

Shauna Costello (27:36):

What is the application process like?

Dr. Paige McKerchar (27:40):

Sure. That is it's pretty straight forward. I think, um, all of the paperwork goes through our graduate studies office and then comes to us second hand. Um, but we require the, let's see, how do I start? Like in just an application in general, um, GRE scores from at least no more than five years ago, a a, your transcripts clearly, letter of intent, that is intended to have you describe why this program is right for you. And that is where sometimes we will still get students who just know us as an MS in psychology. So they're interested in counseling or something that we cannot possibly meet their needs for. So the letter of intent should try to tie together your experiences, your coursework, and why you are interested in behavior analysis. Um, and then the, I think that might be it, I should have pulled that one up, degree requirements, um, oh, and a resume or CV, which it goes along with a letter of intent to some degree.

Dr. Paige McKerchar (28:40):

Um, but essentially the process is once all that's in, we look at your application, we use rolling admissions. Our application deadlines are published as April 1st for, um, early consideration and July 1st as the deadline. But, um, I think as most universities that are government funded, um, I've done. They will insist you look at applications after that, and we certainly will, if we get highly qualified students applying later than July 1st, um, and we still have spots open, we'll look at them, but our process in general is looking at everything. So we'll get students panicked because their GRE scores are not that high or because they didn't take a behavior analysis course or any one of these one component really isn't fitting our ideal. But we are most interested in, does the student have a strong interest in the science of behavior? And then do they have some minimum qualifications just academically speaking, to be able to learn all the information in two years and pass the BCBA exam. So that's really what we're trying to assess. And I hope we do a good job of that.

Shauna Costello (29:49):

And do you guys have an interview like interviews or anything like that?

Dr. Paige McKerchar (29:53):

Good point we have recently added, and so I forgot we, uh, and I don't know, it doesn't appear to be on our list, but we do do an informal interview. We don't have an interview weekend or anything like that, but we will, if a student is not one of our own, we will give them a call. We just set up a phone interview soon after we've reviewed the application, um, to give them an opportunity to give us more information. So we kind of felt like we would often overlook some deficits that our own students might have because we knew them. And we had gathered all this other information. So we wanted to give students an opportunity to do the same if they did not happen to come to Jacksonville state as undergrads. And, um, so that's really what the purpose it serves. Like we'll ask questions about what their, you know, kind of expanding on their letter of intent and their experiences, what they want to do career wise.

Shauna Costello (30:41):

No that's really nice because I know that you can only learn so much from paper.

Dr. Paige McKerchar (30:48):

We do require two references as well. No, three graduate references, ideally two of them from a faculty member at a university.

Shauna Costello (30:57):

And then, so when students are applying, are they, how is it set up? Are they, are they applying to work with a specific faculty member or is it just all, how has that kind of set up with the faculty and the students?

Dr. Paige McKerchar (31:12):

Um, we just have them apply. So they'll just come and kind of be part of our cohort in general. Um, dr. Bayles serves as their, um, what do you call it advisor in a general sense, but when we did, like, I think there is a, like all the faculty work together and I always am surprised still that sometimes students don't consider this, but you're, even if you're in my class, the rest of the faculty will know how you're doing in that class.

Dr. Paige McKerchar (31:42):

Um, we've implemented what we call mid program assessments that we do. So they take, uh, an actual test, um, and it's meant to be an assessment test. They shouldn't study for it or anything like that, but we just want to know what they've learned in the BCS coursework. Um, and then after that test, we meet with every student and give them our, you know, just some general information about what their, um, how they're doing academically, professionally. We take, get feedback from them to find out more about what their experience has been. Um, but that is something, again, all the faculty are involved and we want to make sure that no one student falls through the cracks. And there's not a lot of time when you're talking about two years. By the time you've seen a pattern of behavior it's at that point, it really needs to be something that everybody's working on and involved in. And we do, I think that different courses are more difficult for students. Um, and so, you know, we don't want that burden to fall on any one professor either because, um, that it can be hard to mentor the students. We do a lot of mentoring outside of class time for those students who need additional assistance. Um, as long as they have shown some kind of aptitude that suggests they'll be able to be successful once we get them to that point.

Shauna Costello (32:59):

Yeah. That's awesome. That's really nice to hear just, you know, how close all of the faculty are and that you guys are making sure that you want to make sure everybody's on the same page and all working together for all of the students. So, no, it's really, really good to hear. Um, so what else have, what else is there anything else about JSU?

Dr. Paige McKerchar (33:20):

I mean, I wrote down information about our pass rates and all that kind of stuff, but I do have a program that is, you can be wanting nothing, but to be a practitioner when you leave here and you want to work with one very specific population, and I think we can meet your needs for that. Um, and I do think though, if you are potentially PhD bound, I think we can also do a good job of meeting those needs as well. And I think in just the past few years, um, I don't know, I guess in the last 10 years, we've sent seven students to PhD programs and, um, most of the, all of those students have graduated unless they're currently in the program. Um, but I think that's a good track record and we do, we can do that because we have, we know lots of people.

Dr. Paige McKerchar (34:07):

Um, and we can just get students involved in a way that is required to be attractive, to graduate programs at the doctoral level. And so that's, um, I, you know, I think it's nice for students to be together in the same cohort and one of them is going on to a doctoral program and one of them is going to be a classic practitioner. Um, I think they learned something different from each other and, um, can see the strengths and the characteristics that are necessary to go into those different areas because we've had some, in fact, we had a student recently graduated with her doctorate and now she's going back to finish her BCBA coursework because she wants to be more like work in clinical work as opposed to the experimental, you know, professor laboratory stuff right now. Um, and so, yeah, it is, it's a very broad range of interests. And I think the students benefit from that.

Shauna Costello (34:58):

Well and I mean, you have the faculty too, you have such a wide array of faculty and what their interests are to really help meet the needs of what your students and potential students could, could want. I mean, you said that you had somebody just get accepted to WVU. Um, and I can imagine that you've sent your students off to other universities as well for their PhDs. Um, but yeah, it sounds like you guys are setting your, your students up for like a nice well-rounded experience.

Dr. Paige McKerchar (35:30):

Yes. And I think all the faculty feel very strongly that giving the students a foundation in the science is essential because when you think about two years and like, what are you going to possibly give them? Um, I think that's it. I know they can find the answer to a lot of, um, even BACB like even the BCBA exam type questions that can be done in a sense on their own, in a study session session. But I think trying to take them, um, to a higher conceptual level so that they really understand the overarching science, um, is essential. And that seems to come off, like, for example, um, they will not have had this experience when they begin, they'll start going to conferences, not just the state conference, but even the national conferences. And they're just floored by what they can understand at those conferences.

Dr. Paige McKerchar (36:22):

And I think that that's what we want them to do. I want them to be able to read research articles, um, more critically than just, you know, understanding what the design was or something. But, um, but like I said, I think they don't always, I don't know that we always see it immediately as they're leaving the program. And I don't know that they always self-reflect on having experience kind of gain that experience, but as I see them develop and grow over the years, I think that it really does. It seems to be working. I think we're getting that across to them.

Shauna Costello (36:52):

Well, and from a previous student myself, that was something that I self-reflected on that when I was put in different situations, it's like, oh, I'm so thankful that Jessica put me through this, like in, in grad school, um, as like, it's something that I did self-reflect on afterwards. So I'm assuming that people do realize that your past students have realized that, and they know where they got those skills from.

Dr. Paige McKerchar (37:19):

Yeah, I hope so.

Shauna Costello (37:20):

Yeah. Um, so is there anything else that you want to make sure that the listeners need to know about it?

Dr. Paige McKerchar (37:28):

I can't think of anything. Um, but like I said, I'm sure I will, as soon as I'm done with this or I talk to somebody else or when my husband listens to the podcast. Why didn't you say this? Why didn't you say that?

Shauna Costello (37:43):

So that's okay. It's not meant to be perfect just to meant to give people a resource to see what's out there and who's out there and what's being done. And I am assuming that you are completely okay with me sharing your email address and if anybody needs or wants to reach out to ask questions.

Dr. Paige McKerchar (38:01):

Yep, absolutely.

Shauna Costello (38:02):

Wonderful. So I will make sure that just like all the other episodes we'll have the website, we'll have your email, um, and on there so people can reach out.

Dr. Paige McKerchar (38:13):

Yeah, that sounds great. And maybe we could do this again after we hire somebody new and make changes.

Shauna Costello (38:17):

Yeah, we can definitely do that. We can do it anytime. I don't plan on quitting anytime soon.

Dr. Paige McKerchar (38:24):

Okay. Super. Thank you.

Shauna Costello (38:26):

Thank you again. Thank you for listening to the university series from operant innovations. And as always, if you have questions, comments, feedback, or suggestions, please feel free to reach out to us at


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