University Series 028 - Mississippi State University

Join Operant Innovations as we talk to Dr. Hallie Smith about one of the newest programs at Mississippi State University! Don't let the newness of this program throw you, behavior analysis has been a part of the MSU community for some time. With the growing need, a standalone program was founded and has grown exponentially since its inception. You won't want to miss out on this program.

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Dr. Hallie Smith -

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Behavior Analysis @ MSU -

Facebook - MSU Applied Behavior Analysis
Twitter - @aba_msu
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Shauna Costello (00:00):

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. Hallie Smith from Mississippi state university. Dr. Smith completed her doctorate in school psychology at Mississippi state university and completed her pre-doctoral internship and postdoctoral fellowship at the Kennedy Krieger Institute, Johns Hopkins school of medicine and the pediatric feeding disorders program, and the neural behavioral unit outpatient program. Upon completion of her fellowship, Dr. Smith worked as a licensed psychologist and a behavior analyst in the pediatric feeding disorders program at Kennedy Krieger Institute. Her research and clinical interests include the assessment and treatment of pediatric feeding disorders, behavioral treatment for children with developmental disabilities, and treatment acceptability and integrity. So without further ado, please welcome Dr. Holly Smith.

Shauna Costello (00:56):

Today we are here with Dr. Hallie Smith from Mississippi state university. So thank you for being here.

Dr. Hallie Smith (01:02):

You're welcome. Thank you for having me. I'm super excited to be here and chat about our program today.

Shauna Costello (01:07):

And I'm going to hand it over to you just to give a general overview of one of probably the newest programs that Mississippi State is offering.

Dr. Hallie Smith (01:19):

Yeah, absolutely. Well, thank you again for having me. I'm really excited to share some information and insight about our program. So our applied behavior analysis program kind of encompasses different coursework at the undergraduate and the graduate level. So at the undergraduate level, we have a minor in ABA, which is 15 credit hours that all the courses within that minor are part of a BCS or verified core sequence through ABAI. And that minor is available to any major at Mississippi state university that's not limited to just psychology or educational psychology.

Dr. Hallie Smith (01:56):

And then we also have our master's program. So our master's program is available both online, completely online, and face-to-face. So we really, with starting up a brand new program here, we wanted to really be flexible with options for potential students that we had coming in. So our master's program is 31 credit hours. It's technically within the educational psychology department. So there are three courses that students are required to take just because they're housed within the educational psychology masters degree. And then all of the remaining courses are all ABA courses. And so our master's program is also a verified course sequence through ABAI.

Shauna Costello (02:40):

And that's exciting because I, I got to hear a little bit about your background as well and how your story has circled started in Mississippi and then came back to, I mean, that's kind of the next question is the faculty and research anyway. So why don't you tell us a little bit about that?

Dr. Hallie Smith (03:00):

Yeah, sure. So yeah, so I actually got my Ph.D. in the school of psychology from right here at Mississippi State. I'm originally from Florida, but when I was applying to different graduate programs, I was like, I think Mississippi State is going to be a good fit for me. And it's funny because a lot of the reasons that I came here as a graduate student are the same exact reasons I decided to come back to be a faculty member here. I think I just felt like such a sense of, like, I just felt at home when I came here, even for my interview as a graduate student, and then the whole time I was here for graduate school, it just, I just felt like such a sense of belonging and community here. Not only at the university, but just in the town of Starkville as, as well.

Dr. Hallie Smith (03:43):

So once I finished my Ph.D., I actually went to Baltimore, Maryland. And I did my internship and then my postdoc fellowship at Johns Hopkins school of medicine, Kennedy Krieger Institute. So when I was there I worked in the pediatric feeding disorders program as well as the neurobehavioral unit. And then I actually stayed on as a staff psychologist and BCBA in the pediatric feeding disorders program for about two years. And then I was hired to come here to actually start the ABA program here at Mississippi State. So it was an incredible opportunity that I absolutely couldn't turn down. I always knew that becoming faculty was somewhere in my future just because of the mentorship I had as a graduate student, but I didn't really know how, when, or what that was actually gonna look like. So when I was told about the position and asked to interview, I was immediately like, yes, let's do this.

Dr. Hallie Smith (04:41):

So this program specifically is means a lot to me from a personal standpoint to this is something that my faculty in our department, I know had talked about being in kind of a long-term plan for the university when I was a student. So to be able to come back and bring this full circle and kind of lead our department and the university in this direction is something that I don't take lightly and I'm very grateful and appreciative for this opportunity. So it's really awesome to be back. I think people hear Mississippi, or don't really know a lot about Mississippi state other than it's like in the deep South, and that's kind of it the line of thinking or whatever kind of stops there. But I will say it's, it's a wonderful community. It's a wonderful place to live. There are people who say like, Oh, you know, Southern hospitality, blah, blah, blah. But I will say it's, it is very, very true, people are friendly, the town is a friendly place. And I think more importantly here in Starkville, the university and the town itself have a really great working relationship. They really kind of support each other because they know they have to co-exist to make this town continue to be successful. So it's really nice to be located somewhere, even though it is a smaller community in a smaller town where there's just so much support from within the community.

Dr. Hallie Smith (06:05):

And I would say as far as the ABA program goes, we are, we're very well supported. People are excited that we're here and this is probably jumping ahead, a bunch of questions, but as far as reaching out for practicum opportunities as a newer program, that was something I was a little bit nervous about. Especially because the state of behavior analysis in Mississippi is, is unique. It's not as well-represented here. People don't know as much about it as they do in other States. So I was a little bit hesitant coming into trying to recruit practicum sites, but we have had nothing but excitement, willingness, wanting to partner and work with us in any way they can. So that's just been another real thing that speaks to Southern hospitality a little bit and just the community and, and the support that we have here.

Shauna Costello (06:55):

Well, and I mean, and I think that's a great place to talk about like, what are the types of practicum sites that you're finding that you are finding because, and we'll get a little bit more into Starkville later, but people probably have no idea what's even around there, what opportunities are in are in Mississippi. And I'm really glad that you mentioned that you're originally from Florida and you moved to Mississippi because one thing that I like people to not be afraid to do is to move. Even though it's a big, scary thing didn't even know I was going to Western for behavior analysis when I went to Western. And it just so happened. It was an hour and a half from my house where I grew up. Like it just so happened. But like I've also moved to Florida and then moved again and things like that. And I think that this speaks to like, there's a reason that you moved to Mississippi in the first place and then ended up back in Mississippi. But I mean, what is, I mean, what are the practicum sites that people that you, that you have found and that you've partnered with?

Dr. Hallie Smith (08:07):

Yeah, that's a great question. So I do think so we have kind of a mixture of university-based like on-campus practicum sites and then we have some community-based practicum sites. So I think one thing that's very unique about our program here at Mississippi state is that we are well-connected within a system that already is doing good behavior analytic work. So for example, one of our practicum sites is the autism and developmental disabilities clinic here on campus which has traditionally been staffed by practicum students in our school psychology program. So I actually was a graduate assistant in that clinic when I was a student here. So to A. to watch that clinic grow and expand in the time I've been away but B. Now to be able to supervise practicum students in that clinic. So that clinic is primarily an outpatient clinic serving children like 2 to 21, a range of functioning levels, a range of different diagnoses really on an outpatient model.

Dr. Hallie Smith (09:12):

So one hour a week focusing on whatever the target behaviors are. So it could be skill, acquisition, functional communication, reduction of problem behavior, just general compliance, parent training, also running different aged level social skills groups there. So that is one of our practicum sites. The other university-based practicum site that I think is unique is Mississippi state has what's called the access program. So it's basically this very impressive system. It's a program where like college-age individuals with intellectual disabilities can come to college, right? So they might audit like just your typical college courses that undergrads take. But the core of their courses is really focused on those functional life skills, adaptive skills to kind of gear them up towards living independently as adults. So they live on campus or in an off-campus apartment, they have courses related specifically to those functional and adaptive skills. They're also kind of within a tiered intervention system for any types of either like needing extra support with any of their courses any like social skills, interventions, and also any like individual behavioral intervention. So that population is, is very, very unique. I don't believe a lot of trainees or students get access to that population, especially not maybe through a practicum site. So we have that. And so they've offered to be a partner with us as a practicum site. So and it's a blast over there. I got to spend the whole day over there kind of like seeing what they're doing and some of their classes like their money management class there, like interviewing skills class and things like that. And it's, it's a blast. So we're really excited about that partnership.

Shauna Costello (11:10):

That is really exciting, just because like, I think a lot of just as you mentioned, I think a lot of people are often part of that, transitioning them to something like that, but then that's usually where it stops.

Dr. Hallie Smith (11:22):


Shauna Costello (11:23):

That's an exciting program to hear about.

Dr. Hallie Smith (11:25):

Right? Yeah. So it's we're, we're very fortunate to have it here at Mississippi state also. So those are our two official university-based practicum sites, and we do have partnerships with two community-based centers really that are providing services for primary individuals with autism or developmental disabilities. So the first one we have is in West Point, Mississippi, which is just about 20 minutes away. So that's the golden triangle autism center. So they are primarily focused on language acquisition, teaching functional communication, and services like that. And then our last community partnership is actually in Tupelo, Mississippi, which is about an hour from here. And so that's the autism center of North Mississippi. So they focus on a wide variety of skill development, so skill acquisition, functional communication training, reduction of problem behavior. So they have, I want to say five or six BCBAs there and close to 30 RBTs.

Dr. Hallie Smith (12:22):

So they are functioning at a really high capacity and we're very excited to partner with us here and we actually have five of their RBTs are in our master's program right now. So it's, it's nice to kind of have their perspective of everything too. And so we are super thankful that they were just willing to jump on board from the beginning. I honestly didn't even have to ask the BCBAs at these places if they would be interested, they reached out and offered. So it's great to know that like we are seen as a resource here for, for training and for also just providing them with higher quality students that hopefully, ideally, they would hire when they're done with the program if these people wanted to stay stick around the state. So we're, we're super excited about, about all of our practicum sites.

Shauna Costello (13:14):

Well, no, that's really exciting. And I was thinking the exact same thing that for new as like the specific behavior analysis program is that there's so much already set up that you and the team have already done all, like all of this work to get all of these different unique experiences. And like you said, even like what the university stuff that you mentioned, a lot of that stuff you don't really get a ton of access to unless you go to unless you seek out like a specific faculty member, who's doing that specific thing.

Dr. Hallie Smith (13:48):


Shauna Costello (13:48):

So that's really, really neat.

Dr. Hallie Smith (13:50):

We're excited about it.

Shauna Costello (13:51):

Yeah. and then also, so how about faculty and research?

Dr. Hallie Smith (13:56):

So right now we do have two faculty that are just primary ABA program faculty. So it's myself and then Dr. John Borgen. So Dr. Borgen we actually crossed paths at Kennedy Krieger. He was a post-doc when I was just starting my internship. So we were only there together for about a month. And then he went on to accept a faculty position at Oregon tech in their ABA program. So he's been there for the last few years, and then now he is here in our new program as well. So it's the two of us that teach the majority of the classes in the master's program. As well as at the undergraduate level. I will add to that. We, also prior to this program being developed our school psychology program, which is the program I graduated from does have one, two, three, I had to think about these three BCBAs, like all three of their faculty, also our BCBAs. And that's how I got it, we have a core sequence through that program. So that's kind of how I got my BCBA coursework completed. So although our program is new and we just have the two faculty I think there's something to be said that there was, there was already a culture of what behavior analysis is, what we do, why it's important, why it matters. And so I think that's, what's made the addition of our program, almost like a seamless transition into being like, now we have a specific home for behavior analysis, where we have this whole program.

Dr. Hallie Smith (15:28):

So I kind of got off topic there, but yeah, so it's us two are the primary faculty. We also have one instructor who is a staff BCBA who actually kind of works with the autism liaison and the access program that I described earlier. And then he also teaches some of our courses in the ABA program and some of the school psychology courses, as well. As far as research goes I think being a brand new program, people get scared about the research. So we didn't want to be all in people's spaces about research, research, research. Obviously, Dr. Borgen and I love it. We wouldn't be Mississippi state is an R one university. So the expectation is that we're very high producing of the research. So it's something that we love, but we want to encourage students to get involved in either our own research labs or labs or topics of their own. But it's not required right now. We don't have a thesis component. Ours is a comprehensive exam at this point in time. My thought is down the road, we would like to change that to make that a more, as just a more integrated part of our program is the research component. But for now, it's not, it's not necessary.

Dr. Hallie Smith (16:45):

That isn't to say that there aren't plenty of opportunities. So my specific research area is pediatric feeding disorders. So that's what all my post-grad school training was in. I knew I wanted to do feeding, like, since I was like in my second year of grad school, but I knew nobody here could really train me to do it. So I was just like reading as much as I could and I knew like when I was looking for internships and stuff like that, that that was an experience I really wanted. And I just kind of really grew in that area. So myself and one of the school psychology faculty who also trained at Kennedy Krieger, I was one of her supervisors there, so she's, she's awesome too. So we are kind of collaborating to start a pediatric feeding disorders lab here at Mississippi State. So we will have research projects kind of going through there and for me that looks very different depending on what we find the clinical need might be so right now we have a few projects in the pipeline that we are going to be starting recruitment for. So that's certainly an area that's, I feel like a more unique research area for students to get involved with at the graduate level. Like while they're still in their training programs.

Dr. Hallie Smith (17:59):

And then, I think Dr. Borgen, I will add this, that we both kind of came from programs where we're working with children with autism, we're working with children with developmental disabilities like the majority of our field. However, I think we both kinds of made our individual homes within that. So mine would definitely be with pediatric feeding disorders. Dr. Borden's actually, more recently kind of carving himself out to look at just the application of behavioral principles or behavior analytic interventions with populations, other than those that aren't autistic or with developmental disabilities. So he's particularly interested in working with active-duty military who are transitioning back as like veterans. So kind of looking at what are the things going on here? How from a behavioral analytic perspective, can we better support that population? So that's an area. I feel like behavior analysis is very untapped but is very much needed based on what we know about that population. So I'm excited to see where his lab and his research are going to go. And I think that's also a very unique thing about our program is that specific interest area as well. So certainly a lot of opportunities, but we're not shoving it down people's throats.

Shauna Costello (19:19):

Well, and that's nice to hear too because I know even from talking to, I mean, some of the students that I've supervised in the past that's kind of fear sometimes of when you go into grad school that you're gonna be, and I have my air quotes going stuck in someone else's research,

Dr. Hallie Smith (19:41):


Shauna Costello (19:41):

Where it might not necessarily get to be what you want. Like, I've heard my, the grad students that I'm supervising right now. They're like, they're doing what they want. Like, they're very lucky and they get to be doing what they want to do, but one of them has been told like, no, you kind of just have to do what we tell you to do until you get to do what you want to do. And she's like, no, this is what I do.

Dr. Hallie Smith (20:04):

"I'd rather not, never mind."

Shauna Costello (20:06):

So that's really nice to hear that, yeah, these are what our interest topics are. We would love to have help and love to have you jump in and learn. And I mean, depending on where those students want to go, I mean, you both have connections outside of Mississippi and Mississippi State that could even further their career. But it's really nice to hear that it's not this, like, this is what you're doing all of the time.

Dr. Hallie Smith (20:32):

Right? Absolutely. And I feel like really, if we're, if we're in the business of training people to be independent thinkers, to be problem solvers, to be researchers it's, it's on us as faculty to foster that independence in those students and teach them and support them and give them what they need to get themselves there. And not just be like here, go run these three participants using this protocol and only collect data and that's the end of it. You know? So I think right now I think that is a big thing for us too, is if someone comes to us and is like, Hey, at my practicum site We're doing X, Y, Z, or in my classroom. So we actually have, I want to say four of our students in our master's program, are full-time special education teachers in the public schools in Mississippi.

Dr. Hallie Smith (21:17):

So they're seeing a lot of stuff like on the ground every day. And it's great because they come to class and they're like, Oh, that's why this kid might be doing this when he should be doing this, you know? But it also kind of opens them up to like, having these thoughts of like, well, what if we did it this way? Or has anyone ever done this before? And we want to jump right on that and help support them if that's something that producing any type of research out of that is something that they're interested in.

Shauna Costello (21:45):

So great to hear too, that you're, you're ready and willing to foster people coming in from different backgrounds. And they're like, I'm interested in this and they're like, yeah, so great to hear too.

Dr. Hallie Smith (21:57):

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. And I think when we talk about not scaring people away with the research it's important, especially here in the state of Mississippi. So not to be like, here are all these stats for you because I'm not really a stats person just a few, but one of them that is super relevant is they're only 93 BCBAs in the entire state of Mississippi. According to the BACB registry that we have access to. And if you think about how rural and spread out a lot of towns, our state like has that's just like simply not enough. I mean obviously, demographics are different population sizes are different state to state, but this is an area of high need for behavior analysis. And people that are in this field, most people know each other or at least know of each other, which is helpful because you can kind of create a really good support network.

Dr. Hallie Smith (22:53):

But the go-to thing is like, we just need more of us all these centers, like the one that I mentioned that we're partnering within Tupelo, and in West Point, they have waitlists. They just don't have people to build, to provide all the services that they really need. So when we think about, when we think about that, we have so many people that are kind of stumbling into behavior analysis, or like figuring out, like, there's gotta be a better way to manage my classroom. There's gotta be a better way to do this. And we have a few of our students are basically like what is they're like called therapeutic interventionists, but they're kind of responsible for implementing any behavior analytics services that are described in a child's IEP. So they're supervised by a BCBA that doesn't work for the school district but is like consulted out. Right? And so we have people doing this work, which is needed, but the school district could eventually, hopefully, one day there'll be enough BCBAs and people know enough about it, where they can hire that BCBA.

Dr. Hallie Smith (23:56):

And then the BCBA is there for the school, right? So until we get to that point, we're having a lot of people show this genuine interest in wanting to get a better education, wanting to get better training in the field, and move into a BCBA role. But they're working full time and doing all this stuff. And right now we're like, come one come all, Like, we want to train, we want to educate, we want to continue to disseminate the field out there. And those are our best contact points to do it, right. They're the ones that are already in this job. They've already created these relationships in their schools or wherever they may be. And so I think that's, that's another reason why at this stage, in the development of our program we are very interested in targeting people who might not have this very extensive list of experiences or background or knowledge about behavior analysis. We want to teach it to you. So come on.

Shauna Costello (24:50):

No, and I really like hearing that too, because I mean, I, I was thinking the same thing when I, when I was working in Metro Detroit, there were plenty of BCBAs that the schools could hire, but actually some of the school districts I worked in, they actually chose to hire consulting BCBAs to teach their teams what to do. And it's like, yeah, that seems a little bit more effective if the teams who are in there constantly are educated in this and what to do.

Dr. Hallie Smith (25:18):


Shauna Costello (25:18):

So, yeah, I liked that. I liked that thinking as well. So we've talked about the faculty and the research and the practicum sites. How about the application process and the admittance process, if there's an interview or, what does that whole process look like?

Dr. Hallie Smith (25:39):

Yeah, so our applications so I guess to start, we operate on a cohort model. So every, we only accept students to start in the fall semester of every year. So applications typically I'd say typically we've only done this once so far. This is our first cohort right now. And that was a little bit different because we had COVID happening at the same time. We were just starting the program, trying to get the word out. So so the plan I believe is to open applications in December. And we'll probably leave them open for a little while my guess would be like into April and then kind of go from there. So, we didn't do interviews this first year around, but I do think we will do some type of virtual interview experience for competitive applicants. So that's kind of the interview application process. And for our application, we ask for obviously three contacts who can write you letters of recommendation, have your transcripts sent, a CV or resume, and then obviously a statement of purpose for the program. Mississippi State is waving GRE scores for fall 2021. Because of COVID, I don't know how long we're going to be able to keep doing that, but for now, that's good for everybody. And yeah, I also just to kind of speak about the size of our program. So obviously with just two full-time faculty right now, everything just getting started. We accepted 15 students into our cohort this semester or this year. So we would like to stay right around that number. About half of them are in the distance or the online program and the other half are in the face-to-face program. I will say we kind of conceptualize them as one cohort though. Not like two separate cohorts. And I think we also, for online students, it's, I would say we've kind of made a culture of, this is not a passive experience for you if you're taking it online.

Dr. Hallie Smith (27:44):

So we do strongly, strongly encourage our online students to join the live lecture synchronously with their face-to-face counterparts. So part of that, we, because of COVID the university like upgraded all the technology in many of our classrooms. So we have cameras posted on the back of the class. They follow us around. So we just bring our students in virtually. So far every single one of our online campus students has joined every class synchronously. So it really doesn't feel as much as at least as an instructor that disconnect or that distance that oftentimes we experienced by taking courses online. I feel like that is really reduced because of that technology. So that's kind of, that's kind of where we're at as far as cohort size and things like that. I would imagine we would stay around that number. But I think if we had a lot of really competitive applicants, we're not going to just cut it off at 15, just because, so that's kind of where we're at with that right now. Because of COVID, I feel like things are also limited for us, but it does give us easier built-in opportunities to kind of bring together our online students and our face-to-face students.

Dr. Hallie Smith (29:02):

So we do have a monthly journal club, so we kind of go back and forth right now between Dr. Borgen and myself choosing an article that the whole program gets emailed like two weeks before we meet. And then one of us will kind of lead the journal club. So really it's just an opportunity to get, to get our students to get more exposure, to be familiar with the literature, understanding research articles. Obviously, we incorporate that into their courses and their coursework but a lot of times within the context of our specific course, we don't get to all these cool articles that just come out that we really want to talk about. Right. So this kind of allows us to do that. So we had that and it's kind of just, we overview the article, then we kind of have a discussion. We will obviously discuss how maybe they could have done things differently kind of thinking critically about the content of the article.

Dr. Hallie Smith (29:55):

So we have that, and then we also have professional seminars like every other month on relevant topics. So since this, right now, we're in a unique situation because we only have a first year cohort. Normally we would have like first years and second years, so it would be a little bit different. So like one of ours is going to be all about the field experience in behavior analysis. So kind of taking time to walk everybody through like, okay, we're following the post-January 2021 situation. So let's get everybody up to speed on that. Here's our unique tracker system. Like, let's talk about restricted versus unrestricted. Let's talk about your percentages of supervision. So, so there's really like these built-in opportunities to just make sure everybody is on the same page with everything. Which I think is particularly important in programs like ours where right now we have a lot of students that are working full-time jobs and then kind of doing this supplemental to that. I feel like that's when a lot of things can break down when people are spread too thin and information is not disseminated consistently or effectively.

Dr. Hallie Smith (30:57):

So by kind of building in these other opportunities for us to kind of all meet and all get-together. I feel like that kind of breaks that down a little bit. And also just building in opportunities for our students to get to know us as faculty, better than just like your three hours a week course where we come in and we teach, we talk to you, we talk about this. But I think Dr. Borden and I are also very strong believers in, like, we're not just here to teach you the information and tell you to like, here's your diploma. Like, that's the opposite of like what I want to be, you know? I always had excellent examples of mentors and supervisors in the past that I definitely want to bring a lot of that, my own experience, into being a supervisor, being a faculty member. And we really see ourselves as people training, supervising, and mentoring our students to go out and do and be. And I think the more opportunities we have to build those relationships with our students, the better everyone is in the long run.

Shauna Costello (31:57):

Yes. I fully agree with that. And I kind of feel the same with the students that I supervise. We've talked a lot about the program, a lot about the application process, practicum sites, faculty, and the potential research. Okay. What about now, you explained it a little bit in the beginning, but how about Mississippi? What can people expect from Starkville and just Mississippi in general?

Dr. Hallie Smith (32:25):

Yeah, So I would say Starkville is a great place to live. I mean, if we want to talk about like just, I guess, so the university is like nestled right in there and the university is a beautiful campus. I don't know, like how many people randomly just look at pictures of campuses, but the photos on the website for the university are accurate. It really does look like that. There's also like a virtual tour. You can take on the website that I would recommend. So it's beautiful and it's, it's right in town. It's not one of those things where you go to universities and the university's like way over here and this part, and it's all spread out. It's a very enclosed campus, nestled right in the community. So it's really great. The town itself has about 25,000 people. And then Mississippi state has about 22,000 students. So we're at like 50, 50. So in the summer when people go home, it seems much, much, much smaller than during the regular school year. But yeah, so the town itself is great. I also think people think, "it's a town in Mississippi there's nothing good close by, there's no airport, there's no nothing. I'm going to be stuck there in this really rural area." And I will say, that's really not the case for Starkville. So Starkville's in like the Northeast side of Mississippi Atlanta is only a few hours away. Nashville's like five hours away, Jackson, which is the Capitol is only two hours South.

Shauna Costello (33:53):

I was gonna say, I was looking at a map and Memphis also looks pretty close.

Dr. Hallie Smith (33:56):

Yes, Memphis is close also. Yeah. so it's a great kind of place to like center yourself and you can be like, Oh, let's go on a weekend trip to Atlanta or let's go the beach, orange beach and all of that is only like four to five hours away to which for me being from Florida, I need some good access to the beach. So yeah, and I would say the town is obviously very safe, very like you feel welcome in town. We actually have the most restaurants per capita in Starkville than any other city in Mississippi. So there's really great food, lots of like local shops, local restaurants like you would expect in a smaller Southern town. I think a big thing to really make people aware of if they aren't already is we are an SEC school which if you're from the South or going to school in the South that's like a really big deal. So we love our football, we love our traditions. I think it really brings some cohesiveness to like you as a student to the university. We have really great camaraderie like football weekends are huge.

Dr. Hallie Smith (35:02):

So right now we're all kind of scrambling because there's no tailgating allowed this year. And normally like our whole area is just like tend to after tent of different tailgates. And it's a huge part of our culture. So we'll see what it's like without it, but it's a great place. And when you think about also like the cost of living I've lived in different cities in Florida. I lived in Baltimore compared to those things like the cost of living here, especially as a student is super, super affordable. It's definitely like a doable situation when you're not in this high-income job situation. But yeah, I think there's, there's also it's a small enough town where you feel like easily, you can connect with people, you're going to recognize people like when you go to the same coffee place or the same, whatever, but I don't feel like it's like so small that you feel bored or you feel like there's nothing to do. Right. There's always stuff around to do. And like I said, even if there's nothing going on in town, you're not that far from other major things to do so. So yeah, I yes, it's hot in the summer, but it's, it's, it's fine it's a few months and compared to being in Florida, like here, we actually do have a little more seasons, like defined seasons than in Florida. Not obviously as much as other places, but yeah, and I mean like you had mentioned in the beginning I had never, I don't think I'd ever been to Mississippi before I went here for grad school was familiar with the South and all of that, but never really here. And I really feel like it was like a gym that I never knew about I absolutely love it. And for me to have moved away up to Baltimore, living in the city and all of that obviously that's a personal preference, but for me, like this speed of life and this kind of Southern hospitality culture is way more up my alley. And I do feel like it's genuine and people feel good when they live here and are part of the university as a whole. So, yeah.

Shauna Costello (37:07):

Well, that's just really good to hear because I think there's, I mean, and this happens everywhere. Like when I tell people that I'm moving back to Detroit, they're like, "why" I'm like have you been to Detroit? They're like, "No" Okay then you don't know, it's kind of the same thing everybody has like these ideas about what is going on in a certain place. And I mean, as I said before, I think it speaks a lot to the area that you moved away, you experienced other things and you moved back cause that's how much you liked it.

Dr. Hallie Smith (37:43):

Yeah. And I will also add that getting training experience as a student in an area like this is very people, I don't feel like given enough credit. Right. So you think of working with diverse populations that you need to be in a big city, or you need to be in like these urban areas. But I will say working with a rural population is a diverse experience on its own. Especially if you're not used to that as a way of life or if you're not used to that specific culture and I think it makes stronger, it makes stronger BCBAs when you have to work with people who don't know what behavior analysis is. Not only do you have to explain what it is like in a way that they understand, you have to explain like the specific, like procedures that you're recommending, like in a way that they understand about also getting buy-in while also training them to do it. And while also like letting them kind of come into your closed system and especially in these more rural areas, you're oftentimes looked at as an outsider. And I feel like if you can develop and hone those skills as a student under supervision it's gonna prepare you in a really, really powerful way for whatever you're going to do next. And I do feel like I got that experience when I was training in the school psychology program, like just being in all these schools and in these different, like community pockets where you have to really like, it's a special skill set to be like, I'm not in your system, but let me, let me show you how I can help you and let me get, like, let me get some buy-in, but also educate you about behavior analysis in a way that's not aversive to you. So I think that also allows for some unique training experiences as well.

Shauna Costello (39:32):

Well, and if you think about it as well, you've mentioned this throughout, but, and you just mentioned it again, but one of the biggest areas of need for clinical behavior analysis right now is rural, is in those settings because there's not enough. And if there's a way where we can train more people in this type of setting and yeah, people are like, what's the big difference it's just in-home, it's like, it's actually not, you don't really realize that until you kind of get into it. And I think that you are actually creating these professionals who are going to be at a higher need than going into a big city where BCBA is a diamond, does it right as well. So, I mean, these are some really, really good skills to be taught.

Dr. Hallie Smith (40:29):

Absolutely. And I think, with it being an area of high need, there's not a lot of us running around here. I think it also if people are interested in just being more involved at like the state level or even the national level like there's so much room to be involved even as a student. So we have our state-level organization it's called BAMS behavior analyst association, Mississippi. So it was founded when I was a graduate student. I was like a stoop founding student member. So it's new, there's, there's tons of room for involvement at the student level at the professional level. So I feel like people who are hesitant to move somewhere like Mississippi or specifically here I think to go out on a limb like you, especially if you really want to like, make a difference, and get involved at more, I guess, get more involved in the profession other than just from like the clinical level of being a BCBA and providing those services. There's so much room in such a need for more advocacy here in the state for particularly with not getting on this tangent, but I have to bring it up about the reimbursement rate for Medicaid for ABA in the state of Mississippi is extremely low. And if you look at the percentage of children who are on Medicaid in this state, it's, it's pretty mind-boggling. So there's a lot of room here for further education at that level at the state level and advocating, for our kids who need these services and aren't getting them. So that's another huge, a huge thing.

Shauna Costello (42:10):

And I think that's a great point to bring up because in like, think about in States that are more established like California, it's probably going to be a lot harder to get those types of experiences because behavior analysis and even in schools in California is about five to 10 years ahead of so many other States in the country that it's going to be a lot harder to get potentially some of those like public policy like the medical administration, like those types of experiences than something like this. So I really liked that you brought that up because I wouldn't have even thought about that kind of stuff. So a lot of times we're not even taught about that kind of stuff when we were in grad school. I got out into the real world and I'm just like, great, I'm a BCBA now let me go practice. And they're like, that's not how that works.

Dr. Hallie Smith (43:01):


Shauna Costello (43:01):

You need to get credentialed and you need to do this and you need to do that. And I'm like, Oh, so lots to do within those processes as well. So I'm glad you brought that up.

Dr. Hallie Smith (43:13):

Yeah, for sure.

Shauna Costello (43:14):

We've covered a lot. I just want to say thank you. Oh yeah. Today. And it was great learning about a newer program and yes. It's been around for a minute in a certain aspect, but now they've really focused and made it its own thing.

Dr. Hallie Smith (43:34):

Yes, absolutely. Yeah. Well, thank you so much for having us and we're as a newer program, we're always excited to chat with people. I feel like so many things in our specific deal are learned about, and people know about other people from word of mouth or just like little interaction. So anywhere we can like make a connection and just like share information. We are appreciative. So thank you for inviting me today and for letting us kind of be on this platform and, and share more about our program. And I'm always interested in field questions. I don't know if you if people ever like to reach out after episodes are released, but please feel free to just give my contact information or forward me people's information. I'm always happy to chat with people.

Shauna Costello (44:19):

Thank you for listening to this episode of the university series and as always, if you have questions, comments, feedback, or suggestions, please feel free to reach out to us at

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