University Series 031 - Saint Louis University

New Year, New School!

Join Operant Innovations as we speak to Saint Louis University as we hear about this VERY unique program and the vast array of opportunities that they are giving their students! Placed in the heart of the United States this hidden gem is giving it all they have to create well-rounded behavior analysts and striving, not only to help their community, to disseminate behavior analysis in very unique ways.

Contact Information:

Heather Lewis, Ed.S, MSW -

Dr. Natalie Parks -

Additional Links

Behavior Analysis @ SLU -


Shauna Costello (00:01):

You're listening to Operant innovations. A podcast brought to you by ABA Technologies. Today, we're speaking with Saint Louis University and Heather Lewis and Dr. Natalie Parks. So without further ado, Saint Louis University. Today, we are here with Heather Lewis and Dr. Natalie Parks from Saint Louis university to talk more about their program. Thank you both for being here today. I'm going to pass it over to you to start with just a general overview of the program.

Heather Lewis (00:43):

I'll pass that off to you, Natalie.

Dr. Natalie Parks (00:43):

Okay, great. We have, I think, kind of a unique program. We have a Master's program in ABA, but we also have a Master's of social work program in ABA with an emphasis on ABA and we're housed within the social work department. So it makes for kind of an interesting blend and I think a unique opportunity that you don't see in ABA programs, other places. We did start our first program, ABA program, was initiated in 2011. So we've been around for about nine years so far and our classes usually range from about 10 to 20 students. So we don't get too big on the class size that allows for more intimate relationships with students and professors. I already mentioned we're housing the school of social work, but within that department is criminology, criminal justice and urban planning. So I think, again, you see most ABA programs are usually in education or special education or sometimes the psychology departments. So we're a little bit different and a little bit unique in that respect. Outside of that, our school of social work is actually housed within the college of public health. So again, usually you see ABA programs more so in education or psychology, as I mentioned before, but this really kind of allows us to provide our students with even more diverse learning topics and courses and opportunities that they may not have at other universities. Then I think the final two things about our program that are kind of cool and unique is that our instructors are rather diverse in terms of their experiences. We have a couple who have expertise and who work currently in OBM, we have ones who have expertise in school-based services. Both with regular education and special education. We have someone who has done sports in ABA, who does residential based practices, as well as kind of your more traditional in-home services. So we have kind of a lot of experiences and the last thing that I would say is our first time pass rates are also extremely high ranging from 80% back in 2016, all the way up to a 100%.

Shauna Costello (03:23):

Well, that's really exciting to hear that too, because I know that you mentioned a lot of what you've had, what people have had, in studying and what they do just in their real life, but what would you say the student experience is? Do they come in and they're like, "Hey, I'm actually really interested in, you know, maybe taking some criminal justice courses to go work in a completely different area".Is that something that students kind of tailor their experiences coming to SLU?

Heather Lewis (03:56):

I'll hop in just for a second and just say yes and no. From a course perspective, from a coursework perspective, obviously, especially with task lists edition 5, we're chock-full. We have 39 degree hours. We have a four hour thesis as a part of that. So the opportunity to take a course outside of our curriculum plan would be really challenging. That said, being housed in the school of social work, our relationships with other faculty and our faculty interest in being an interdisciplinary school promotes and prompts, an interdisciplinary approach to research and also activities. So what happens and where you might see some interplay is say in practicum, which we have five semesters of. So our students can get a really diverse experience and really work with what their interest area is, but also explore interests that maybe weren't in their purview so far, you know, so we might, you know... some of the cooler things that we have, and this is... I'm kind of briefly leading us to practicum and then I'll volley back to Natalie to talk more about the program specifically. We have a lot of our social work faculty that work with populations struggling with addiction. To that end, we have strong relationships in the community with places like Salvation Army and we have students who are earning their MSW along with all of the coursework necessary to complete their BCBA. So their practicum experience is going to meet both practicum requirements and that's where they're going to get a lot of that diversity and experience and so on. I guess I kind of answered a little bit that our students that are MSW ABA, they also will have coursework related to social work. Those students, the answer is yes, they do get, coursework in some of these other disciplines that are in our program, but if you're MS ABA, so you're receiving your Master's in ABA, you are kind of limited to the ABA specific coursework, but the practice activities are much broader and the research activities are broader.

Shauna Costello (06:35):

Well, and I liked that you made that clarification and I liked that you answered that very strategically and how I always say a Behavior Analyst should answer a lot of things with, "It depends". The best answer a Behavior Analyst can give. I mean, just like you said, that leads us right into some of the practicum settings that you have, because that's one way that the students can really get some different experiences. So what do some of those practicum sites look like?

Heather Lewis (07:11):

Yeah. I'd love to talk about that because they're really diverse and we get to do some really cool things. So, Natalie mentioned already that we do have students engaged in practicum around sports and we also have, as I mentioned, individuals that are working with addiction and recovery patients and an outpatient. Some of the activities around there can focus a little bit on the OBM side of things like helping programs be more efficient. One of the cooler activities that happened that I often talk to our students about in our assessment classes, the importance of preference. So we actually through advocacy and data collection and preference assessments, we're able to re-institute bus tickets for outpatient services, for clients that were part of this addiction and recovery and substance abuse program. The program itself had discontinued the bus tickets, thought that the clients didn't need them, didn't want them, it wasn't necessary, it was costly. So we were able to indicate. Not only were we able to see an increase in participation in therapeutic services, but that from a preference standpoint, it was something that they wanted. So it was a really cool opportunity for our students to see the importance of things, as simple as how to run preference assessments and how to indicate that behaviors change as a result of our treatment and stuff and then how to use that in an advocacy forum. Other activities that we've engaged in are some our students participate in school programs, but maybe not necessarily with a special education focus, but with a social justice focus. As Natalie mentioned, we have relationships with other faculty in our school and a former faculty member, unfortunately, who passed away several years ago, had a grant to stop the prison to pipeline. To that end, what we did was he was a criminologist by training and we had several different strategies that were being practiced in the school, but one of the things that we were doing is the Behavior Analyst students were going in and helping provide support for problem behavior reduction, coaching the teachers, implementing acceptance and commitment therapy practices with both teachers and students. So it was a really great experience to be a part of. So we've also had students that engage in practicum in the field of gerontology. We've gotten to do some really cool things there and we've had students that work in the area of sexuality with persons with special needs. We presently have a student who is getting experienced in a practicum at our area crisis nursery. Some of the work that she's doing through data collection and monitoring the interventions that are presently employed. They're evaluating whether or not those are effective and they're enjoying this activity so much that they are broadening and creating a space for a full-time Behavior Analyst, which has never been a part of their program before. Our practicum experiences are quite diverse, definitely a fun experience for the students and the faculty alike and additionally really help promote ABA in the community outside of the field of special education. It's been a great experience for our students and for the community.

Shauna Costello (11:08):

Well, I was going to say, it sounds like SLU has a really good community partnership as well, to be able to get all of these different types of experiences for their students. I know I mentioned with being in the department that you're in, if they can take other classes well, that might not always even be the best option, because even part of our ethical code and our practice guidelines and things like that, it's not just taking classes that is going to get you to be as experienced as you need to be, to work with different populations. It's going to be getting those types of experiences. So that's really exciting to hear, because you don't always get to hear that there's this plethora of practicum opportunities.

Dr. Natalie Parks (11:51):


Heather Lewis (11:54):

Yeah. It's pretty cool. It's pretty great.

Dr. Natalie Parks (11:56):

Not to discount the other more traditional practicum opportunities as well and we definitely do have students who have an interest in home-based or school-based or clinic-based services with autism and they have those placements as well.

Heather Lewis (12:12):

Yeah. Thank you for bringing that up.

Dr. Natalie Parks (12:14):

We all know what those look like.

Heather Lewis (12:16):

Yeah. Those are traditional, but we do, and what's fun is that Saint Louis is a great hub for those types of services and so we have a lot of different clinics for students to choose from. Some are nationally based, some are local. We do have school-based experiences and then we also do have several day programs for adults if you really want to work with populations with special needs, which as Natalie pointed out is going to be a majority of the students that come to our program and we are always happy to share our experiences and our expertise in that area. We definitely find a lot of pride in our ability to go beyond that as well. Kind of a "yes, and" approach.

Shauna Costello (13:06):

Well, I'll say actually working in a day program with adults with disabilities was actually really what got me into the field of behavior analysis in the first place. That was my job in undergrad and one of my coworkers was in the behavior analysis program and she's like, "What are you doing? You need to just come on."

Heather Lewis (13:28):

That's awesome.

Shauna Costello (13:28):

Even when you talk about adults too. Yeah, we have our traditional clinic home school settings, those kinds of things as well, but I mean, even with adults. A lot of that isn't even necessarily very prevalent.

Dr. Natalie Parks (13:43):


Shauna Costello (13:44):

Even hearing about that as well, is even a big expansion on what we would probably typically consider traditional. So that's exciting too. That was probably one of my best experiences in working with adults, because once they get to a certain age services drop off.

Dr. Natalie Parks (14:03):


Shauna Costello (14:04):

So that's really neat. How about faculty and research? What is going on at SLU with the faculty and who are they?

Dr. Natalie Parks (14:16):

Well, we're two of the main faculty in the MBA program. Both Heather and I and I think it's an asset, but I'm clearly biased about it. We have kind of a variety of research interests going on. I'm newer to Saint Louis university and this is my first semester going through thesis with our students and one of the things that they came to me kind of concerned about is they thought I was going to assign them a project. And they were worried that it might be a project that they weren't as interested in and I said, "No, that's not at all because I get excited about most things." So just in the four of them, we actually have extremely different things that they're looking at. One is looking at having someone graph for you versus graphing your own data and seeing if that results in any behavioral change, but she's actually doing it with an adult population with disabilities in a residential facility. She's teaching those individuals how to graph, which I think in and of itself is pretty awesome and how to interpret graphs. But then she's looking at is there a behavior change when they have to graph their own data versus when she graphs it and they talk about it. I have another one who's looking at using telehealth to teach parent training. So that's huge for where we are right now, kind of given COVID, but I think as we transition and look for ways, especially for our BCBAs who are working in homes, here's a big push in the field to try and get better work-life balance and things like that. So the better we can utilize telehealth models, the better off we are. So she's actually looking at the effectiveness of parent training on some specific skills using a telehealth model. So the parent will be home with their child and she will be on the other side training. Then we have a student who's actually looking at online dating behaviors. Adults with developmental disabilities, she's actually going to be teaching them to identify kind of red flags for suspect behavior or unsafe behaviors. I think she has seven different things that she's researched and included as red flags. So anywhere from not having a picture on your profile to requesting to come to my house at 10:00 PM during the first conversation and things like that. So she's looking at, "can you use actually video modeling through tele-health" to teach these skills and teach individuals who are young adults who are interested in dating how to be safe in doing so. Then our last one is actually looking at decreasing racial bias through mindfulness and perspective seeking. So he is doing pre-post assessments and looking at those two different intervention methods to see if we can actually reduce racial bias. So as you can see, just in those four students there's a huge range and I think that speaks again to just the diversity that we have being in the social work department, being linked with criminal justice and those types of things. Also just looking at we have some adjunct professors as well who have interests in these areas. My primary interests are actually in the world of social justice and diversity and inclusion. I look at a lot of trainings, the impact of training on police officers and their bias when policing. The same with the fire station as well as kind of institutionally. What that looks like. Then I have a history of doing a lot of research in both severe problem behavior as well as skill acquisition. Just with my diversity of experiences, I'm able to guide these students really well. Heather spends a lot of time at our STAR clinic, which is our student teaching and research clinic, where we provide services. Heather can probably speak about it much better than I can, but we focus on providing those stop gaps services. So children who have been referred for services, but the wait lists are long. So providing some resources and treatments in the interim and then doing some research about what are the most impactful treatments and methods that we can use for more short-term treatments and how do we get kind of the best outcomes with that. So she's been doing a lot with the peak assessment and. Looking at using that and designing interventions that surround that and standardizing some treatment materials and things. So, Heather, do you want to add to that?

Heather Lewis (20:01):

Before I do though, I'm just going to say that Natalie's really underselling her publication history and her research experience here. If there's folks out there that are curious about our program and just our history and the faculty that we've been lucky enough to have, including Natalie, it is a really nice publication list. So students are definitely getting exposure to practice and field experiences, and they're getting exposed to how to publish. So you can come to SLU and can have different tracks, long term tracks in mind. So if you're a person that you're like, "I really want to get this breadth of knowledge, but I don't have this deep interest in publication, but I want to learn, and I want to learn the process and use those practices in my practice." I mean, because to us research design, regardless of publication, is a necessary component to practice. You're going to get that. But if you're like, "I have long-term goals and I also want to consider a PhD someday", we do have a social work PhD that some of our students choose to emphasize. Behavior analytic studies and earn their PhD in social work, but students can also leave SLU and be extremely competitive at some of the top ranked universities for their PhD in applied behavior analysis because of the research history. In fact, we have three studies, by former SLU faculty in the most recent Cooper book. So from their time at SLU. We feel pretty proud of our track record and given Natalie joining on,we're very excited about our future as well. I just didn't want her to discount herself any more than she already was because she has published some amazing stuff.

Dr. Natalie Parks (22:17):

Well, thank you.

Heather Lewis (22:17):

The students will definitely continue to have that opportunity from a research perspective. Natalie said it really great about what STAR is. It's a relatively new clinic. We're only in our second year of it since its inception. Long-term, we're looking at our goal is social justice with this. Our goal is social justice and teaching, right? I mean, we really want to impact the community. We don't have a strong interest in being a big competitor with other programs in town. We want to be a support. We know that the diagnoses for children is constantly on the rise. And we also know that there are people out there that aren't getting diagnoses that need help and we want to be there for those clients and help them through that process and provide them whatever services are going to help their quality of life and use the best behavior analytic practices that are out there.

Shauna Costello (23:29):

That's just really exciting too and I like how Natalie put it in the beginning. Students are saying, "do you assign my project for me?" and I know that that's a big concern though, when you're looking at programs.

Dr. Natalie Parks (23:44):


Shauna Costello (23:44):

There are some faculty out there that they have these lines of research going that you jump on those. So you want to make sure that when you are researching programs, that that is something that you definitely asked for, because that's not something you're going to learn on the website.

Dr. Natalie Parks (24:01):

Right. Well, I think it goes very well with kind of SLU's mission for social justice as well. So just our overall university's mission is really focused on social justice issues. I think also as somebody directing the program, to make a program inclusive, that really means inclusive of everyone, right? So if you don't share the same research interests that I do, I honestly don't think that should be a problem and I think when we're thinking about training the next generation of BCBAs, I want you to be an excellent BCBA and I know that part of you becoming an excellent BCBA taps into some of those both antecedent reinforcement contingencies of what we might call passion. So when you get excited about something that serves as an antecedent for you to do some work and focus on it and learn more about it, but once you do learn about it, that acts as a consequence, right? A reinforcer for you to keep going. I can get you done when you're doing something that is of mediocre interest to you, but what's going to really make you an excellent BCBA? It's very good training, lots of different opportunities, but honestly, I think it's being able to figure out your passions and being able to focus on them and get the support that you need. So I think that goes with our inclusive nature and I think that's something that Heather and I believe very strongly about.

Shauna Costello (25:48):

Well, and I like that a lot too, because you're bringing in not just what you two want the behavior analysis program to be, but you're also bringing in, "No, this is really something that SLU and the entirety of Saint Louis University is really trying to strive for."

Dr. Natalie Parks (26:06):


Shauna Costello (26:07):

And you've constantly talked about it. How you're going into the community, you have all these community connections, you want to make sure that you're not competing with these other community agencies. That you want to be a partner with them, and you want to work right there next to them to make sure that you're helping as many individuals as possible.

Dr. Natalie Parks (26:26):


Shauna Costello (26:26):

So I think that that's something really to bring up just to emphasize.

Heather Lewis (26:30):

Yeah. I can't remember if we've mentioned it already or not, but our most recent ranking in the Princeton review is second for community outreach in schools, because as a Jesuit university, the mission is being women and men for others and so whether you're in our program, you're in our school, social work, or part of our broader university, there are so much opportunity for serving others and just getting engaged in meeting the needs of the community and doing so in a manner that is most meaningful to you and genuinely helping others. So it's something that, regardless of your personal religious beliefs, SLU is a community where we're just here to help others and that's really important.

Shauna Costello (27:26):

Well, and I think that that's a good point, too, especially with the world that we're in right now as well. We can see very polarized and very just individual. And I think that those are some good characteristics to try to cultivate with your students and future community, hopefully leaders and just people who are involved in the community is to really try to perpetuate this. I have Scott Geller's stuff on my mind right now, so this really "actively caring for people" mindset and I like seeing that as well, because that's also, where I've been debating like, "what am I going to do?" Because I want to try to put the biggest impact out there as I can. So I really like hearing that as well and we've kind of talked about a little bit of it with the thesis and the research and the practicum, and then some of the classes as well, but what is that student experience like when you bring all of that together?

Dr. Natalie Parks (28:39):

Yeah. I think when you think about the student experience, especially kind of from a Master's level framework, it's going to be different than an undergraduate experience. Most of our students, as Heather already said, we have a practicum worked into the program, and I know some, or a lot of ABA programs at this point, don't do that. Especially with the more recent changes to the practicum experience. So I would probably use the adjective of our students are immersed in ABA. The coursework is fairly rigorous. I've heard lots of different comments from students on juxtapositions between all of their professors, but all of them have said expectations are high and from what I've gotten from them given, they're probably not going to tell me if they hate everyone, but they've always said they felt supported. They felt like everybody kind of has a slightly different angle, which gives them a good breadth of experience, but they are immersed in applied behavior analysis. They have two to four classes a semester. Some of those for MSW students, some of those are going to be social work classes, they have practicum. So they're working within the fields. They have a seminar where they're reflecting upon their practicum experience and getting some kind of assistance and thinking about broader topics and things like that. Then we go through the summer, so we have fall classes, spring classes and summer classes and so theoretically ABA is going to be their lives and I would say that graduate school is the jumpstart for that. We do have lots of supports. We have student experiences. We have a student representative on our department committee. She comes to all of our meetings, has lots of input. We have a flyer that we're working on. I email her to make sure that we get the student perspective and know that when we're speaking to prospective students, are we speaking to them correctly. Things like that. I think there are lots of ways for them to get involved and be active. That said, a lot of the graduate students have their own lives as well and so I think there's still the opportunity and availability for them to have that balance between their families and school.

Shauna Costello (31:35):

That's really good to know, just because if you're going into an on campus graduate program, you have to be prepared anyway. I know that even with mine, I still had plenty of time to... even though it was with the graduate students, we were doing fun things on the weekends together like going to the rec center, playing volleyball, going and doing this, going and doing that. It definitely is a lot, but I mean, for me, it was worth it.

Heather Lewis (32:08):

We do have a cohort model, so the students do hang out and have built that relationship like you mentioned, which can be really nice. We also, I mean, I'm sure that this goes without saying, but we do have a part-time track that students can select to take where it's graduate school is graduate school, right? I mean, it's gonna feel like something you've added to your day, but if you need to thin things out and that feels so incredibly immersed, we certainly have that option. Also to that end and to speak to some of the things that Natalie talked about with our students who are in practicum, we typically are able to arrange a workplace practicum site. So, most of the places in the community are willing to work with our expectations for practicum. We do have a lot of predetermined activities that have to be completed. Our expectations are definitely high as Natalie has mentioned and so usually the feedback is excellent and usually the sites enjoy the things that we ask of the students and they end up creating something new anyway, and offering something to the site that the site otherwise wouldn't have had the time to do. So lots of really cool things come out of that and it gives our students an opportunity to continue to earn that living. Especially if they're a non-traditional student who isn't just out of grad school and maybe getting some extra support from family, but needs to build their own way. That can definitely be beneficial and adding to that, I also want to mention that SLU has some decent discount rates and also some GA opportunities and there's a lot more. We are definitely looking to promote diversity in our classrooms as well as with our faculty. That's something that we're trying to do campus wide. So there's lots of ways that we try to support students that traditionally might've struggled to find the financial support to be a part of a school like SLU and there's a lot of cool things out there for them.

Shauna Costello (34:35):

I like that you mentioned all of that as well, because that means that it is in the forefront. It is something that SLU is working on actively to make sure that they're giving as many opportunities to their students as possible. Because this is so related because if people are interested in SLU and they want to apply, what does that application and potential interview process look like?

Heather Lewis (35:03):

We love to have people come visit Saint Louis. Obviously, the pandemic is slowing that down a bit, but if you mask up and want to come check it out, it is actually, it's a super, super awesome city. If anybody wants to reach out the easiest thing, honestly they can do besides just going to the SLU's website and tossing applied behavior analysis and there's lots of cool things online, including a link to an application, but ultimately, the process is they would get in touch with either ourselves or we would connect them with our admissions director. Her name is Christie Richter and it's a very personalized experience, actually. She engages students and helps them get onboarded. She's definitely our person that helps with graduate assistantships, scholarships, is really informative, loves to help students find what's available at SLU for them to apply for. So she is an amazing point person for all things related to the admissions process so that we can kind of focus on ABA, but she has her Master's in social work and we work closely with her. Between Natalie and I, we probably meet with her two to three times a week. It's a very integrated process. It's not like there's somebody off in a different building somewhere else, admitting students. We usually know exactly who's in the pipeline and who's being considered and are always happy to ask. Students are always welcome to ask us questions. We're happy to answer them and students are also just welcome to reach out to us personally, and just ask some questions before applying. Yeah, there's Saint Louis as a city, if you're not as familiar with, some of the most important points that we like to point out is that we're a great sports town. Our cost of living is phenomenal. Having lived in Boston. Natalie's lived in Atlanta and LA. So we're certainly well-versed in pricier cities and Saint Louis you can get a lot of house and live in some really cool areas. We're definitely known for being a foodie town and we have a very cool music scene. So pretty much depending, regardless of the music you're interested in, there's a lot of live music opportunities. We have a world-class zoo. It's either the first, second or third one, usually ranked in the world, the Saint Louis zoo and it's free to go to. It's a really impressive zoo, actually.

Dr. Natalie Parks (38:04):

Yeah. I didn't actually know what I had growing up until I moved away and people wanted to charge me to get in and the zoos were crappy.

Shauna Costello (38:18):

I was looking a map too and SLU is right next to the zoo as well.

Heather Lewis (38:24):

Yes! The zoo is in Forest Park. Which is, what is it, Natalie? Three times Central Park’s size?

Dr. Natalie Parks (38:32):

Yeah. I think so.

Heather Lewis (38:33):

Yeah. It's absolutely and there's a golf course on it and there's our history museum is there and we have live outdoor theater..

Dr. Natalie Parks (38:41):

There are soccer fields there and yeah, we have an outdoor theater, the muni's there...

Heather Lewis (38:48):

Which gets Broadway stars. They come and spend their summers with us. Actually, the person that one of the main folks that runs the muni actually just won a Tony in the last couple of years for a show that they've produced on Broadway. Yeah, we definitely, for being a city in the Midwest, we have some cool stuff to offer.

Shauna Costello (39:13):

Well, and also too, I always forget how close I actually live to Saint Louis, because I'm right on the West coast of Michigan. I'm pretty close to Chicago. So instead of going around, I would just have to go just down.

Heather Lewis (39:33):

Yeah, and going to a Saint Louis Blues game, having just won the Stanley cup not too long ago, two years ago, is much cheaper than going to a Blackhawks game.

Shauna Costello (39:47):

We don't need to speak about the Blackhawks.

Heather Lewis (39:47):

I grew up outside of Chicago. And we're getting a new MLS team and we're building a brand new building, a new stadium. So we have some cool, cool gems. If you're not in the moment being immersed in ABA and you sneak out for just a little bit, there's some really cool places and things to check out.

Dr. Natalie Parks (40:19):


Shauna Costello (40:20):

It sounds like it is very diverse. It's very, no matter what you're interested in, you'll be able to find it there.

Heather Lewis (40:26):

Oh, a hundred percent.

Dr. Natalie Parks (40:27):


Shauna Costello (40:27):

And actually, if people are.. I don't know where I thought Saint Louis was. I have no idea. I have no idea. I.

Heather Lewis (40:36):

I don't know either.

Shauna Costello (40:37):

Well, I know my family, well my parents have taken a trip down there for the weekend and they left on Friday and were there really quick and I guess I've thought it was further away than it was, but it's very centrally located.

Heather Lewis (40:53):

Very centrally located.

Shauna Costello (40:54):

Just within the United States.

Heather Lewis (40:57):


Dr. Natalie Parks (40:58):

You can apply from anywhere.

Heather Lewis (40:58):

Yeah. It really is. That is, that is a very, very true fact. My family travels a lot for both for work, but also none of us are from here originally and it makes travel a lot easier.

Shauna Costello (41:13):

I know we've kind of covered a lot so far. We've covered a general overview of the faculty, practicum, the student experience, research, Saint Louis and how individualized the application process is as well and I know that both of you have mentioned this already, but I will be including your emails in the description of this episode. So if anybody does want to reach out, please do, but what else do potential students need to know about SLU or Saint Louis?

Dr. Natalie Parks (41:46):

The one thing that I want to add.. I think it's just on my mind because it's probably just focused on a lot of where my work is, but we actually currently have an initiative going and we're doing some research on it as well. In terms of our curriculum and the diversity of our curriculum. We're actually doing a full analysis of every single article that students have to read throughout their entire career at SLU and we are looking at the diversity, both within authors, as well as within topics and the participants of studies. So we're looking at it through several different kinds of inclusive lenses, but what our hope is, and we're actually this semester, we'll be implementing an end of course survey for all of our students to gain their feedback about the diversity of topics and authors covered. Heather said that we have an initiative that's SLU wide, but also within our departments of ABA to really diversify the things that we're doing. I know there's been an informal call for this to happen within our field that hasn't quite happened yet. So, we've been working really hard on how we incorporate kind of cultural practices and diversity and make sure that we're representing every single person as part of just our regular curriculum. So we don't need a separate kind of cultural competence class or cultural awareness class. It's going to be worked in throughout our entire curriculum. We've made some updates this year already, but we're doing that research so that we can really have the numbers and make some data-based decisions about how to best meet the needs of our students and how to really have a program that appeals to anyone and everyone.

Heather Lewis (43:57):

Yeah. I love that you mentioned that, Natalie. It's such an important part of our mission as a program and as a university and we want everyone who comes and sits in our classroom to feel seen and heard. One of the things just to add onto what Natalie said is that being housed in the school of social work, there's a lot of discussion and a lot of fostering of advocacy. That's something that we really encourage with our students is to let us know what aren't we doing right. What do we need to do better to make sure that this is an inclusive environment regarding all kinds of different identities, right? That's really meaningful for us. So I'm really glad she brought that up. We both are obviously very passionate about our program and understandably, very proud. I think we could probably talk your ear off, but I think we've hit our list that we limited ourselves to

Shauna Costello (45:02):

Well, and I was going to say very, to the point, very clear, very concise., but you still included all of the stuff that makes SLU very unique to some other programs that are out there and the plethora of different experiences that potential students can get with you is insane. It's very exciting. Yeah. So, well, thank you both so much.

Heather Lewis (45:30):

Thanks for having us.

Shauna Costello (45:33):

Yeah, of course. 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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