University Series 033 - Queens College

Join Operant Innovations as we speak to Queens College as we hear about their hard work to meet, not only the BACB standards but, the NY State Licensure requirements. Giving potential students two different options in the educational track they take - MA vs. VCS Certificate Program. Providing their students with a wide variety of applied and translational work, with the opportunity to work in diverse settings. If you are interested in applying to either of these 

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Dr. Sally Izquierdo -

Dr. Joshua Jessel -

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Behavior Analysis @ Queens College -


Shauna Costello (00:01):

You're listening to Operant Innovations. A podcast brought to you by ABA Technologies. Today on the University Series, we're speaking with Russell Sage and three of their faculty members. Cheryl Davis, Sam Blanco and Sarah Russell. So without further ado, Russell Sage. Today we're talking with Russell Sage and we have three members here with us today. Cheryl Davis, Sarah Russell and Sam Blanco. So, welcome all three of you.

Dr. Cheryl Davis (00:34):

Thank you.

Shauna Costello (00:36):

I am going to pass it over to them to start with just a general overview of the program.

Dr. Cheryl Davis (00:42):

Sure. Thanks, Shauna. Our program is a 36 credit Master's in applied behavior analysis with a focus on autism. So when the students graduate, they have a Master's degree in ABA and autism. Our program is a little unique in the sense that we are an asynchronous program. So the college is located in Troy, New York, but our students access our courses from all over the world. We have students in, I think, four different continents right now, and most of the program is asynchronous, which means students can access the courses on their own time, within a time period. So most of our courses are set up either weekly or bi-weekly units and students have assignments and video lectures, et cetera, that they need to complete within that time period. We have added, based on student feedback, a number of opportunities in certain courses for students to do live sessions. Sometimes they're with professors. Often they are student group projects where they have to meet in a live format with each other and complete an assignment or a project. So that's sort of the large overview. I should also mention that we meet both being New York state licensure requirements, as well as the BACB requirements. We have a couple optional programs within our program. We have an optional practicum track and thesis track. Which we can talk about a little bit later, but that might be appealing to some students.

Shauna Costello (02:16):

Yeah. And that kind of goes right into the next area: who are the faculty? Then, are there research opportunities just like you mentioned and what do those look like?

Dr. Cheryl Davis (02:30):

Sure. We have six full-time faculty. Five professors and a lecturer. Sarah is our lecturer and former student. So she can bring in maybe a former student perspective as well. We have adjuncts as well. The way our courses are set up, we do what we call medic courses. So each full-time faculty member is responsible for three courses that they sort of only develop, they manage, they set up. And then when we have multiple sections of a course, the core faculty oversees the whole course. And we have adjuncts who are responsible for some of the sections. Our sections max out at 16 students. So there's never more than 16 students in a section. It's really nice because the full-time faculty have the oversight of the whole course and can see everything that's going on, but our adjuncts have been with us for a number of years. So it's also really nice because they really know our program and our students as well. I'll Sam talk about the research opportunities.

Dr. Sam Blanco (03:35):

I manage the research and thesis option. And so we call this CABBA lab, which is just really the whole research arm. For research, there are a lot of opportunities to work with faculty and we post about those opportunities and then sometimes students explicitly seek us out and say that they're interested. Our faculty is working on a variety of projects over time. So these include things like, "How do you do better supervision? How do you form better student connections and online education?" Which obviously is that an interest area of all of the faculty, because we are teaching in an online environment. I have two students right now working with me on a research project about social skills over telehealth because of the current situation with COVID. There were a lot of opportunities for that. So things come up for small periods of time where our students can work for one semester or work longer to participate in research without necessarily having to do the thesis. Since I'm talking about that, I can go into that a little bit as well. Thesis is optional at Russell Sage. We do have a small number of students that participate in that, and we're working to build that program. One of our students, just in 2020, had her thesis published and the name of the journal is escaping me at the moment. Cheryl, do you recall?

Dr. Cheryl Davis (05:05):

The international journal of developmental disabilities.

Dr. Sam Blanco (05:09):

Thank you. I knew I was going to mix up one word. We're really working to promote that and get more students involved with that. And Shauna, I think before we were recording, you mentioned an interest in research and PhD programs and as those PhD programs become more available to students interested in ABA, we do have more students who are interested in that thesis option because doing that research has a requirement to get into those PhD programs often. It is three semesters. Some of our students take four semesters and it's your general structure for a thesis in that you're working generally one-on-one with your thesis advisor, who is one of the faculty members, but you have a broader thesis committee and we guide you through that whole process and really help you develop your research question, develop your lit review, go through the IRB process. Every step of the way you have someone guiding you through it.

Shauna Costello (06:06):

And I know that you mentioned some of the research opportunities that pop up throughout. I like that those relate a lot to social issues and it seems very socially valid. Some of the stuff that some of the research that pops up, which is really great, but with the thesis, do the students have the opportunity to just choose their own research topic? Or is that something that might be more assigned?

Dr. Sam Blanco (06:33):

It is definitely not assigned. So generally I think there's sort of two types of students that comes to us when they're interested in thesis. So one is a student who says, "I know exactly what I want to research", and they have it pretty fully formed because they have an interest area already. And we just guide them to actually getting that to a fully formed, very clear and IRB ready proposal for their thesis. The other student I see a lot is someone who says, "I'm really interested in research and I have some ideas, but I'm not quite sure what direction" and we guide them through that process. But at no point do we assign a thesis. It should be something that is going to be meaningful for that student in whatever work environment that they're in or that they're interested in moving towards.

Shauna Costello (07:21):

Well, and that's exciting because a lot of the times, what we see is that with online students, they don't always get those types of opportunities to engage in the research, engage in a thesis. They're more so, just being trained to just be clinicians. And so I think that with Russell Sage, having the opportunity to have their students individualized their education to make sure that they can go forward in whichever path that they want to go is really exciting. I know Sarah, that I heard that you were a previous student as well. Is that something that you can add on to and speak to with some of those student experiences with the faculty and the research?

Sarah Russell (08:12):

Sure. So when I was a student, I was kind of in the latter category that Sam had described where I really wanted to start researching and I wanted to learn more about it, and I had interests and very specific things that I wanted to do, but I had no previous research experience. I was so fortunate in my experience to work with Dr. Dana Reinecke, who was the chair at that time when I was here and we spent three semesters going through the process of developing those research interests. And she was with me every step of the way. That was my first publication. It was really great to even in an online environment, have such a strong connection with both your professor and now mentor. Which really kind of helped shape my behavior as a professional in terms of continuing on with research and publishing, but also linking that applied practice to research. That all came from my experiences that I had at an online school, which is something that you don't typically expect to develop such a close, personal relationship and understanding between the students and the professors. So that's one thing that I think that we really do have going for us.

Dr. Cheryl Davis (09:50):

If I can just chime in there?

Shauna Costello (09:51):

Yeah. Of course. Please do.

Dr. Cheryl Davis (09:51):

Yesterday, I was driving home from work and I got a text message from a former student. He said, "I passed the exam". I think our students are surprised that should they want to develop the relationship with the faculty, it's easy to do, even though we're asynchronous.

Dr. Sam Blanco (10:10):

I just want to add to that I've been at Russell Sage for four years now and from the outset of my time with this particular group of faculty members and with our leadership from Dr. Lori Finn, I feel there is a consistent conversation at every faculty meeting is about how do we promote those relationships. Not just between professors and students, but also within students because your network and your community of fellow behavior analysts is going to be what sustains you and supports you in this profession for the duration. I went to school, I got my BCBA online back when it was like, they mailed you DVD lectures. But I think that I really felt isolated at that point. And none of us on this faculty ever want our students to feel isolated. It really should be a community and we're constantly working and collecting data to see, "Are we building that community the way that we're intending to? And are we intentional every single semester and how do we do that? "

Sarah Russell (11:11):

And to also add onto that from the student perspective. I can say that as a student, I formed many relationships in my time there, and to this day are still some of my closest friends and colleagues. Piggybacking off of what Sam was saying in terms of what we try to do now. We have a number of opportunities throughout the semester where we create projects and interactions where we try to facilitate some of those groups. And because we do have a cohort model, our students are going through the program oftentimes together with the same cohort. We're collecting data at the end of each semester, just looking at, "have you formed any of those connections?" We've gotten a lot of feedback in terms of saying that, "I'm so glad that we had this project, we had this group. Now we all have a group text together where we're talking with one another and hearing that is something that you don't typically hear in an online setting that you've truly formed relationships and friendships. That is one thing that I think that our school does a really wonderful job of promoting and having those lasting relationships within that behavior analytic community. Even from a distance.

Shauna Costello (12:33):

I think that that's something to really focus on because so far we've heard that there is a cohort model and some people might be wondering what that looks like with an asynchronous program. Then we also hear that Cheryl said, if the students want to, they can develop these relationships with their peers and the faculty. And then also you're taking a lot of feedback from the students and looking at the data and gathering the data to really implement changes. What can people, potential students expect from Russell Sage when they come in? If they want to know... What does that look like? What does that process look like? Getting in touch with their cohort members or building those relationships with faculty. What can they expect when they enter into the program?

Dr. Cheryl Davis (13:28):

Sure. Their first semester usually they take two or three courses. One is a one credit course that's sort of about becoming a behavior analyst, how to conduct research, it's a very basic course and covers a lot of content. And in that course, they actually meet live with a professor several times. Sam will host a thesis optional track meeting. Sarah will do a practicum track one. I do an overview of the BACB requirements and regulation. In that first course, they actually get to meet with most of the actual core faculty, which is very nice. I run one of our first semester courses and I have modified it quite a bit over the last year. We just switched it to a first semester course. So I changed it to include several group projects. I require that they film themselves together doing a presentation and things like that. And then this semester we're actually adding into that course again, based on student feedback at least one, if not two, instead of doing forum discussion posts, we're gonna post optional ones to do with your professor so they can sign up for that instead of doing the written description. That's where I say, "if they want to", because we market ourselves as an asynchronous program, some things that require synchronously and things are optional. Sarah and I are teaching that intro class together. What we try to do is we try to make it so students can pick a convenient time rather than their own professor. Sarah and I might post five times that we are available weekends, nights, mornings. A variety of times to account for time zones, et cetera, but students can pick either by professor or time. If one of my students goes to Sarah's group, she just submits the attendance for me. I think we try to be very student focused in planning around that connection.

Dr. Sam Blanco (15:26):

Yeah. I just want to piggyback off of what Cheryl has said there and I teach a lecture, also I said before, three different courses. I manage three different courses and in each of those courses, I do have required synchronous activities, but either one of two things happen. So one of them is exactly what Cheryl just said and that they can go to any professors, meaning there's usually eight or nine options. It's very rare that we have a student who's not able to meet one of those and we address that. We're not going to penalize you for that. We worked through that and we're flexible. The other thing is I have a course where they have a synchronous activity with two partners throughout the whole semester, and they pick their partners at the beginning based on their own availability. So we really work with them again to be flexible with that. But what was funny is when I first introduced that into the course several semesters ago, I just did it twice in the semester. The feedback was so strong that they loved those activities. They learned the most from those activities. I was able to give them much better feedback than if they had written a paper, because I was able to see how they were responding in real time. And then they said, "Could we do more of them?" So the next semester I did three and the feedback was again, "Can we do more of those?" So now there are four of those activities in the course, and that's where it stayed, but students generally, because we're so careful and conscientious with how we implement these activities and the purpose for those students generally have very positive feedback about those particular activities.

Shauna Costello (16:56):

Well, that's awesome to hear and I just like that this isn't just, and you're showing, that this isn't just another online asynchronous program where you just go in, you get through it and you're done. I mean, that's phenomenal. But students still have the opportunity to really tailor the program to what they want to get from it and where they want to go in the future. I think one thing too, might come up as a question is with the program. How does practicum work? Is it fully up to the students? What does getting those experience hours look like?

Sarah Russell (17:39):

Sure. So our program right now, we're still in that kind of funky time period where we have a lot of task list four students and then we also have a lot of task list five students. Then we also have the NYCED approval. So our practicum has evolved over time. And while our practicum is approved as an approved practicum provider under BACB task list four, we know that with the transition to task list five, there's no longer a practicum option. One of the things that is important with our program is that for students who do live in New York, NYCED has specified that you're unable to collect your hours towards your LBA while you're in school, unless you are enrolled in a practicum. So the practicum track is really beneficial for our New York students and what we tried to do... And again, we're still in the process of continuously updating to make sure that we're meeting all requirements is that new students right now who are beginning to enroll are being promoted to meet the task list five concentrated supervised field work options. Which aligns really nicely with the NYCED requirements. Then in terms of what they're doing: There's four different courses and each course targets different areas of the task list. So in one course, you're kind of getting your introduction to measurement and dimensions of behavior and each week, or each unit you are assigned some different type of clinical activity in which you're actually conducting it at your agency, your experience site, and you're implementing it under the supervision of your BCBA or LBA and writing it up and submitting it. That's how all four courses of ours.. and like I said, we go through different areas of the task list in order to accomplish that. To make sure that students are systematically working on the application of all of these different concepts so that they're getting that applied experience. Then in terms of looking at how that kind of culminates.. it's really beneficial for students in that they're seeing the link between what it is that you're reading and studying versus how you actually apply this and its relevance in your applied practice. So there's so many benefits in terms of the way that the practicum sequence is structured. One of the things that we do look at is, in terms of approvals and vetting, we do a lot of vetting of every agency, every supervisor, to ensure that they meet the standards under both NYCED and under the BACB. And so there is a process to that, but typically we can assist students with finding placements. We have some partnerships that we've developed and we continue to work on developing partnerships with different approved agencies within New York. So we can always help students if they don't currently have a placement and try our best to find a good agency, a good supervisor. But we also have students who are currently working at a specific agency. And so their agency just has to get approved in order to be able to provide those services.

Shauna Costello (21:09):

Well, that's nice to hear that you're giving your students so much support. Like I've mentioned before, they're really able to tailor what they want to get out of the program. Into the program and it seems like you set up those processes very well, too, and constantly changing.

Sarah Russell (21:30):

I can say one thing that our program does really well is that from when I was in this program many years ago. I was in the program when it first started versus where it's at now. I can personally speak to evolution. That is one thing that our program is not your typical online program. We are always looking, always adapting, always updating. We're looking at student feedback, we're looking at our own outcome measures of our students. We're looking at pass rates and things like that, and constantly making adjustments. One of the things that I got feedback from my practicum students was that they felt very uncertain in terms of supervising and training others and insurance, and just different things like that. That isn't necessarily part of a task list. But are really important in terms of your practice. And so with that feedback, one of the things that I've done with practicum is updating some of the activities that they do. So in one of their classes, what they're doing is they're conducting an entire assessment with a client on their site. Developing goals, social significance and then at the end, what they're doing is they're presenting that to their peers, who their peers are.  Essentially a peer review board. Who are questioning medical necessity and looking at, "Are these evidence-based practices?" In another course, they're developing different treatment plans for our client, and then they're presenting it to their peers and their peers are a principal, a teacher, a parent. And so they're having to work in those situations. So they're not only applying the basic science, but then they're getting some level of role-play in the presentation and what applied practitioners do have to go through on a day-to-day basis. And it's all constantly evolving and we're just trying to always do what we can do to help our students be really successful, regardless of which path they choose.

Shauna Costello (23:40):

And so I know that you say you have students from four different continents and what does that look like potentially? We have international students, or I can, I'm assuming they're students. We have international listeners and is there something that they can expect differently? Maybe the students who are in the US coming to Russell Sage. Can the international students expect anything? What kind of support have you had to give with international students?

Dr. Sam Blanco (24:16):

I think that our support is really going to be quite similar across all students. I think that there's a couple of things that are really beneficial is that one: more than one person on our faculty has provided services outside of the country. So we're familiar with working, not just within different cultures in our own places that we work. Like in our own home state, but also with other cultures and other countries. Through working at Sage, we also have a lot of experience just identifying like, "Okay, what are some issues that our students in Canada might run up against and how can we problem solve those?" But ultimately, we have six faculty. All of us actually live in different States and have different experiences because of that. So we're working to identify what are the individual needs of the students. I think, and Cheryl, you might have more to say about this too, but I think that our approach is actually quite similar across all students, because we might have a student in another state who has completely different laws than our state does, and we still have to work with them and talk with them. And we design a lot of our assignments, specifically in ethics, and specifically, I'm thinking in one of our introductory courses that they have to find the information in their own community and provide citations for that. I'm also thinking we have a course in diversity and in that course, I really love this course. It's my favorite course to teach each semester. I learned so much from students in that course, but everything we do, whether it's identifying needs of our clients who may be living in poverty, identifying what are resources for families we work with who may be experiencing some level of domestic violence. What are resources for parents who may not be able to afford insurance? Those sorts of things. All of that they have to do on the community level. So I'm not giving them resources. I've only ever worked in Brooklyn, New York. My whole career. I do not know what resources are in your town in Florida, but we're going to work it out and figure it out together so that it directly applies to your work upon graduation. There were even, I think of one instance where we have an assignment in that course where they have to make a monthly budget based on the national poverty line in the United States. And so they have to figure out if you have a family with a child with a disability. How are you going to pay for all of these supports? And what does that actually look like from that breakdown if you earn 16,000 a year? Well, one of my students contacted me and she said, "Well, I live in Manila in the Philippines. So $16,000 seems outrageous here. We could do whatever we wanted with $16,000." So we met multiple times to figure out what would be an appropriate assignment for her specific environment. Cheryl, did you have anything to add to that aspect of it?

Dr. Cheryl Davis (27:18):

Well, probably one thing I would want our international students to know, particularly if English is not their first language is we actually don't make any exceptions for that. I think that would be more the writing part. It can be a bit difficult sometimes for our new students. But what better international English as a second language? What most of them by the time they're in semester two or three, to be honest, the improvement in their writing and ability to learn grammar and American ways of writing. It's actually incredible. Sometimes I'll still have a former student from another country who will email me and say like, "Does this wording sound right in a report?" or something. Just looking for some feedback in English. I do like to let them know that we don't account for any difference in our grading due to that, but that their skills develop very quickly.

Sarah Russell (28:13):

One other thing I would like to add in terms of communicating a larger message to our international students is that our program is a verified course sequence under ABAI. Secondary to that, or even first and foremost, we are approved by NYCED. And because of that, we have to adhere to all NYCED rules and regulations. So even for our students who do not live in New York or who are coming internationally there's still that expectation that they are meeting all of those NYCED rules and regulations. One of those rules that we have as a school and as a department have found to be one of the trickier things, but we're constantly working to overcome that is that all students under NYCED rules are required to engage in 150 hour internship as part of their Master's degree and be supervised by a licensed behavior analyst. Well, we know licensure does not exist in every state. Let alone in, in other countries. It's one of those things that we absolutely work with our students to provide access to an LBA. We will do whatever it is that we can to make sure that they can meet those requirements. But there's also gray areas where some agencies may not be comfortable with an outside LBA providing supervision. There might be time zone differences. So there are some considerations in terms of looking at whether Russell Sage is the right school for you. And as a school, we adhere to BACB standards as well as NYCED standards. We're willing to work with all of our students to make any accommodations that we can. We're willing to work with our students to meet all of those regulations, but it is a potential barrier if a student is employed in an agency that may not be comfortable with an outside LBA. So that's just one of those considerations.

Shauna Costello (30:42):

Well, and I think that it's good that from my personal standpoint, it's nice to know that all of you are being open about this, because to me, that makes it seem like you want potential students to reach out to you. You want them to make sure that this is going to be the best fit for them. That you can really provide them with what they need and it's going to work for them as well with being so open about this. You're not just like, "Yeah. It works for everybody. Just everyone come". So I think that that's really nice to hear. Is that you're really trying to make sure that this is the right fit for the students and that the school is willing to make those accommodations when they do fit into the program as well.

Dr. Cheryl Davis (31:34):

Yeah. And if I could just jump in on that. So the person who does admissions for our program, Mike Jones, he really makes that point throughout. He explains the process and the program quite a bit. None of us want someone in the program, if it's not the right fit for them. We want them to find the right fit for them, which is why your podcast is so great for helping students. We do offer open houses before, while people are through the admission process and or after they've been admitted, we offer some preview sessions for people to really ask questions. And we do try to be very forthcoming about how we differ from just the BCBA requirements because of the NYCED options. So that students aren't surprised.

Shauna Costello (32:18):

I think that that brings up probably the next question that I have for you. What does that application process and or interview process look like?

Dr. Cheryl Davis (32:30):

So we have no application fee and it's rolling admission. Our admissions department usually gets back to people within a couple of weeks of a fully submitted application. There is an essay requirement and a couple recommendations. We do actually recommend that our students have recommendations from people in the field. So a BCBA education setting rather than just former college professors. And then really Mike walks them through the whole admissions process and even through their first round of registration. A lot of students will say that they landed up here at our college because it was the quickest processing through the application. So I think it's fairly quick. We do cap out at 75 new students per semester. Once that cap is reached, then the rolling admissions would go for the following semester. And we admit students in fall and spring. Not summer.

Shauna Costello (33:32):

I think that that's good to mention too, is that just because it is an online program that doesn't mean that you're going to have hundreds of thousands of people coming in. It really speaks to the environment that all of the faculty and the school is trying to create for their students. Like you said earlier, the classes cap out at 16. I think you said per section, I should say. Not per class, but per section. And so just because it's an online program, doesn't mean you're going to be anonymous. Doesn't mean that you're going to get lost somewhere. If you need help, you have a small group of people that you can contact that are in that same section as you. You have easy access to faculty if you need anything. And so I think that having that cap is actually a great benefit to the enrollment process, because like I said, you're not going to be just this anonymous name in another online program. I really like hearing that actually. I know we've covered a lot so far. We've covered overview of the faculty research, the thesis and project tracks, the practicum, what students can expect coming in and the application. What else do the three of you want to make sure that everyone knows about Russell Sage?

Dr. Cheryl Davis (35:01):

I think one thing that I like about our program.. well, first of all, I work with the best department ever. I just love my coworkers and we really work to collaborate to ensure our students are getting a solid experience. I think what sets us apart from some other programs is we really take student feedback and make changes for future semesters. Actually, Sam started something when she first started here. Actually soliciting feedback during the semester from students. So she could make changes mid-course instead of just at the end. I think that what I would say is that our primary focus is student centered and that that's something. We all have other jobs, we all do some research, we all dabble in other things, but our primary focus is helping our students be successful.

Dr. Sam Blanco (35:51):

This won't necessarily apply to all students, but it's important to mention is that I've really been working to get more of our students involved on the state level. So getting them to interact more with the New York State ABA. I know that actually both Cheryl and Sarah, when they see opportunities related to NYSABA, or State organizations, that they'll post them in the student forums as well, but also like really targeting our New York students when they're in my classes and saying, "Hey, you seem interested in this topic. Here's what's going on on the state level. You should be involved." You need to really get them to understand their community. And if there's one thing I can think of about Russell Sage is community. I feel such a tight community with our faculty. We care so deeply about it with our students, but also helping our students understand the next level beyond that and what that might look like. Because I don't think I was aware of those opportunities when I was pursuing my Master's initially. So really connecting them with those things. I think that is especially important because even one student who I work with now, who's currently on a committee for NYSABA. When I first approached her, she literally said the words to me, "little old me." It didn't occur to her that she belonged in that space. And so really helping them understand what those opportunities are and helping them get into those spaces, because it can be overwhelming when you're starting out in the field

Sarah Russell (37:17):

To piggyback on what Sam was just saying. With that sense of community and pushing our students to really achieve everything that they want to achieve. There are so many different fields and applications within the realm of behavior analysis. Some students want to be researchers, some students want to open up a private practice. Some students want to consult, and we really want all of our students to not only have the education in relation to the task list, but we want them to have the confidence and the understanding of what are those action steps that they need to take to achieve what it is that they want to do professionally. I think that all of us as core faculty are always willing to assist our students working with them and talking with them and figuring out what we can do to assist them and opening up those doors and providing them with opportunities. Another student, we've had a few students who were student ambassadors for NYSABA. Again, it's one of those experiences they were like, "Ah, should I try this? I don't know. Little old me?" And then they get selected. It's so wonderful to see these students reach out for leadership roles and things that they may not have necessarily thought that they could do and achieve it. They're always so grateful that they have the support of faculty who are not only working to just teach them and get them through the coursework so that they can meet a minimum set of standards. But rather that we're constantly working for them to set personal goals for themselves. Not only acquire a minimum set of skills, but truly understand big picture things. The application of behavior analysis and in so many different ways, shapes and forms and really taking on more ownership over their own futures and knowing that we're there to help them. Just one more thing is even though our department is online, going back to the Russell Sage community as a whole, we all have personal relationships with the Dean of the Esteves school of education. We all frequently interact with many of the other faculty from the college who, while they're all physically on campus, interacting with one another, they've never made us feel separate because we're an online program. The sense of community, not just only at our program level, but at the college as a whole. It is a brick and mortar university. It just happens to be that our program is online. And as a result of that, I think a lot of students who really want the feel of a small college, but don't have the opportunity to physically attend a brick and mortar school may feel like Russell Sage is that good balance of how they can get that same small college feel, but in an online setting.

Dr. Cheryl Davis (40:51):

Probably just one last thing is I think one thing we really try to cultivate with our students is once a student, always a resource. For example, I had a student from four years ago, call me on Monday. He got himself into a little jam with trying to help a parent. A friend parent. Their child. And he's like, "I don't know what to do. And I don't know who to refer them to, and I need to get out of this situation." I think I really appreciate that I was one of the people he called. I have had zero contact with him since he graduated and he knew I would pick up my phone and help him problem solve. I think that's what I hope our students get out of our program is to know we're always here for them through the program, post-graduation, cheering for them at conferences when we see them presenting.

Shauna Costello (41:39):

I think that it's great too. That all of you mentioned all of these things that just because this is an online program, doesn't mean we're not just shuffling you through. No. You are doing research. You do have the opportunity to present at conferences, to be published, to sit on and be a part of your community and the state boards and the state ABA groups and things along those lines. Just the fact that the faculty and the coursework and everything are cultivating though, the motivation to want to be a part of those groups is saying something as well. I mean it's not easy. No matter what you're doing. It's class, but it could be this easy thing or you just go through and get your degree, but that's not what this is. You are creating this community of behavioral scientists and who are going out there and want to make a difference in their communities and be a part of the bigger change as a whole. To speak to what you said, Cheryl. I've still done that too. I still called up my old faculty members and would be like, "Hey. I need help with something." And so just having, just knowing that that is an option. Even though I haven't done it in a while now, but it's just knowing that that is an option is something that I can't even explain. I'm hoping too that my supervisees also know that as well, that when they leave, I am always here for them. I know that when I was in clinical, they would reach out to me. But now that I'm more in the OBM e-learning instructional design field, that they also know that. Just hearing the passion that the three of you have, and I can imagine the rest of the faculty, even the adjuncts have as well for wanting to cultivate these students and give them this knowledge and really immerse them in the field of behavior analysis. Showing them what conferences are like, what the research is like, what you can really do with this. This isn't just a piece of paper that you're getting after graduating, and this is really a community that you're entering into. You're getting that starting at the smaller college level with your cohort, with your faculty at Russell Sage. You can really hear that from all three of you talking.

Dr. Cheryl Davis (44:14):

Thank you. I do think we are passionate about it. There were two other things you had asked me or one, I want to just talk about our pass rate. Currently, the last data we have for our pass rate was 2019 and it was 73%. We have changed our capstone course to include none other than the FIT mock exam as part of that. We felt like some of our students, when they graduated, they didn't actually realize they needed to study for the exam just because they finished a Master's degree in the field. So we're hoping that that helps increase our rate. Giving them the sample exam and how that difficult to be applied application piece can be, but we don't have data since we made that change. And then you had asked about the cost, I believe? I did some calculations and some thinking. I actually had no idea. So it was kind of fun for me to do. We charge $685 per credit. So for the 36 credits, it would be $22,860. In addition, there is an additional fee for internship or practicum if they take those additional courses. So that could be higher. I will tell you that the majority of our students, US-based, get financial aid and our admissions department walks them through how to apply for that. They're a big support for that component as well.

Shauna Costello (45:37):

That's awesome to know. Just because I know that that's always a factor. Is there anything else that anyone wants to mention about Russell Sage?

Dr. Cheryl Davis (45:48):

No. I guess I would say I hope anyone who's listening to this, if you join our program maybe post in the forum or an introductory message that you learned about it through the podcast here. We just really appreciate you taking the time to spend with us today, Shauna.

Shauna Costello (46:02):

No. Thank you all so much. And I always like to ask this too. I typically will put some contact emails in the podcast description. Just in case anyone has questions. So are all three of you willing to have your emails put in there as well?

Dr. Sam Blanco (46:20):

Of course.

Dr. Cheryl Davis (46:20):


Shauna Costello (46:20):

Perfect. So if you have any questions, you can reach out to any of the three that we've talked to today and ask whatever you need and they will be willing to help you. This is my first time meeting Sam and Sarah, but I've talked to Cheryl a handful of times before this as well. Thank you all for joining me today and teaching me more about the program as well.

Sarah Russell (46:44):

Thank you so much for having us, Shauna.

Dr. Sam Blanco (46:45):

Yes. Thank you

Shauna Costello (46:46):

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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