University Series 041 | Slippery Rock University

Today we are joined by Dr. Eric Bieniek from Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania. This practitioner-focused program has both an online Master's Degree and a certificate program. If you are looking for a flexible online program, SRU may be for you! This program is focused on making each of the above options available to all of their students and understand that real-life happens and sometimes it is not fully in their students' control. SRU's goal is to meet people where they are, assistant them to get where they want, and train highly-qualified applied practitioners.


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Dr. Eric Bieniek -


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Masters Program

Online Certificate


Shauna Costello (00:01):

You're listening to Operant Innovations, a podcast brought to you by ABA Technologies. This week, on the University series, we are speaking with Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania and Dr. Eric Bieniek. Dr. Bieniek is an assistant professor in the department of special education at Slippery Rock University. He is also a licensed behavior specialist in the state of Pennsylvania, nationally certified psychologist, and a board certified behavior analyst, doctoral level. Dr. Bieniek has a range of educational, clinical and supervisory experiences supporting the needs of learners with Autism spectrum disorder, and similar neurological behavioral and emotional disorders across the lifespan in public, private educational settings, as well as residential community and vocational programs. Without further ado, Slippery Rock University Today, we are here talking with Dr. Eric Bieniek from Slippery Rock University.Thank you for being here.

Dr. Eric Bieniek (01:07):

Thank you.

Shauna Costello (01:09):

To jump right into it, I am going to pass it over to you to give just a general overview of the program.

Dr. Eric Bieniek (01:18):

Sure. We have a graduate level applied behavior analysis full masters degree, and we also have a applied behavior analysis certificate where people with their existing masters degrees can also take the verified course sequence to prepare for the exam. As of this morning, we have about 63 folks in our masters program and we have 10 folks doing the certificate program. Our program is asynchronous. It's all online. We have a guide for the curriculum path; What classes you should take, when you should take them. One of the real missions of Slippery Rock, and especially our graduate programs in the college of education, is to be practitioner focused and that follows the idea of someone who is in the field teaching, or in the field doing clinical work and meeting those folks where they want to expand their repertoire skills or whatever they want to do with it. Move to a new position, move up within the position they're in, etcetera. The programs I talked about are all online. Our masters, as any, I think ranges from 33 to 39 credits depending on the path you want to take. The certificate is currently 18 credits, but we know that's gonna be going up as of January with the supervision requirements. We'll have a 21 credit certificate for folks who already possess a masters degree. We're going into our fourth or fifth year of this program and I am the founding faculty member for it. One of the things that I always dreamed about doing, as a behavior analyst, was someday I'm gonna have my own program, so I can do it the right way, "quote unquote." That's when they say be careful what you wish for because here it is. It's been a ride going through the curricular process in terms of the University approvals, and getting this out into the world of ABA, into the school, so to speak, but it's been good. I think based on our enrollment and some of the rewards we've seen or received over the past couple years. We're doing good things and we're meeting people where they're at, which is nice. That's the 411 on the program itself.

Shauna Costello (03:48):

That's great. I can't wait to get into some more of these other topics we're gonna talk about today, but I know you said you are the founding faculty member, but who are the faculty? Who can the students expect to see and learn from?

Dr. Eric Bieniek (04:08):

Yeah, definitely. I always try to not patronize nor overstep people's assumptions, but in our masters degree, we have a body of 12 special education faculty. They will work through some of the more foundational classes. You'll have a range of people who are currently teaching in higher education, but they have experience at all levels of special education up to and including supervisory positions and everything in between. Those are the folks you'll work with through a lot of the elective classes. Now in terms of the ABA course sequence, the verified course sequence, there's myself who is the current BCBA-D, and then we also have two other faculty. Dr. Mike Monfore as well as Dr. Jeremy Lynch who teach the VCS course work. You'll have any one of us over the timeframe of the classes and we all get along pretty well in terms of planning this out. We complement one another and make sure that it's a unified message across classes, in those unified themes across the projects you do. We are a smaller program. I sometimes am envious of some of the larger schools that have half a dozen or more ABA driven faculty, just for that. At the same time, we create and solve our own problems pretty quickly. I like where we're at and I think we're doing really good things with the faculty we have online.

Shauna Costello (05:46):

I think that goes back to your statement before being careful about what you wish for.

Dr. Eric Bieniek (05:51):


Shauna Costello (05:52):

Because [Laughing], I think having a diverse group of faculty also has its own perks.

Dr. Eric Bieniek (06:02):

Absolutely. There's definitely, like I said, pluses and minuses to all of it. We really do well with the resources we have. Every search we have, I always try to add, "Hey, why don't we add someone with an ABA background?" We will get there as this success keeps happening. We all work together very well and the curriculum itself is shared. It's not something where we have one professor who has a tangential idea on this, and then you're gonna take me, and I'm gonna have a tangential idea that conflicts with that. We're very diligent to send a unified message, and also obviously meet the task list because that's what really drives the curriculum that we're teaching. That's the background with our faculty. Beyond the regular faculty, a lot of the classes we try to bring in local professionals or regional professionals for speaking on certain topics. If there's a certain area of expertise where we have someone who's just really hitting the mark on it in the field, we really try to bring those folks in and share that with our students. We want to try to be everything for our students, but at the same time, sometimes we have to bring in a more current or more experienced expert and that's okay. We give and take with that. In terms of faculty, we do have the regular folks. We try to have as many experts in the field and again, that speaks back to that idea of working with working professionals. Anything that we can do, and I say this explicitly from the beginning of every one of our classes; I say, "I want you to learn what we're learning here, but I want you to apply it tomorrow where you're working and here's what I want you to do." If it doesn't work, you call me on it and we'll figure out why it didn't work and what needs to be fixed. We really try to embody that idea of the lifelong learner, but also that professional student in making sure that people are getting, "quote unquote" the bang for their buck that we want them to have.

Shauna Costello (08:24):

I have some personal experience with being an adjunct faculty and coming in. Mine was in a BCABA course sequence, but even anecdotally from the students that I was teaching, it was really neat actually, because I was local to the University that I was teaching at and a handful of them actually came and applied to work at where I was. They wanted to learn more and experience the real world, especially being practitioner focused, having real practitioners come in and teaching students what is actually going on in the real world.

Dr. Eric Bieniek (09:10):

I think, not to get too metaphorical or anything, but it's the passing of the torch. It's the idea of doing something good for the next generation of professionals and that's frankly why I got into teaching in higher ed. Frankly, I was too old and slow to keep up with my kids [Laughing] and at that point I said, "I need to start doing something to be a better service to the field." That's where I went on the journey of where I'm at now. We really try to keep that focus. I was just gonna give an example, talking about professional experiences. It's one thing to read from Cooper how to work through an extinction burst and it's another thing to have obviously released video or released anecdotal records where you can easily go through something as pleasurable. I say that in jest, as working through a student extinction burst or escape extinction, and I think that has been one of the feedbacks we've gotten back from our students. The idea of, "Hey, I'm working somewhere now," and because of what we talked about in class, I really was able to apply, not that you're ever deviating from the conceptual fidelity, but you're dealing with the emotions of working through it a little bit more succinctly as opposed to the first shock and awe of doing it. That's really what it's all about, in my opinion, because some of our kids are pretty tough and this isn't for the faint of heart and I want you to be emotionally ready. I said emotion on an ABA podcast. It might break, hold on! Being emotionally prepared to work through this in a scientific manner with fidelity. It's a dance and we really try to present that to students in the best way we can.

Shauna Costello (10:55):

I think that's really bringing a real aspect to it. It's something that's been coming up more and more and more in recent years. Are these feelings and emotions behind it as well? It's not always the BCABAs and the BCBAs who are the ones implementing a lot of this as well.

Dr. Eric Bieniek (11:24):

There's not enough of us.

Shauna Costello (11:25):

We have these RBTs... Really trying to train these compassionate supervisors, who have done it, who have experienced it and who can show that to their staff, I think that's going to continue to build something even better. Emotion and feelings are all just behaviors as well.

Dr. Eric Bieniek (11:54):

Yeah. Setting events and...

Shauna Costello (11:55):

No "tabooness" here. [Laughing]

Dr. Eric Bieniek (11:58):

Right. Without getting off topic, but I do feel as someone who's been in the field for a reasonable amount of time, I'll just say that I've been around for longer than most, the idea that we're actually being able to talk about emotion comfortably without getting an eye roll. Not that it ever happened in the past, but the idea of those internal events actually having some tangible consequence on actions and behaviors. I think it's a breath of fresh air in my opinion, because before I was a "quote unquote" college professor, I was supervising and working with folks with this lens in line ever since I was certified. We're humans dealing with humans. One of the biggest things that we try to do humbly, one of my interpretations of it, is using ABA to try to limit human error. We're fundamentally flawed with this brain we have. Emotions get in there and stuff. I always wonder why we are not talking about that in terms of providing service, working through supervision opportunities. You have a great relationship with one of your supervisees. You are not so great with the other one. Do you still give the same supervision? I would dare say there's a difference there, but I'm drifting. Let's get back to your questions. [Laughing]

Shauna Costello (13:23):

It's not so much drifting. This is exactly why I like to do these episodes on podcasts. It really shows the faculty who are at these universities for listeners and what these potential students could be getting into. It really shows the people side of universities. I like to say you can only learn so much from a website and this is not what you're gonna learn on the website. [Laughing]

Dr. Eric Bieniek (14:00):

I've been trying to capture what we're talking about right now on our website for the past... What? Four or five years and I'm still not happy with it. [Laughing] This is a great opportunity. Thank you.

Shauna Costello (14:10):

Yes, and we can start circling back too, but now with the faculty, with the online experience, what can potential students expect from research or capstone opportunities?

Dr. Eric Bieniek (14:28):

In terms of the research or capstone opportunities, we don't have a formal capstone project in terms of building on that practitioner focus. Hopefully no one will shun me in the community of higher ed. We don't have traditional... When I went to graduate school, I did an assistantship through the day and I went to my classes at night and that's what I did. I went the traditional graduate school thing, so to speak. We don't have any of those. What we have is teachers that are in the field, we have BCABAs in the field, we have RBTs that are in the field, we have folks that are pursuing their career. In terms of a formal capstone or research project beyond the coursework, we don't have that per se, but I'm very diligent and I have presented, with our students, at professional conferences. A couple years ago, there was a research symposium where a couple of the students really put great FBAs together and just really knocked it outta the park. I said, "This would be a great case study on how to do a quality FBA," and you go through how you would properly organize and do your observations and your data collection for your ABC and your indirect methods and how you spark that all out and your summary restatement. I really try to do that. I know that Dr. Monfore and Dr. Lynch are also very diligent with those courses. If you see a project that's worth celebrating, let's celebrate it because everyone wins on that. The students get an experience in the professional realm, in terms of publication and presentation. We get to celebrate what our students are doing and frankly it's something where I can work with a student and take something that is great for class, but make it awesome for that next level of presentation. It's something I just love doing as a faculty member. In terms of capstones, we really don't have a formal capstone. In terms of research, like I said, it's always ongoing and we have certain projects that are earmarked and I'll say to students in the beginning, "Hey, listen, if this is something that you really want to work on and really give it that expert touch, let me know and we'll try to present it." I've had a good group of students who have followed through on that request, slash challenge, and it's turned out nicely. Some national presentations, state level presentations, regional presentations, and one of the things that I think is pretty neat, at least in my little pocket of ABA and Western Pennsylvania, is a lot of the things that beyond our introductory methods courses, once you get into actual interventions, a typical ABA professional probably would be like, "Oh yeah, you're gonna tell me about a token economy. You're gonna tell me about how to have a structured teaching environment. You're gonna talk to me about how to use non-contingent reinforcement more efficiently in the school setting." Things we take for granted, so to speak, are things that are so eye-opening to the larger field of education. Frankly, there's been times where I've helped do these presentations and I'm like, "You really want to accept that? We've been talking about that for 30 years," but certain realms, certain venues, and I love that they're open to learning about some of the details of what we do as professionals, but it's nice to disseminate the body of existing research to the broader field, as well as contribute to our field of knowledge. It's been fun and it's something, as a faculty, we always encourage. It's also part of us, as being faculty, to keep that research agenda going. We definitely want to include our students to do it. I'm a big advocate for all of our students to work smart, not hard. We know what we mean by that. If there's something that we can do for class, as well as get you published, let's do it, let's make it happen and hopefully it's sunny where we're going. [Laughing]

Shauna Costello (18:44):

That speaks a lot to... We've talked about the faculty and some of how the program is structured. How does that go into the student experience?

Dr. Eric Bieniek (18:57):

The student experience, like I said, I really try to be pretty informal in the sense of our relationships, because I want to make sure that you're comfortable enough to learn and go through those uncomfortable knowledge exercises, those mental exercises of, "If you don't like what you're doing, you're not gonna work hard on it." This is not just at our ABA graduate program. This is across our special ed graduate program. We have six other concentrations from supervision to reading specialists, etcetera. We really try to focus on building on that student feeling included, one, two accountable. It's a two way street. I'll be your best friend, as long as we're working hard. I always really try to push accountability. Personal experience, being accountable and just having an open flexibility. What we've seen a lot of times with our student body, and I say that meaning these professionals that are in the field, they're taking this on and their plates are already full and God bless 'em for taking another thing on. Myself and the faculty I work with, humbly including them, the last thing we're gonna do is be a roadblock in that experience. If you're stretching yourself to become a better clinician, a better teacher, a better, whatever you're gonna do. I've actually had parents who have a child or children with a diagnosis that would benefit from ABA. They said, "Guess what? I could go and read this book, or I could take a class from you and guess what I'm gonna do?" Let me tell you, as a professor, you want to talk about being humbled. You want to make sure you're doing the best for those folks, but the point with that is, if it's personal and you're accountable, and then you have this range of students, we're all doing this in a manner that they're building their skillset in whatever purpose they need. We really try to be very flexible. That's what I was gonna say. Flexible in the sense of if there's a family emergency or if their son or daughter, God forbid, gets sick. The traditional professor who says everything's due on June 1st at 10:00 PM, and if it's not, you're gonna fail the class. We just don't buy that because that's not reality for a lot of our students, nor should it be. We want to have a flexible, reciprocal relationship with our students. I always say, "Folks, you're gonna work hard, but we're gonna help you work hard to get through it." So far it's been working. I'm looking at some of the stuff I put together, because we're behavior analysts. I have data here. Of course I have my data sheet. Looking at some of the recognitions we've received and the numbers of our students, for a four year old program it's impressive. It's nice to see it working and getting some good therapists or good clinicians, good educators out in the field using this information. It's been good.

Shauna Costello (22:08):

To give you even more about the student experience, we have a couple students who are in the SRU program. Andrea Holtz and Olivia Freed.

Andrea Holtz (22:18):

In 2019, I obtained my BCABA certificate through FIT with Dr. José Martinez-Diaz. About six months later, I started looking at grad programs. Because I was already working full-time in the field, it was important for me to select an online program that allowed me to take courses with some flexibility. I also wanted to learn from professors who are using the science within the field too, with a desire to build my local network of professionals. Slippery Rock University's masters in special education with a concentration in applied behavior analysis program has allowed me to achieve both.The professors are approachable and eager to share their knowledge and experiences, which serves as a tremendous supplement to the online curriculum.

Olivia Freed (22:58):

Hi, my name is Olivia Freed and I am halfway through the ABA masters program at Slippery Rock. I was really fortunate. I got my undergrad from Slippery Rock in may of 2020, and I stumbled upon the opportunity to get a graduate assistant position for the University. I started the following fall semester, getting my masters and also working as a grad assistant. It's been really nice to continue building those relationships that I started in undergrad and I've had a lot of the same professors. I've been really thankful to have those professors on my side and be able to learn from them and use them as resources and networking and all of those types of things. I'm also working as a registered behavior technician to get my hours to sit for my exam. I'm really all over the place. I'm working as a grad assistant, taking classes and an RBT. I've been really thankful that the program has been online and that I can work on my assignments when I have the time to do so. That's been a really nice aspect of the program that I've really enjoyed. As far as what I was looking for, whenever I was looking for a program, I always say that ABA found me. It's not that I was searching for ABA, which I think is funny, but through my undergrad coursework and then my student teaching experience, I got my toes wet a little bit with ABA and just ended up really enjoying it. It all fell into place for me. I do, in a way, feel like this is where I'm supposed to be. I really have appreciated all of the experience and connections that I've made through Slippery Rock and through the program and I'm looking forward to finishing up there and then having two degrees from SRU [Laughing].

Shauna Costello (24:57):

I think that it brings us back to what we had mentioned before about feelings and emotions. You're really bringing up a very good point. You're treating your students like humans and we are real life human beings. We have other contingencies going on. There are other things that come up that take precedence in that moment. I think that is also teaching them that, in the future, when you get out into the real world, these things are actually gonna happen. Like you said, that flexibility in teaching is very important as well.

Dr. Eric Bieniek (25:40):

I love this statement, and if I chop this up, you can cut it out: José Martinez-Diaz, when I was doing my classes at Penn state many moons ago, he had a statement that I loved, he said, "Have an open mind, but not so open that your thoughts fall out of your ear," and that's it. We want to have an open experience, but understand there's stuff we gotta get through. We never teach the exam, but I reference that elusive exam often because that's really the benchmark to get that credential. It's a balance, but I think it's worth, at least in my experience, in our experience with the other faculty teaching class, it's a balance that's worth trying to keep and maintain because the outcome is worth it.

Shauna Costello (26:30):

I think that balance is key and just being very realistic about it. That's what I'm hearing too. That's really nice to hear. Being realistic and teaching that to that next generation as well.

Dr. Eric Bieniek (26:48):

We're trying. [Laughing] I think the next thing you have is practicums.

Shauna Costello (26:53):

Yes. That's exactly where I was going next. What does that look like at SRU?

Dr. Eric Bieniek (26:58):

For SRU, like I said, we are a concentration within many and we're a smaller program. The idea with practicums right now, and I do my very best, as soon as students are admitted, at this point in time, we're not able to offer a formal practicum experience. What I try to do is I try to connect folks with people in the region and we're currently actually working with a couple of providers. Approved private schools and similar programs, therapeutic programs, to start to set up some partnerships per se, in terms of you could go and not have a fast track to be hired or work with those folks. There might be a little bit of a track set up for you to reach out to those organizations and say, "Hey, I'm one of the folks from Slippery Rock. I'm looking for practicum hours." We're actually working through some of those agreements as we speak, which is encouraging, but it's one of those things where again, being realistic, being upfront with students. I say, "We'll offer you one of the best verified course sequence experiences we can," but we're very transparent in saying to folks, "You need your course work, you need your practicum hours, and you need your degree before you take that exam." When people are admitted there, it's very clearly made that you need to start setting this up early. For some of our "quote unquote" younger students, what I say to them is if you're not bound to a full-time career with benefits, and kids that are dependent on you, take this as an opportunity to get a job as a direct service RBT. In Pennsylvania we have what's called therapeutic support staff that work directly with students for behavioral needs, work in the field. Go get those hours and then use those towards your practicum. I always say when you do the interview process, don't interview them because that's presumptuous, but ask them, "Do you have a BCBA on staff?" If they do, would there be an opportunity through this position to work under their tutelage and work on pursuing those hours? It's worked well enough, but that's also very much an effort in being deliberate in communications and making sure that folks aren't assuming. The worst case scenario would be for someone to finish out all their classes. If they're doing the full masters program, all their electives and then we're closing out, we call it an audit at Slippery Rock, we're finalizing their classes. Everything's there, you're ready for graduation and they go, "Oh, I saw this thing about practicum hours." That's bad. That's not a good situation for them. I don't want to be part of that. The folks that are informed and have gone through the process of being certified, know that, "Oh my gosh." It's like you forgot half your luggage when you went on vacation. I would think more than half, but anyways we really are diligent with telling folks early on and trying to help them set up those relationships. Even if it's just a little bit, get those hours moving and get into the field. One, to get that experience for your exam, but two, to complement what we're doing in class. You can go out and practice this stuff, obviously with supervision, and make sure that you're understanding those fundamental concepts. We get into more of the applied concepts and different technologies, like trial or verbal behavior, and you can practice it with us in the books and then you can go do it. That's, I think, a recipe for success. Hopefully there'll be more to follow on those partnerships in the region here.

Shauna Costello (30:48):

Yes. If anybody is interested too, in partnering with you?

Dr. Eric Bieniek (30:53):

Yes! Thank you for that.

Shauna Costello (30:54):

I will make sure to put your contact info in the podcast description as well. Whether or not you are a potential student or are a site looking for some partnership opportunities, that contact information will be in the podcast description for anybody who is interested.

Dr. Eric Bieniek (31:15):

Super. Thank you.

Shauna Costello (31:16):

That's great to hear just because it's really nice hearing when the schools are connected and have those partnerships, and they're really thinking about that up front. That brings us to how students get into the program and admissions. Are there interviews? What does that look like?

Dr. Eric Bieniek (31:39):

If you go to our Slippery Rock's ABA website, there's a connection for that. Folks who want to apply to our program, there's an online application. There's a fee applying for it and then there are two reference forms that folks would fill out as well as obviously your transcripts. For folks who are doing just the certificate, we would obviously need your graduate level transcript. For folks who are doing the full masters degree, it would be your undergraduate and anything else relevant. If they put that all together, we have a wonderful graduate admissions office. I asked and she was okay if I shared her name, maybe we can share her information as well. Brandi Weber is our graduate admissions person and she's awesome. She will take very good care of you and help you get through that process. It's a University theme that we really try to be accommodating for the professional student at the graduate level. Just last week, a student inquired about their application and I didn't know where it was in the process and it turns out she forgot one of her letters of recommendation. A lot of schools might say, "Well, that's an incomplete application. We're not gonna accept it." We work with folks to get that in and if you meet the criteria, then we're good. To apply for the program, you would work through our graduate admissions office. Brandi Weber-Mortimer is her name. She is our primary admissions counselor for graduate programming and she and I speak regularly. If there's ever any specific questions she can't answer, you'll definitely reach out to me and vice versa. In terms of applying, that would be the process. There are no onsite interviews. Like I said, we have the online application, the references, the transcripts, any existing certifications you have. As you can tell, probably so far in the interview, we are an education focused program. We're from a department of special education and while there are many facets to ABA, we definitely focus on the, I don't want to say the more traditional, but the more mainstream child. Pediatric ABA programming in schools and community and homes and with that being said, if there's any teacher certification, past experience, certifications that you think are relevant, that would be part of that process. In terms of application timelines, we have a rolling admission. You can admit, you can apply any time over the calendar year. What we typically do is, depending on your schedule and the timeline, we'll get you into the next realistic semester. Right now it's June, when we're taking this podcast down. If someone applies now, we've missed the window for summer classes, so to speak, but we would start in the fall. If someone applies, we've had folks that apply in April or May of spring semester, we'll still try to squeeze you in for the summer if you can do that. It's about getting them into the coursework and getting them moving through the program. We don't leave it wide open. In terms of that admission timeline, it's a rolling advent and it seems to work pretty well. We've actually had some folks that say, "I'm gonna start classes now." I'm like, "Well, it's the middle of the semester." That's not gonna happen. I've had other folks say, "Hey, I just graduated from my undergraduate. I want to apply for this, but I don't want to start the spring semester. I don't want to start until the fall." That's okay, too. It's one of those conversations we try to have in the beginning. What's your timeline? The other big thing for a lot of our students in terms of application and getting into the program and funding the program, If I can extend that, a lot of districts, a lot of programs will provide tuition reimbursement. If an employer is gonna pay for it, I definitely want to help that person take advantage of it. This is another pendulum. They'll support one credit worth of classes or three credits worth of classes every semester. Let's take our time and do it. Worst case scenario, you get more practicum hours than you need and you take one class at a time. Just the opposite, there's a grant at my school and I was able to get money and it's gonna be expiring in 18 months. I'm like, "Phew, we're gonna do this together". I guess the point in saying all that is we try to be as flexible as we can in terms of accommodating where students are at. It is a rolling admit and it's an all online application process.

Shauna Costello (36:43):

That's really great to hear. Just the flexibility that the program has. You can still individualize it and really tell the admissions office what your needs are and where you're at, so that you can make sure that they are being successful through the program.

Dr. Eric Bieniek (37:05):

I've been part of cohort models and I like them, but with anything there's pluses and minuses. Do I sometimes wish we had cohorts moving through? Sure I do. At the same time, this seems to be working for folks that, like I said earlier, have a lot on their plates and that's okay.

Shauna Costello (37:25):

That is also another reason that I wanted to get this series out there because not one University program is going to be perfect for everybody. We all have real lives. We have to figure out what's gonna work best for us and our life as well. I will definitely be including the emails that you mentioned, and I'll also be including a link to the page. We've covered a lot today. We've covered general overview, faculty, practicum, student experience, admissions, research, capstone, apply stuff. Is there anything else?

Dr. Eric Bieniek (38:16):

The location. We got an incidental publicity nod from Dr. Phil a couple of years back. I don't know if you remember this, but on his show he made a comment of, "Where's Slippery Rock? Is that a real University?" We, as a community, really took him to task and said, "We are Slippery Rock and we're a pretty..." I'll save my words. I'll say it nicely. We're a pretty quality University. Slippery Rock is located on the western side of Pennsylvania, a little bit south, but right in the middle of Erie in Pittsburgh on I79. We're part of this state higher education system. We have 14 other sister universities across the state. We're a state University and we're located on the western part of Pennsylvania and if folks were ever interested in looking at assistantships, we do have those options. Nothing is ever absolutely black or white. We do have some folks that will take on assistantship positions to get that tuition waiver and they'll work on campus. We have a daycare, we have a whole bunch of different grants and research opportunities that need graduate assistance. There are options there. I should have said that earlier, but we're located in western Pennsylvania and we have folks as far as Canada in our program. We have folks across the country: Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, California. It's really nice to see that online model and that more flexible, rolling admit, practitioner focused model working for so many folks across the country. Internationally now, too, so you can do that. That's where I'd say about 96/98% of our students are, but we still have some folks that are doing the program and they're doing the "quote unquote" traditional graduate experience where they go to school full-time. They do assistantships and they live that lavish life of a graduate student. [Laughing] There was a little bit of sarcasm there. We try to have options for wherever students are and where they want to go. I'll just close with the idea of students, from just looking at programs, up to and including graduating and moving on, I have a very open door with folks. I talk with many folks that are saying, "Hey, I was looking at your program. I'm from [insert state] or [insert region]. Dou have a couple of seconds just to review some questions?" I'd like to make time for that, because I think that's where a lot of these relationships start. In my adventures in higher ed and going through my own degrees, I applied at big schools and I applied at little schools and ended up going to some middle ground, smaller schools. One of the things that always turned me off as a student was, I'm not a number. It's the idea of customer focus, if that's even a current word anymore. I don't know if that's still something that means anything to folks, but we want to take that time even if we can't help you with what we have, let me connect you to the person who can help you. If anyone's interested, I think you're gonna include my email and everything. I look forward to reaching out to folks and sharing what we have here to offer.

Shauna Costello (42:03):

It's just so nice. You know what I mean? Even with an online program, because I know that sometimes people can be a little hesitant. They're not quite sure what they're going into. You see questions all the time on social media about online programs. It's so nice to really get into the nitty gritty of the program and hear that you can still individualize it. You can still get what you need. It has this education focus on it. That is something to take into consideration. If you're interested in that and getting those types of experiences on top of just the clinical model as well, Slippery Rock may be right for you. It's really good to hear.

Dr. Eric Bieniek (43:00):

Yeah. Definitely. I agree with all that.

Shauna Costello (43:04):

Thank you so much for talking about SRU today.I've learned a lot. It's always hard for me not to ask questions in our first meeting, but I enjoy learning about it and I enjoyed hearing the stories and just really getting to feel, we'll wrap back around to those feelings, really feel what the program is all about.

Dr. Eric Bieniek (43:25):

That's great because that's really the cornerstone of what we're trying to do and trying to get some good behavioral knowledge and good behavior therapists out there in whatever level they take it. Thank you for the opportunity. It was great.

Shauna Costello (43:42):

Thank you for listening to this week's 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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