The Lift 003 | Understanding Past Influences and Their Effect on You as A Supervisor

The Podcast

An ABA Technologies Academy Podcast

 1.0 BACB, 1 Supervision

Price: $15.00

Linda LeBlan and Tyra Sellers

Linda A. LeBlanc, PhD, BCBA-D

Tyra P. Sellers, JD, PhD, BCBA-D


Dr. Linda LeBlanc and Dr. Tyra Sellers are joined by Dr. Shahla Ala'i-Rosales! This episode describes the importance of understanding your learning history with prior supervisors and influencers. There are several benefits of reflection on your past experiences with supervisors, mentors, coaches . . . good, bad, and ugly. The podcast describes an activity for exploring the past influences in order to identify your values and design your actions as a supervisor. In addition, the listener is guided through an activity for identifying future development goals and seeking influencers and mentors to help them achieve those goals.

Learning Checklist

Attendees will be able to describe what the term “influencer” means
Attendees will be able to identify benefits of reflection on past experiences
Attendees will be able to describe various influences for formative experiences, early foundational professional training, and ongoing life and career.
Attendees will be able to list Dr. Shahla Ala'i-Rosalses’ warning about influencers

 Buy CES $15

Supervisor and Mentor book back coverThe Book

The book focuses on the importance of strong relationships and teaching higher-order skills throughout any supervisory endeavor. The authors provide a conceptually sound set of supervision practices that will guide the actions of those who aspire to become better supervisors or mentors at any point in their careers.

Learn More      




Dr. Linda LeBlanc (00:00):

Welcome everyone to The Lift, our podcast on supervision and mentoring. This is Linda LeBlanc.

Dr. Tyra Sellers (00:21):

And Tyra.

Dr. Linda LeBlanc (00:23):

And we are lucky enough to have our co-author, Dr. Shahla Ala'i-Rosales with us. Shahla is an associate professor in the department of behavior analysis at the University of North Texas. She and her students collaborate with community partners throughout the greater Denton, Dallas, Fort Worth area to serve people who are under-resourced and marginalized within current societal structures. She's a member of an interdisciplinary lab that includes faculty and students from women's and gender studies, applied anthropology and behavior analysis. Her perspective and understanding of issues of culture is broad. She served on several boards and disciplinary committees, including the ABAI practice board and the ABAI diversity equity and inclusion board. She's published and presented research on social justice, ethics and early intervention, play and social skills, family harmony, change agent training, and of course our favorite: Supervision. More recently she is working on a project on the relationship between love and science and the treatment of autism. I'm excited to hear about that. She is our highly valued coauthor in our book on supervision and mentoring, and she was a tremendous partner to us on all aspects of the book, but really she's the architect of some people's favorite chapter: Chapter four on diversity. We're going to be talking today about chapter three: Understanding past influences and their effect on you as a supervisor. Shahla, welcome.

Dr. Shahla Ala'i-Rosales (02:14):

Hello, it's so nice to be here.

Dr. Tyra Sellers (02:18):

Hi Shahla.

Dr. Shahla Ala'i-Rosales (02:18):

I love that you're doing this. I especially love the name. I think it's perfect for your energy and for how you really want to raise and lift the quality of what we do and the effectiveness. I'm honored to be here.

Dr. Linda LeBlanc (02:38):

Well, thank you for being here. For each of the chapters, we selected a quote and I don't know what the quote is on this one. Okay. We're going to have to cut...

Dr. Tyra Sellers (02:51):

[Laughing]. I do. I do.

Dr. Linda LeBlanc (02:54):

There it is. Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards. [Laughing]

Dr. Tyra Sellers (03:00):

Yes. This is actually one of my favorite quotes in the book.

Dr. Linda LeBlanc (03:05):

What are your thoughts about, and you and I talked about this for over a decade, that notion of reflection and retrospection as a tool for understanding some of why we do what we do?

Dr. Shahla Ala'i-Rosales (03:21):

Yeah. I honestly think that's probably one of the strongest parts of the book. The book is so strong in many ways, but I think obviously the power of reflection. That's what science is. It's a very systematic way of reflecting and organizing the world and understanding patterns. I think bringing that to our individual lives is an ongoing and lifelong process, but I also think it's a growing process in itself. The process of learning how to reflect, like even when we were thinking about the trees, which we'll talk about today. Thinking about what's influenced us. I think that process in itself is something you learn how to discriminate about what happened to you, what the conditions were, how you grew, and then the more you start doing that, where you learn how to do that. Even teaching that, you learn different things. I think that's probably one of the central concepts and I like this chapter so much because it gives some structure to that process. It allows you, not only to think about what affected you going back to the quote, but it allows you to sort of shape how you move forward in the world. I think, especially right now with everything changing in really important ways, how to proceed is often complicated and reflection gives you probably one of the most powerful tools along with the selection of your values about how to do that.

Dr. Tyra Sellers (05:08):

I really love those points and it sort of highlights the idea that we can't control the things that have happened to us in the past. Our histories make up the sum total of who we are when we step in the river today, but we can control how we let our past influence our current and future behavior if we are willing to do that self reflection. That idea that we are each a product of sort of the sum total of all of our experiences and our interactions with people that have influenced us over time. We've talked about, in previous podcasts, the term supervisor or supervision, mentor, mentorship, but what about this idea of an influencer? Just so everyone is clear, we are not talking about social media influencers or anything like that. We are talking about influencers of your personal and professional repertoires, your sets of values. What are your thoughts around that, Shahla and Linda?

Dr. Linda LeBlanc (06:17):

Yeah, my recollection is we actually spent some time talking about whether it should be influences or influencers. As we developed that activity of the mentor tree, and we wanted people to put names and roles, it became more clear that these are people who have influenced us. Those people are really a whole bunch of influences all together and we settled on influencers. At least that's my recollection, but I remember us editing it back and forth. [Laughing]

Dr. Shahla Ala'i-Rosales (07:05):

Yeah. I remember that too and I remember the discussion and trying to find the right words for it, because they are the people, but as we reflect upon it, there are also the conditions of those people and what impact they had on you and how they do a lot of things. I think oftentimes they obviously taught us sometimes specific sets of skills, but they also gave us a lot of motivation. They inspired us in different ways or deterred us in different ways, which I think we're going to unpack a little bit later, and helped us shape our roles and our values about how we approach those things. I think just general life lessons. I think it's interesting to bring up the issue of social media and influencers, because especially in the pandemic, I have found myself being very attracted to certain people. Their webinars, their ways of approaching things, especially in related disciplines. I have found in a really odd way through the pandemic my tree growing in interesting ways in terms of who influenced me and how.

Dr. Tyra Sellers (08:22):

That's so cool.

Dr. Shahla Ala'i-Rosales (08:23):


Dr. Linda LeBlanc (08:24):

You have new branches.

Dr. Shahla Ala'i-Rosales (08:26):

A lot of new branches. They were painful in the growth, but new branches.

Dr. Tyra Sellers (08:31):

As growth often is, right? That's something central, I think, to the book. I remember you specifically bringing in, particularly in chapter four, but also in chapter three growth is often uncomfortable, unsettling or painful, but there's beauty in that. Right? If you're reflective, you can control it to some degree.

Dr. Shahla Ala'i-Rosales (08:54):

Yeah. It's a nice way to put it. [Laughter] Well, I do want to say another thing about the influencers that I thought a lot about as we were preparing to have this conversation. I think early on in my career, I thought about it mostly as the technical skills I wanted to learn. I think as I go along, it was a lot about watching people in time. As behavior analysts, time is a really important concept for us, because where things happen in time affects the outcome in the future. I think being able to think about my models and how they did things over the course of time, how they problem-solved, how their values were expressed and how they changed. Also speaking to this topic, I also think about how they were supervisors and how they were mentors, but also how they were supervisees and how they were mentees. Not only to see how they taught, but also how they learned. Thinking back on some of the people on my tree, I think one of the things is that they were always, most of them, active learners also which I think was a good lesson and a good influence.

Dr. Linda LeBlanc (10:26):

Well, and the fact that you just developed new branches suggest you emulated that and that it was worthy of emulation. In the chapter, we really talk about that combination of our behavior being a product of our history and our current circumstances, and that you can't change your history, but your understanding of it can potentially change how you benefit from that history so that you can make decisions and behave in your current circumstances. You can potentially change your current circumstances, but really the notion is you can move away from that notion of, "I just am what I am. If this tree grows crooked, I'm crooked y'all and I need an environment that will tolerate crooked." There's certainly something to be said for finding an environment that matches you, but when you take that time to reflect on your past influencers, you maybe can prune, or at least have an understanding that allows you to mitigate the effects of some of those non-examples and really come to a better understanding of why certain things happen. I know one of the things we talk a lot about in doing that, if you're going to prune, if your understanding is going to let you change what you do in the future, then that means you're really an active participant in your own learning. We talk about that as one of the benefits of reflecting on past relationships. Our second one is gratitude for those influencers. All of them in all of the different ways that they affected us. I know that that is something that really resonated with you when we were creating these activities. That notion of gratitude.

Dr. Shahla Ala'i-Rosales (12:52):

Well, I'm going to express gratitude to you two, because I think the way you just framed it is a very hopeful way of looking at life. I think if you go down that other path, there's a whole lot of despair because you stay in this, "Well, this is what I experienced. There's no changing it." As our fellow act people would say, you reframe it. You look at it in a way that allows you to learn and allows you to see the beauty of what's happened. I think also too, probably ancestrally, I come from a culture where gratitude for your ancestors is very, very important. Many of the stories I learned as a child were about various forms of gratitude for the lessons that were learned. I think there's another thing too, that I noticed more and more that's happening. I think you've written about this in other ways, both of you, but I think this notion of compassion.I think at one point, when you're young, you tend to see things as right or wrong, or even our influencers. These were good ones or bad ones. As time goes by and being a behavior analyst, I think about trying to look through the lens of what the conditions were. What were they up against? What were their challenges? What was their conditioning history? How did they learn things? I think that I have found myself in situations that I thought were really bad examples. I have found myself going back and thinking, "Oh, I've done something like that." This is what was happening. Maybe it was similar for them or with the good things, also. The things that I value right now thinking about, "What were the conditions that made that possible?" I think a lot about Barbara. She was one of my very dear mentors and probably one of the most influential people in my early career. I look back now and I sort of knew it because she was a woman in our field. At that time, there were not very many women who were leaders and she was a fearless leader. She spoke up and she did research in areas that a lot of other people weren't doing. Let alone men or women. I also see and have such appreciation for her courage and also see maybe she couldn't have done anything else because of who she was. [Laughter]

Dr. Linda LeBlanc (15:43):

Her authenticity, right?

Dr. Shahla Ala'i-Rosales (15:45):


Dr. Linda LeBlanc (15:48):

That part of courage.

Dr. Shahla Ala'i-Rosales (15:48):

Yeah and it was hard. I remember one of her colleagues, Sandra Harris, had come. I was the conference chair for Tech SABA, and she had come and you know how when you're a chair, you take people around and you sort of hostess them? I got to talk with her quite a bit. She told me a story that was sort of shocking to me. I think at that time I was a new mother. I've been in the, "How do you take care of children and do all this at the same time?" She said that she had... I don't know specifically who it was, but it was an adviser who told her at the point she was thinking about graduate school you have to make a choice. You're either going to be married and have a family or you're going to do this. There wasn't any gray area.

Dr. Linda LeBlanc (16:39):

No middle ground.

Dr. Shahla Ala'i-Rosales (16:42):

I had talked to Barbara about it much later and she said, "Yeah, that was the way it was." Just even thinking about your early influencers and the kind of choices they had to make, and then how the parallels are for yourself and thinking about that. What you're going to do, how you're going to contribute to the common good, but also what are the costs? There's a lot of talking, sorry. [Laughing]

Dr. Linda LeBlanc (17:15):

That was a beautiful story.

Dr. Tyra Sellers (17:17):

That was amazing.

Dr. Linda LeBlanc (17:17):

Absolutely so important. I think a lot of my gratitude for early female behavior analysts is they persisted under some pretty adverse conditions to even get in the game. You have to choose to not have a family. You may also have to choose to modify your behavior to hang with the boys. Maybe that feels authentic and maybe it doesn't, and you may have a harder time with a lot of things in so many subtle ways. These people persisted and managed to not get kicked out on their butts. I feel like if I had been born 20 years earlier, I'd have been really... I would have been... My outspokenness might have been perceived differently. Those people's behavior and persistence in those circumstances really created a lot of opportunity. It always does, for the next generation. Right? In lots of ways. Sometimes they're creating the model. Sometimes they're kind of kicking in some doors and expanding the walls for us.

Dr. Shahla Ala'i-Rosales (18:46):

I think you would have persisted. I think you do persist. I think there's still a lot going on now especially as the world is changing so much. It's hard to persist because you make a lot of errors and the paths aren't always clear. I see a lot of persisting on the part of my sisters. I also think it's sort of interesting because, and this is one of my just professional challenges, I tend to evaluate things and I'm trying to temper that as much as I can, but I look back at the way some changes have been made, especially by women sometimes. Barbara and I used to talk about this, but the whole the whole need for politics and doing things sort of behind the scenes, because you weren't allowed to do them in front of the scenes. That is something I have had to grapple with being a woman, being in my position in the field. How to move towards more transparency, more doing exactly what you're saying, that you would have been pushed out, but that straightforwardness and transparency I think is sort of a new thing. I've been trying to look back at how my mentors and influencers have modeled that or had difficulty, had challenges with it because of their conditions.

Dr. Linda LeBlanc (20:33):

You bring up a great point in terms of when you do the reflecting on your past influencers, we are kind of prone to this rosy glow versus demonization. Really the issue is if you're going to understand that person and their behavior in their circumstances, you've got to be a little bit more realistic in the reflection that even if there were ways they supervised or interacted that didn't feel great, in retrospect don't seem great, that there were circumstances and we're all prone to it, right? In people that are important to us and our influencers are important to us in so many different ways. Is there any way that your views of some of your past influencers changed? Maybe finding a little bit more middle ground as you reflected?

Dr. Shahla Ala'i-Rosales (21:51):

Yeah. A lot. I'm still working on this. I think and you see this all over society, we have such a tendency, "This is good, this is bad." When we're in this massive transition in our world, vilifying or sanctifying people is so easy and so dangerous.

Dr. Linda LeBlanc (22:18):

And reinforcing.

Dr. Shahla Ala'i-Rosales (22:18):

Oh yeah. Especially if you're on the side of the good hats. It's easy to say that's bad or this is good and split it into two things. Another thing I think about what we tried to do in the book, and also our field in general is to try to move away from that. To move towards looking at it as we can learn, we can change, it's our environment. We can learn about our environment. We can change our environment. We can all be better and that there's no camps. I'm going to tell you another little story. When I was in graduate school, we had these seminars and they were awesome. We had a big NIH grant and the trainees, well everybody got to participate. Really great people would come and give talks and then we would spend weekends at Keith Miller's house eating homemade soup and bread and talking about behavior analysis. Murray Sidman came several times. One of the things he said.. I was this little graduate student. I'm like, "Oh, you're so wonderful. I've learned so much." Being very effusive, because I thought he was brilliant. He looked at me and he said, "Be careful with putting people on pedestals, because they fall." I thought, "Oh, okay." It was really interesting. Years later somebody said something about him that wasn't very favorable and I thought that was such good advice because we're all human and whatever his very human qualities were, didn't negate all the wonderful things. I think it's true of all of us. I think looking at influencers, but also looking at the people who we might've demonized or thought, "Oh, they did this thing." I think, especially as I grow older and make really horrible mistakes myself, I look back and I think, "Oh, this is what they were up against. This is what they didn't have, or these were barriers." I think again, the process of reflection and not trying to put things in right or wrong bins, but think about the conditions, thinking about what you learn. I think that actually helps you develop more understanding and compassion. You just sort of feel for those situations. I still obviously fight it because I realize even the way I'm talking about it is bad. [Laughing] I actually think I learned that too, Tyra, when we were working on that supervision article. I think talking through all the supervisory things that could go wrong and could go right. You were a really good example of not doing that which I'm really appreciative for, because it's hard.

Dr. Tyra Sellers (25:23):

Thank you. It's interesting that you bring up that article because as you were talking, I was reflecting on when you and Becky and I were working on that article and I was thinking that article was sort of this pivotal time for me. I was able to better apply the technology of our science to that reflective process and approach those difficult situations that I had experienced from other people that I would have put in, "You're the bad camp. You're the ‘not great’ ones." Even my own past history with things that I had done that was a beautiful mistake and really approach reflecting on those instances, which I had done before, but just not in a very structured way. Working on that article allowed me to approach reflecting on those instances from a place of sort of compassionate curiosity, where I could look to determine why that person's behavior or my behavior was functional in that moment. If I could determine that it wasn't that they were bad or I was bad or whatever. Sometimes crap happens. I could then start to come to understand the conditions that arrange themselves and hopefully honor those past mistakes by attending to when those conditions were presenting themselves in current times and purposely choose to behave in a different way or arrange the contingencies as best I can so that other people could behave in a different way. It's really interesting that you bring up that article because that period of time I was also working on supervision stuff with Linda and our other colleague, Dr. Amber Valentino, and I had a bunch of aha moments during that period. It reminded me of my undergrad in philosophy. That semester, I took epistemology and walked around like, "We don't know anything". [Laughter]. This moment of growth for me. I thank you both for allowing me to have that experience.

Dr. Linda LeBlanc (27:38):

What you're describing, Tyra, is when you understand that other people may have done things that weren't particularly enjoyable for you to experience, but you still know, "No such thing as a bad boy." It's still a function of its circumstances. Then you entertain the possibility that your circumstances could lead you to behave in a way that could be perceived by someone else as unpleasant or what have you, and that you gotta be on the lookout for not only that behavior, but those circumstances and try to be purposeful about how you're going to respond if those circumstances occurred.

Dr. Tyra Sellers (28:29):

Yes. Versus that easy response of like, "I would never do that", or, "Not me".

Dr. Shahla Ala'i-Rosales (28:36):

Such a good point.

Dr. Linda LeBlanc (28:40):

Well, Shahla, let's tell folks the story a little bit about how we came up with the mentor tree. I've heard so many people over the years talk about how useful they've found this activity and it's one of my favorite ones in the book. It started, I think a decade ago now because it's 2021 and I think we did that CALABA workshop in, I don't know, maybe March of 2012 or 2011 or something like that.

Dr. Shahla Ala'i-Rosales (29:14):

Yeah. It was close to 10 years ago. I think so.

Dr. Linda LeBlanc (29:20):

Yeah. When we were teenagers, of course.

Dr. Shahla Ala'i-Rosales (29:25):

Yeah. We were teenagers. [Laughing] I think that's the first time I remember professionally using it. I know that in other contexts. That kind of mapping who affects you on a tree I've been familiar with. My father was actually like the family historian for a while. He had this tree that literally was, I don't know, as big as my study room wall of our family. I think in that workshop it was so interesting watching people's faces and seeing that look back on what's affected you. They really liked it. I remember that. Then I remember we had several students who helped us in the development of the artwork. I think Joe Sheehan and Alex Love. Then I think, Tyra, that you all had students also working on it. The last version or colleagues. Even those people in the process of developing them, thought about it and looked at it, which is something I have learned from my anthropologist friends. You can take stimuli, a picture of a tree like we did, and they kind of set the occasion for a whole bunch of responses that you can build on and shape. I think that's one of the reasons I like that tree so much.

Dr. Linda LeBlanc (30:57):

It's why it's not just a list.

Dr. Shahla Ala'i-Rosales (31:01):

Yeah and that it's organic, it's living, it's changing. I use it as an example when I do workshops and training about culture and supervision, and it's one of the things that I suggested at a workshop we do explore in terms of how the tree looks and how that influences how you interact and move forward when you're with people from different backgrounds and cultures. It's a really nice SD for a very organic and interactive process. Yeah, it's not a list. I hadn't thought about that. That's important.

Dr. Tyra Sellers (31:49):

As you were talking, Shahla, it also made me realize how it also embodies this interconnectedness across and among individual trees, right? Together they make this ecosystem and maybe depending on who you talk to an organism. That speaks to me so much because of how important I think it is that we're purposeful in supervision, so we honor our past trees and our trees by creating strong, healthy, new trees. Right?

Dr. Shahla Ala'i-Rosales (32:27):

Yeah. I'm going to riff off your metaphor because one of the things we talk about, and we did talk a lot about when we were developing the book is this idea of generational impact. Your responsibility to future generations of the supervisor. I got this image as you were talking and all these trees of this healthy environment. [Laughing] There was lots of foliage that produced more rain and the trees lived forever like a Lorax thing. [Laughing] I think it's true and the more we’re aware of how to create that environment, where there's a lot of good, strong supervisors who carry forward, who have a really good generational impact and not a dangerous one. I like that. I like all the trees.

Dr. Linda LeBlanc (33:23):

The idea evolved. It starts, of course, with the roots of the tree, those early life people who help set the stage, set the values and they matter too. We have to connect those influences to the behavior analysts we later become because it should not be the case that behavior analysis erases your prior influences. Trees wouldn't stand very tall if having a trunk suddenly meant you had to give away your roots. I do think a lot of people encounter behavior analysis and it shifts how they think so much that they might often think of it as this is their new starting point without realizing there is still a whole lot from all of those different versions of you that now needs to come through. That lens of a worldview of behavior analysis. Tyra?

Dr. Tyra Sellers (34:34):

I just want to say, "Damn, Linda," because you just spoke truth and clarity to something that I've been struggling with since we wrote this chapter. Many people know I didn't have a traditional route to behavior analysis. I've always worked because I started working very young in a school that used behavior analysis, but I grew up in an area where there weren't any programs. I wasn't connected with people, so I don't have the same path. I don't think that I did what you just described, which was sort of rip out my old tree and grow a new one. I think what I tried to do was continue to add new branches and fortify the bark and the trunk, if you will. So much of my special ed background and vocational work and things like that were so influential for me. Not to mention philosophy and my law degree, right? All of these were really formative for me and what behavior analysis did for me, wasn't erase or overwrite, but allowed me to have a deeper understanding of all of those things. You just were so eloquent in how you expressed that because I've always struggled and honestly, especially with the two of you who have such amazing pedigrees and are such powerhouses and have worked side-by-side with such incredible people. I've always sort of felt like, "Oh man, my trunk is a fraud or something like that." Right? Because my trunk isn't behavior analytic. I really appreciate you explaining in that way, because it was a shameful secret for me. I kind of had this puny, original tree and then my behavior analytic tree grew out of it, but I've just reframed my tree in my mind as sort of this beautiful, weird, magical tree that is different... Maybe it's got like a plum branch grafted onto it over here, and a cherry blossom branch over here. It's okay to be an amalgam, right? You don't have to be a pure form behavior analyst from day one.

Dr. Linda LeBlanc (36:52):

Amen to that. Yeah. Pat Friman and I have often said to each other that with respect to each of us being a job editor, given that we are clinical psychologists and have been trained somewhat differently. I think we also each think of ourselves as behavior analysts, but there's many other editors of JABA that have had very different training and backgrounds than we have. We're not pretenders either. We just maybe have Aspen trees in a forest of Oaks, but we still have a trunk. It's still beautiful.

Dr. Shahla Ala'i-Rosales (37:37):

Well, and I think monocultures are dangerous. They're really dangerous.

Dr. Tyra Sellers (37:43):

Amen. Wait, can you say that again, Shahla? Will you just repeat that?

Dr. Shahla Ala'i-Rosales (37:46):

I think monocultures are dangerous.

Dr. Tyra Sellers (37:51):

And toxic.

Dr. Shahla Ala'i-Rosales (37:52):

And toxic. And they deter growth. I think, especially if you look at the Meta. Maybe we don't do things because we're behavior analysts. We do them because we have a service or a value about what we're doing in the world. That we're curious. All those other bigger reasons that behavior analysis is one way. I think if that's your only way... First of all, I think it has been crafted in a very hegemonic context. Even our notion of behavior analysis is expanding and breaking up or growing. I'll say it that way. I think it's actually really important and beautiful for people to have different influences like philosophy. That actually is a really, really important context or lens with which to look at the world. It's good to ponder why we exist, how we know things, what we think is important. I think more of you, more unicorns, more magical trees. We're different kinds. We also know that biodiversity, in addition to, is really important. We need that. It's definitely a process to include and welcome diversity.

Dr. Tyra Sellers (39:34):

Agreed. You used a term though... I'm wondering if you could lay down a little knowledge for listeners just in case they aren't familiar. Could you just talk a little bit and then we'll get right back into the main topic, but could you talk a little bit about hegemony? What that means.

Dr. Shahla Ala'i-Rosales (39:51):

[Laughing] Yeah, actually, it's so funny. I remember we used that word in one of the early articles we all wrote. In the very broadest sense, I think it's when one group is controlling the structure, the contingencies, the templates for how the world works and that everybody else is subservient to that. I think it's an important concept to understand, but I think the inverse of it is also important when there is not only just inclusion of all peoples, but contribution, integrations, synthesis.

Dr. Tyra Sellers (40:42):

Shared power.

Dr. Shahla Ala'i-Rosales (40:44):

Yes. Power and even maybe the next level beyond power is harmony. I think even power looking at things in terms of power is a very hegemonic concept. If you look outside of the hegemony, outside of the group of people that have formed how we approach things, sometimes there are harmony and synthesis approaches or collective approaches which is actually I think.... And I definitely won't go off on this rabbit hole, but I think because we've had a hegemonic context in our science, I think a lot of what we have looked at... We even look at contingencies in terms of power, contingencies in terms of getting stuff, trading stuff, accumulating stuff. All of our work about schedules of reinforcement are based on that or fear and aggression. Aggression induced, whatever. I think that's going to be an exciting new area for our field. Shift from what has previously been the dominant way of looking at life to looking at maybe at other types of reinforcers, other types of events, other types of exchanging and affecting behavior.

Dr. Tyra Sellers (42:13):


Dr. Linda LeBlanc (42:13):

And that some of our reinforcers make us strong and some of them undermine us in certain ways.

Dr. Shahla Ala'i-Rosales (42:22):


Dr. Linda LeBlanc (42:22):

I'm excited for all of these things. I want everybody to go do all this work and then submit it to JABA, because we got a lot of papers. Nature is a very strong theme in our book. It mostly started with this idea of the mentor tree and I think over time we sometimes talk about "The tree" that is: Know your roots, know your trunk, have some purposeful action to grow those branches. Decide whether you want to be the tall, straight Pine or you want to be the sprawling Oak tree. I like to jump from topic to topic. I'm a little more Oak tree. I got a little bit of research on that and on that and what have you. I like how that has shaped me, how those researching and learning efforts have shaped my understanding of things, but it's also the case that I'm really glad we have all the other kinds of trees. People who have gone deep into a certain line of research or what have you. There is the tree and then there's that notion of the field being a forest. That doesn't make much sense, but our profession, our scientific endeavor, also a forest of many trees and lots of different ways that we can grow and move forward. We added an idea in the book and that is the acorns. Love those acorns and so the early versions of the tree did not have the mentees in there. It was really the process of writing this book and really talking about, "Well, let's really codify how we grow that next generation." That acorn isn't going to grow up to be the original tree. It may be a different height and a different width, and it will get different sunshine. It will land in different soil and that's okay that we're not out there making duplicates, but we are, if we do it right, contributing to something that will grow strong partially because of the contributions that we make to the early formation.

Dr. Shahla Ala'i-Rosales (45:13):

Yeah. One of my most favorite parts is the acorn. I am obsessed with Octavia Butler. She's a science fiction writer and she wrote this book, "Parable of the sower". It's sort of this just utopian novel at one level and a utopian novel at another level. The concept of acorns is strong there. In fact, that's what she named the sort of society that she creates. The idea is that our responsibility is to plant the seeds. After that, like you said, things will happen. The worlds will happen. There's forces that we won't be part of, but what we can do is try to be influencers and influencers who narrate, because part of the way to teach and to show that we're modeling is to be more and more aware of ourselves. That reflection skill, but also to narrate what's happening so that all those acorns, not only have their capacity that hopefully we've been part of building, but they also have this ability to learn to start reflecting and narrate themselves as they...

Dr. Tyra Sellers (46:36):


Dr. Shahla Ala'i-Rosales (46:36):

Yeah. That was like a beauty, I think, that came out of this. It's good.

Dr. Linda LeBlanc (46:41):

I think a lot of beauty came out of this and the different things that we've done together as presentations on podcasts. This always comes up and that's how powerful it is. The gratitude and appreciation that we each feel in our different ways about the experience of writing the book together and learning from each other. I think once you're not a whipper snapper anymore... Of course we're all still youthful and blooming, but you get to a point in your career where there isn't going to be someone else who has a designated responsibility for your ongoing growth and development. It's you and part of where you continue to get your sun and your rain is from your peers and your colleagues and the times that you reach out to them or respond to what they're putting out in the world, and you have some synergy for that. I think we're actually a pretty good example of people embracing that approach. Not that I want to be patting us on the back, but we deserve one, because we learned a lot from each other and it's okay to recognize when you crushed the learning, right?

Dr. Shahla Ala'i-Rosales (48:17):

Yeah. I think that period that you're talking about when you go from having your formal teachers and mentors and supervisors. That period where you cross over. It's actually a really hard period professionally and what it parallels is like when you lose your parents in your own life or the people who are most important to you personally. You feel sort of orphaned for a while. I think that's one of the reasons in this particular chapter. One of the last things we talk about is how to keep moving after that. How to continue the growth as an orphan. Then when you start to realize is, "No, you're not an orphan." I think at least what you're describing for me and what I've seen in many of my colleagues, a lot of my female colleagues, is that working in collaboration is a really essential part of growth. It's not just working with one other person, like the process of the three of us, because we all come in with different perspectives. I remember one beautiful retreat where we were writing. One beautiful time  we were talking about, "How do you get exposure to different people if you're not in those environments?" This really rich, somewhat from very different points of view conversation about how that proceeded and really learning a lot in that process. It was a conversation between all of us. I think those opportunities when you're looking for the next areas of growth. I think, first of all, as you're reflecting, you start to have more and more of an idea about that. That's why we put the exercise in there. First you have to put some words down so you can think about, "Well, how would I like to grow and be intentional about it?" Then as you're going along, find your comrades, find the people who not only will say, "Oh yes, you're great. You're doing wonderfully," but more importantly will challenge the way you look at things, will get you to talk about things that are hard to talk about, and will get you to have new experiences. Part of it, yes. Absolutely, you should find people who are better at things than you and believe me, even if you're 60 years old, there's lots of people better at the areas that you want to go into or you want to learn about. Also find people who want to take those trips with you. Who, yes, they may have some skills that are more advanced. Some that are less, but more importantly, they want to have this adventure. They're on a mission to do something, to learn something together and I think that was one of the awesome things about this whole process. We were on a mission together and because we had goals, we were forced to learn and enjoy the process of learning those things.

Dr. Linda LeBlanc (51:28):

Absolutely transformative. Well, thank you so much for joining us, Shahla, today and we hope you'll join us for a future chapter. As we say goodbye today, I just want to acknowledge how fortunate I've been to have this amazing human in my professional life. In addition to all of the things I described before, Shahla's view of the world, based on her work with families and culture and diversity and growth has had a tremendous influence on me and it's been recognized by other people. She's been awarded an Onassis foundation fellowship for her work with families. She's been the recipient of UNT's prestigious, 'Fessor Graham teaching award. She's received the 2019 Texas association for behavior analysis career contributions award, and the UNT 2020 community engagement award. I'm lucky to be in her sphere to see her accomplishments, to benefit from them, to be her friend. If you haven't read her work, you better get out there and do it. Also recognize here's a tremendous model for someone who reaches from the field of behavior analysis into these other areas that are related both to learn and to give. She's a great Emissary for the worldview that we don't have to try to save the world with behavior analysis. We have to participate in learning and making the world a better place with behavior analysis and all of our efforts to build a stronger society. You're kind of my hero, Shahla.

Dr. Shahla Ala'i-Rosales (53:31):

Awe. Thank you.

Dr. Tyra Sellers (53:33):

You know what? Where I come from, that's called being a bad-ass. [Laughing]

Dr. Shahla Ala'i-Rosales (53:38):

Actually, I want to say something about that, because I think especially as a woman... Well, just as any human. The thing about being a bad-ass is you're also a pain in the ass. [Laughing] I think that's not easy. One thing is I'm not an easy person and I think that the things that are my strengths are also the things that make life difficult sometimes. I think it's good to be in communities that embrace all of you. Like the whole of you and that is not easy. It goes back to the.. What do you call them? The rose colored glasses, because it's definitely there and you want the gratitude and appreciation, but also to know that with every skill or strength comes a particular type of force, that's not always comfortable, you know? Thank you all for this opportunity.

Dr. Tyra Sellers (54:50):

Thank you for everything and I respectfully disagree with you. I think I was drawn to your ease and grace. On a cab ride from the airport for the first time randomly, the universe placed us together. You were like a magnet for me and I just thought... I went back to my hotel room and texted Adam and I said, "I just met the most amazing person and she's so lovely and I think I'm going to learn a lot from her. I hope I get to work with her." Then we wrote a paper together and then we wrote a book together and I'm just very grateful. So thank you for everything that you contribute, not only to my professional development, but to the profession and the world in general.

Dr. Shahla Ala'i-Rosales (55:37):

Mutual love.

Dr. Linda LeBlanc (55:39):

Mutual love. Well, and I think a takeaway point to listeners: Build your group of people that you admire as much as we all admire each other and challenge each other to learn and grow and build your sisterhood. I'm delighted to have built it with these two ladies. Join us on a future episode of The Lift.

Dr. Tyra Sellers (56:04):

Thanks for listening to everyone.

Dr. Shahla Ala'i-Rosales (56:06):

Thank you.


Leave a reply