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A behavior analysis studies student works with a young patient.

Upstate inks pathway agreement with SUNY schools for its master’s program in behavior analysis studies

Upstate Medical University has entered into a new agreement with two partner SUNY schools that reserves a spot in Upstate’s growing behavior analysis studies master’s degree program for students from Cobleskill and Binghamton.

The new partnership creates a “mutually agreeable, clearly defined and easily understood pathway” for students in the applied psychology bachelor of science degree programs at SUNY Cobleskill and Binghamton University to then complete their master’s degree at Upstate.

Under the terms of the new agreement, Upstate will save one spot in the BAS master’s degree program for each school, each year. Binghamton and Cobleskill will select and recommend one senior-standing student to Upstate and those students will apply to and interview for admission into the BAS program. Accepted students are expected to maintain a 3.0 GPA in their undergraduate programs and at Upstate.

The first students will begin in the behavior analysis studies program under this agreement in fall 2020.

“As an academic medical center with our ongoing efforts to grow our clinical enterprise, it makes sense to create academic programs that feed the needs of our community and can help treat our diverse population,” said Krystal Ripa, director of special admissions programs at Upstate, noting the new Golisano Center for Special Needs will require more professionals trained in behavior analysis. “We have to look at how the pipeline helps us to solve the problem of a shortage of these trained professionals. We need to look at how we help supply the workforce. Programs like this put us in the best possible position to do so.”

Upstate’s Behavior Analysis Studies master’s degree program, which began in the fall of 2018, addresses a pressing health concern in New York state: autism spectrum disorders. Graduates of the six-semester (24-month) program are license-eligible health care professionals able to provide therapeutic services for people with autism and related disorders. Behavior analysts can land jobs in medical settings, schools, community-based programs or private practice.

“There is a significant need to grow the number of master’s level professionals in the field of applied behavior analysis in New York state and throughout our nation to improve the quality of care for individuals with developmental disabilities across the lifespan,” said Jennifer Gillis Mattson, PhD, BCBA-D, a professor in the psychology department at Binghamton. “Binghamton University provides students with outstanding foundational training in applied behavior analysis and autism spectrum disorder and this articulation agreement provides an excellent opportunity for high caliber Binghamton undergraduates to seamlessly continue on to graduate studies in behavior analysis at Upstate Medical University.”

Susan J. Zimmermann, PhD, provost and vice president for academic affairs at SUNY Cobleskill, said the agreement with Upstate helps all parties involved.

“We are pleased to build upon our existing partnership with Upstate Medical University through the development of an academic pathway from the BS in applied psychology to the master’s in behavior analysis,” Zimmermann said. “This is a unique opportunity for students to pursue graduate studies in the upstate New York region.”

William E. Sullivan, PhD, Upstate assistant professor in the departments of behavior analysis studies and pediatrics, said the new agreement will help bring top students into the Upstate program.

“Those affected by autism and related disabilities deserve access to highly qualified professionals who use evidence-based treatment approaches, such as applied behavior analysis,” Sullivan said. “Unfortunately, there are far too few of these professionals to serve this population in our community. Through this newfound partnership with SUNY Binghamton and SUNY Cobleskill, top-tier students will be able to join our master’s program and receive the necessary training to go on and serve our community throughout Upstate New York.”