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Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology & Special Education

Master of Arts in Applied Behavior Analysis


Matthew T. Brodhead is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst whose research examines behavioral determinants of response variability, choice and independent social skills in children with autism. He is also interested in research and conceptual issues relating to the ethical and professional behavior of practicing behavior analysts. He is on the editorial boards of The Analysis of Verbal Behavior and the Review Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. Through workshops and consultation, he has established multiple school-based programs for children with autism, and he has provided training to teachers, related service providers and behavior analysts throughout the United States.
Marisa Fisher is an assistant professor of special education, a Board Certified Behavior Analyst-Doctoral (BCBA-D) and the co-director of Spartan Project SEARCH. Her research focuses on understanding and decreasing social vulnerability of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) and supporting the social acceptance of individuals with IDD in the community. She is specifically interested in measuring the various types of victimization experienced by individuals with IDD and on designing interventions to decrease vulnerability. She has studied victimization in the form of child abuse, bullying, stranger danger, and exploitation across the lifespan. She uses the principles of applied behavior analysis and single subject research methods to design interventions to teach self-protection to individuals with IDD. As the co-director of Spartan Project SEARCH, Dr. Fisher and her students provide support to high school students with IDD who are transitioning from school to work as they participate in internship experiences across the university. Dr. Fisher’s research specific to Spartan Project SEARCH examines behavioral supports necessary to promote success in the work and community environment, the outcomes of participating students, and the impact of the program of attitudes toward and acceptance of individuals with IDD in the workplace Dr. Fisher is the PI on a project funded by the Institute of Education Sciences' Early Career Development and Mentoring in Special Education Program. This study is designed to better understand the risk factors and consequences of bullying for middle school students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and intellectual disability (ID). Specifically, she is conducting a longitudinal investigation to determine the risk factors (e.g., loneliness, poor social skills, internalizing and externalizing problems) and academic, emotional, and behavioral consequences of bullying for youth with ASD and how these risk factors and outcomes compare to youth with ID and students without disabilities.
Joshua Plavnick is an associate professor of special education, and director of the Early Learning Institute, which he founded in 2014. His research interests involve the development and implementation of community-based interventions for individuals with autism spectrum disorder, automated measurement of human behavior, applications of technology to behavior analytic interventions, and training educational service providers to administer behavior analytic interventions.


The Student-Advisor Relationship

When admitted to the program, each student is assigned a full-time faculty member as an advisor. Advisors are faculty at MSU that are tenure track, three-year fixed-term, or clinical fixed-term assistant professors. The program makes all attempts to pair students with an advisor who matches his or her area of interest.

Throughout the course of the program, the student and advisor will work closely to ensure academic and programmatic success. In addition to support with identifying appropriate coursework and ensuring that each student will be eligible to take the BACB examination following graduation, each student’s advisor will also chair his or her master’s thesis committee. During the thesis process, students work closely with their advisor to develop a thesis that matches his or her area of interest. Advisors also provide continued guidance and support during the implementation of the thesis and assist the student with finishing it in a timely manner.

The student-advisor relationship follows a junior-colleague model. In it, each student and his or her advisor shares equal responsibility in planning for academic success and ensuring that the student makes timely progress in meeting the degree requirements of the department, college, and university. Also, the student and advisor will work collaboratively in ensuring the student’s professional goals are met and that the student attains substantive experience in his or her area of interest.