The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Op-Ed: Save Marquette’s ABA program

Dear Marquette,

We are about to fail the Autistic community of the state of Wisconsin.

I am writing to you today both as an advocate for the vital program of Applied Behavior Analysis and as a proud legacy student (class of 2021 & 2024, parents 1986 & ’88, uncle 1984, grandparents 1961) who owes much of who I am to the opportunities provided by our esteemed university. It is with a heavy heart that I express my deep concern and disappointment regarding the recent decision to shut down the Applied Behavior Analysis program that has not only been instrumental in shaping my own journey but has also served as a beacon of hope for the population in which we serve.

This program holds a special place in my heart, as it has been an integral part of my academic and personal growth during my time here at Marquette. The support and resources offered by this program have played a significant role in shaping my understanding of inclusivity, empathy and the importance of supporting neurodiversity in our society. As a legacy student, I am proud to have represented our university’s Jesuit values, and I believe that the decision to close the Applied Behavior Analysis program contradicts these very principles.

As a Jesuit institution, we strive to be men and women for others, specifically to those who have been marginalized such as the neurodiverse community. The decision to terminate this program will leave a significant void in our state, our city and our community where no equivalent training exists. The ability to be trained under esteemed members of our field at our prestigious university is unlike any other and is an opportunity I have the utmost gratitude for. My heart aches for the future of our profession, the future of our state’s clinicians and the future of clients’ access to services they so desperately need.

Currently, many individuals seeking behavior analytic services live in provider deserts, meaning there is not an accredited behavior analyst within a 50-mile radius. In addition, rates of autism spectrum disorder are increasing throughout the country. On average, 1 in 36 individuals are diagnosed with autism. When you do the math, that means that in the state of Wisconsin there are about 164,200 individuals with a diagnosis. Now you may ask how many people are qualified to provide services to these individuals. In Wisconsin, there are currently a little over 600 Board Certified Behavior Analysts. For every individual to receive the services they need, each BCBA would have to serve 273 individuals per year. Thus underscoring the urgent and critical need for an accredited education and training program to increase the number of providers in the state of Wisconsin.

Our Applied Behavior Analysis program offers wide range of services designed to support individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder and their families. We provide personalized interventions tailored to each client’s unique needs, including behavioral therapy, social skills training and academic support. Our program also focuses on vocational training to prepare individuals for meaningful employment, fostering independence and self-sufficiency. Additionally, we offer family and caregiver support services, ensuring they have the resources and guidance needed to effectively support their loved ones. By combining evidence-based practices with compassionate care, we strive to enhance the quality of life for our clients and their families.

The decision to close the ABA program is a step backwards for our university and our state. It undermines our commitment to cura personalis—care for the whole person—and our dedication to BE THE DIFFERENCE. Prior to our programing dissolving in June of 2025, I urge the board of directors, the Dean of the graduate school Dr. Scott C. D’Urso, the Provost Dr. Kimo Ah Yun and President Michael Lovell to join us in the 525 building and observe the work we do each and every day. If after your visit you still believe this program is no longer beneficial to our university, your students, and the community in which we wish to serve, then and only then will I accept your decision with a heavy heart. I will proceed to be the difference and carry the Jesuit values of Marquette with me wherever my career may lead.

A proud Golden Eagle,

Emma A. Mass

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